Thursday, 12 February 2015

Purim was Originally Called "Mordecai Day". Why?

What name immediately comes to mind when you hear someone say Purim? There are many colorful characters, but be honest. Isn't Esther the one you associate the most with this holiday? She's beautiful, brave and the Megillah is named after her. 

Get a load of this. Purim is first mentioned in the book of Maccabees II (15:32) -- three to four centuries after it occurred! All of a sudden, out of nowhere, this holiday appears. The text says that on the 14th day of the month of Adar, Jews celebrated a holiday called "Mordecai Day."

When did the holiday name change to Purim? I've looked and looked. Sadly, I can't find the answer. Still, I think we should focus on the original name. It's a great conversation/class discussion opener.

Mordecai -- the great letter writer (see Chapter 9 of the Megillah) -- is both the producer and director of this story. His actions teach us so many lessons: civics (he saves the king's life); Judaism (one bows only to God, and so he refuses to bow down to Haman); battle strategy (he devises the plan that gets his niece strategically settled in the palace, directing her how to proceed and save her people); celebration (he tells us how to celebrate this holiday); and finally, ethics (he also tells us that we must give gifts to the poor.)

In fact, the second-to-last chapter of the Megillah (Chapter 9) is the best explanation as to why Purim was originally called "Mordecai Day." This year, when you study the megillah, read it first. Our hero is there -- loud and clear. Our main customs for celebrating Purim are there -- written and commanded by...Mordecai, of course.

Happy Mordecai Day. 


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