In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.

Yehuda Bachana: What is the main message of Purim? [2023]

Purim is celebrated on the 14th and 15th of the Hebrew month named ‘Adar’.

Purim is the direct result of the redemption miracle of the Jews under the Persian empire. King Ahashverosh’s representative, Haman, convinced the king to sign an order to kill every Jew in the kingdom. The sequence of events that G-d Himself orchestrated, created a turn-around: as Haman and his sons were hung from a tree!

The book quotes this turnaround, saying:

“For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor.”

The main characters of the book are Ahashverosh, Haman, Mordechai and Esther.
Who are they and what is their story? Are they who we think they are?

Ahashverosh or Xerxes ruled during the Achaemenian Empire from the year 486 BC – this was the ancient Iranian or Persian empire. Ahashverosh inherited this great empire and he continued the wars and the trial to conquer the world. We tend to play Ahashverosh as a dumb, tipsy, unstable king. However, the opposite is true. Ahashverosh has vision and extraordinary organizing skills.

He isn’t a fool, but rather a successful military leader. He understands that for the coming battles, not only local soldiers must be called up, but rather those from the whole kingdom. This is the reason that chapter 1 begins with the diplomatic feast in the capital city: a feast that hosted representatives from his entire empire.

The reason was to Recruit and continue the ongoing war, in order to enlarge the existing empire.

The first chapter of the Book of Esther is the third year of Ahashverosh’ reign (the year 483 BC); however, chapter 2, is the 7th year. The four Years between chapter 1 and chapter 2 are the 4 Years of war between Persia and Greece. in is war Ahashverosh burns Athens; yet, Persia loses at sea against the Greek fleet.

At this point, the Bible returns to the story of Mordechai and Esther. In chapter 3, Haman rises to greatness, to be the most important advisor to the king. He is the senior minister and all the king's servants in the king's gate bowed to Haman, for the king had so commanded concerning him. (Esther 3:2).

However, not everyone bows down to him, as Mordechai refuses to do so. This violation firstly bothers Mordechai colleges who urge him to bow down. The text does not explain why Mordechai refuses.

But Haman gets very angry and wants to deal with this problem, as an ethnic issue:

“Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahashverosh.”
(Esther 3:6)

Why doesn’t Mordechai bow down?

There are 2 accepted ideas: One is religious and the other one is national. The religious version says Haman wore the image of an idol as a necklace. Mordechai couldn’t bow down as it would mean he would also bow for an idol.

The national version says that, unlike Jakob bowing down to Esau, Mordechai didn’t bow or kneel before Haman, as a sign of national pride towards the Persians.

I would like to suggest a third option that is slightly different.As Mordechai is distanced from his Jewish identity. He sits at the King’s palace and makes sure his identity remains hidden. From reading the text I understand that Mordechai is not a proud Jew:

his faith and tradition are not elevated above his career. Mordechai acts just like any other minister at the royal palace.mPerhaps Mordechai’s choice not to bow down is personal, and not a national one, because the Scriptures don’t negate the idea of bowing or showing respect to a human ruler.

Throughout the Bible, prophets, too, bowed before kings and leaders. So perhaps there is an issue of rivalry between two immigrants – Mordechai and Haman – who struggle for prestige. Notice how Haman is not originally from Persia, as he is an exile or a descendant from Amalek.

Which brings us back to round two of the mutual hatred between Israel and Amalek. Haman is the ‘son of Hammedatha, the Agagite’ (Esther 3:1) We Remember how the last Agagite we met is the King of Amalek whom we read about in 1st Samuel chapter 15. Mordechai is mentioned as ‘a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin (…) the son of Kish’ (Esther 2:5).

‘Kish’, reminds us of the father of Saul: the king who ignored G-d’s decree when he did not kill Agag, the King of Amalek.

As we can see, all the characters from the Book of Esther are interesting and deep, rather than superficial. As we continue to read, in chapter 6, we read about one specific night when king Ahashverosh cannot sleep.

In order to make time pass, his servants read from the royal chronicles. The king then gets reminded how Mordechai saved the king’s life as two guards plotted to kill him. The king remembered that Mordechai hadn’t been rewarded yet.
G-d put Mordechai in the right place at the right time, so he could save the king.

Let’s stop a second to think how Mordechai must have felt a sense of injustice and wrongdoing. Mordechai saved the King of Persia: one of the world’s greatest leaders.
The Book of Esther recalls how Ahashverosh ruled the empire from ‘India to Africa’, a total of 127 countries! Now, Mordechai saves the king and doesn’t get rewarded.
That’s totally unfair!

But, years later, at the right time and under G-d’s guidance, the king opens his scrolls at a time that was most critical for the Jewish people.

Perhaps it’s also a timely reminder for us to remember that all our deeds are written in the book of the king, the King of King. On the day of judgement, we will give an account of all we did and didn’t do, and our reward will be accordingly.

In Matthew 6:1-4, Yeshua teaches us:

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. ‘So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Yeshua teaches us that our behavior, how we relate to our surroundings, our mercy and our judgement, whether in private or in public, will be rewarded.

Shabbat Zachor, The last shabbat before Purim we learnt about ‘measure for measure’. As The prophet Samuel says to Agag the King of Amalek, before killing him:

“As your sword has made women childless, so will your mother be childless among women.” (1st Samuel 15:33)

Here we can see that the punishment belongs to the same category as the sin, and that the sinner receives exactly the opposite of what he tried to achieve.

The Book of Esther uses this principle in order to emphasize the turning of events. For example, Haman requested power and honor, but instead he got humiliated, and he:

‘Rushed home, with his head covered in grief,’ (Esther 6:12)

The Jews -who were despised and doomed - now got the permission to avenge their enemies so much, that:

‘Many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them’ (Esther 8:17)

At the end, Haman gets hung from the tree he had prepared for Mordechai!

Our reward will come in the same way, like Yeshua teaches us in Luke 6:37:

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."

The idea of ‘measure-for-measure’ is entertwined throughout Yeshua’s sermon on the mount,

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
(Matthew 5:7)

Likewise, the Book of Esther teaches us that if we plan to hang someone on a tree, eventually we, and our sons will hang from it. However, it also shows us that everything is in G-d’s hands and that He turns all things to good for those that love Him!

Yehuda Bachana: What are some Purim Traditions? [2023]

Purim has 4 main customs or commandments:

Firslty, the reading of the Book of Esther.
We read and remember the story of redemption, a true miracle!

In order to teach the next generation, the kids sit with us. They especially enjoy making noise with the ‘ra’ashan’ to ‘eradicated the memory of Haman’.

Secondly, the giving of ‘Purim baskets’ to neighbors and friends.

Esther 9:19 mentions ‘sending portions one to another’.
Usually people give some sweets and purim cookies, but feel free to be creative!

Of course, these baskets should just be a pleasant gesture, and not a competition. The goal is to increase mutual friendship, harmony and love.

Thirdly, gifts for the poor.
During Purim it is customary to give charity to the poor.
During the rest of the year we should be watchful and know the difference between those that are really poor, and those that aren’t. However, during Purim we give to ‘whoever puts out his or her hand’.

Fourthly, eat drink and be merry!
Purim entails: being happy, enjoying good food, a nice party and the drinking of wine. Whoever is sensitive to alcohol should drink less, and whoever knows alcohol will hurt them or cause them to sin shouldn’t drink it at all, of course.

Another custom is to dress up, wear costumes or make up, as part of the celebration and parties.