From orphan to queen, a story of resilience


As communities worldwide embrace the joyous occasion of Purim, a holiday steeped in ancient history, yet resonating with timeless significance, the Jewish population unites in celebration and reflection. Purim, observed on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar, which fell on the evening of March 23 to the 24 this year, commemorates the miraculous deliverance of the Jewish people from annihilation in ancient Persia, as recounted in the biblical Book of Esther.
Today, a tapestry of customs and traditions that reflect the jubilant spirit of the holiday marks the observance of Purim. From the reading of the Megillah, the Book of Esther, to the exchange of gifts of food and charity, known as “mishloach manot” and “matanot l’evyonim” respectively, Purim serves as a time for communal celebration, reflection, and acts of kindness.
“Many holidays, within all religions do focus on deep spiritual issues, whether it’s through the observance of rituals, or their relationship with God,” Rabbi Irwin Huberman, of Congregation Tiferith Israel, said. “This holiday is unique, because it reminds us especially during times of stress, whether it be in our daily lives or in the world, it’s healthy for us, just to exhale, and to let our guard down, even for a few hours, to enjoy ourselves by dressing up in costumes and eating sweets, and sending gifts to each other. In the world, that which is really so serious right now, whether it’s at home, or in the Middle East or around the world, that it is refreshing and re-energizing to have a little bit of fun, and to turn the world upside down, if only for a few hours.”
The story of Purim unfolds in the royal court of Persia, where Queen Esther, a Jewish orphan raised by her cousin Mordecai, finds herself thrust into a position of influence after being chosen as the bride of King Ahasuerus. Unbeknownst to the king, Esther courageously reveals her Jewish identity upon learning of the nefarious plot devised by the king’s advisor, Haman, to exterminate her people.
Haman, fueled by personal vendetta and blinded by arrogance, seeks to annihilate the Jewish population by casting lots, or “purim,” to determine the most auspicious day for their destruction. However, through Esther’s bravery and strategic intervention, coupled with Mordecai’s unwavering faith and wisdom, the tide turns in favor of the Jews. Haman’s scheme is exposed, leading to his downfall and eventual demise. The Jewish people are granted reprieve and granted the right to defend themselves against their adversaries, emerging victorious against all odds.
The spirit of Purim is embodied in the resilience of Esther and Mordecai, who, despite facing seemingly insurmountable challenges, draw upon their faith, courage, and unity to overcome adversity. Their triumph serves as a testament to the enduring power of hope, resilience, and the divine intervention that guides their path.
“If you look at the story, Esther is enjoying a privileged life in the king’s palace, that when she observes potential injustice approaching, she decides to become instead of a bystander, an upstander, and exposes the plot of genocide and changes the course of history,” Huberman said. “One of the lessons that we learned through Esther, is that sometimes we can’t be a bystander, sometimes we need to be an upstander and midway through the story, she undergoes that change.”