Attn Newcomers: You may wish to read the Overview post first.


Purim: Queen Esther and "Such a Time as This"

The Jewish holiday of Purim begins at sundown February 22, 2013. What's it about?

The Jewish people have been in captivity many times, and needed deliverance from various other peoples and nations - not unlike what's going on in the Middle East with Israel today. They celebrate Purim as one of their biblical and historical times of rescue.

Purim has a special place in my heart, and I suspect the heart of many other Jewish people as well, perhaps especially women. This holiday came about because of how a woman can be used by God to do great things, and earn the respect of those around her.

When I think of Purim, I think of being here "for such a time as this." In the Book of Esther, we see that Esther, an exceptionally beautiful commoner, was selected and crowned queen by King Ahaseurus (also known as King Xerxes or it may have been Artaxerxes, his son). He ruled from India to the upper Nile region then known as Cush (possibly Persia). Unbeknown to the king, the beautiful Esther was also Jewish. Her Hebrew name was Hadassah, and there is an organization named after her today.

Esther's cousin Mordecai found out about a plot by the evil Commander of the king's army, Haman, to kill all the Jews in the country. He asks Esther to go and plead with the king to overturn this order.

To go before the king without being summoned could mean punishment by death, even to his own wife. She had her doubts about going! But Mordecai tells her that famous phrase:
“Who knows but that you were born for such a time as this?” and so she answers:
“…I will go to the king even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:14).
She was the only person God had placed in a position to bargain for this, and besides, if they did kill all the Jews, she would not be spared!

So before going into the throne room, Esther embarked on a three-day period of fasting and prayer, and asks Mordecai to have all the Jews in the region do the same. In the end, Esther succeeds not only in convincing the King to spare the Jews, but to hang the scheming Haman on the scaffold he himself had prepared for Mordecai, to allow 2 days for the Jews to kill those who hated them, and to elevate Mordecai to a place of respect in the King’s palace!

An edict was then issued that the Jewish people should from that day forth, every year at that time, to celebrate with great feasts and exuberance. So it is still celebrated today.

How does one celebrate Purim, which generally falls in late February or early March? By telling the story through festive, costumed reenactments - children especially enjoy this - by reading through the book of Esther (in Hebrew, “the Megillah”) and blowing noisemakers to blot out Haman's name, by fasting for three days to commemorate Esther's fast, or a combination of all. Although a joyous triumph of good over evil, it should remind us of the seriousness of anti-Semitism, which we have not been able to eradicate to this day.

There is also a special treat to eat on Purim – tri-cornered pastries called “Hamentaschen” filled with a variety of goodies like poppy seeds or jams. Recognize anything in the name? They are symbolic of Haman, who supposedly wore a three-cornered hat. To eat hamentaschen is symbolic of Haman’s destruction.

Can Christians celebrate this day? Of course! I believe because Esther is a great example of a person of faith who was willing to risk everything, to the death, to stand up for her God and her people. We can share our appreciation for Esther with a Jewish person by telling them we truly believe this story, and can relate to it because we are called as Christians to do the same.

Does Jesus not tell us:
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” Luke 9:23-25 (NKJV)

What would it have profited Esther to avoid going to the king? She would have been killed with all the other Jews. How many times do we all fast and pray for someone in need or in trouble, or do we just say "I'll pray for you" and then forget? When is the last time we stepped forward to take the fall?

Will we be ready when and if the time comes and persecution of Jews and Christians is activated in more than just words in America? Just as Esther took the ultimate step forward to preserve life for those long-ago Jews, Jesus took the ultimate step forward to preserve life for us.

Next Jewish holiday: Passover (Pay-sach) - March 26-April 1, 2013 - See this entry within this blog: "How Christians Can Celebrate Passover".

Passover - The Exodus Story

The Jewish holiday of Passover for 2013 begins at sundown, March 26 and goes to sundown, April 1. Passover celebrates the re-telling of the story from the Old Testament book of Exodus. Moses is God's instrument in freeing the Israelites from Egyptian captivity.

The name "Passover" comes from the tenth plague God brought on Egypt when Pharoah would not let the Jewish people out of bondage. Each Jewish family was to sacrifice a lamb and place the blood on their door posts so the plague brought upon the first-born would "pass over" their families and affect only the Egyptian first-born.

See a full explanation of Passover, including how it can be celebrated and honored by Christians, at the post "How Christians can Celebrate Passover" here on this blog site.


More Jewish Holidays: Sukkot, The Festival of Booths

The Jewish holiday Sukkot (pronounced Soo-kote), is also called “The Festival of Booths” or “The Festival of Ingathering.” The story is told in both the Jewish Torah and Christian Bible in Leviticus 23:33-42 and Deuteronomy 16:13-15.

The happy holiday of Sukkot comes in late September or early October, hot on the heels of the Jewish New Year and solemn Day of Atonement (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, see my previous article here). For 2010, this falls on September 23 and goes through Setember 30.

Sukkot celebrates the harvest season and also commemorates the 40 years in the desert when the Hebrews lived in temporary shelter (in the book of Exodus). King Solomon consecrated the first permanent Temple to the Lord during a Sukkot celebration.

The ancient Hebrews were to commemorate the harvest occasion by building booths made out of tree branches and palm fronds, living in them for seven days and holding grand celebrations. This can be found in Nehemiah 8:14-17:

They found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in booths during the feast of the seventh month, and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: ‘Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make booths’ - as it is written.

So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves booths on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim. The whole company that had returned from exile built booths and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great. (see also Leviticus 23:41-43 and Ezra 3:4)

Today, the booth, called a sukkah (“sook-ah”) is usually erected by a synagogue’s congregation or workmen and still made with as authentic materials as possible. The celebration can be just on the first day or take place on each of the seven days. Kids loving camping out in the booths. Families and guests will be served grape wine or grape juice to signify the fruit harvests, and something like a delicious, thick sponge cake to symbolize the grain harvests. Mmmm, delicious!

Because this is such a joyous celebration, you may find a Jewish synagogue or Messianic congregation in your area that opens their celebration up to the public so that whole neighborhoods can learn of this tradition. Take the opportunity to go!

This is a copyrighted excerpt from Sheryl’s book, What Every Christian Should Know about the Jewish People: Improving the Church’s Relationship with God’s Original Chosen Nation (c. 2008, Wine Press/Pleasant Word Publishing). All rights reserved. The book is no longer available, but please enjoy the other informative posts on this blogsite.


The Jewish High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur 2010

(Newcomers to this blog may want to read the Overview first, here.)

The Jewish High Holiday season for 2010 begins at sundown September 8th. On the Jewish calendar, 2010 is actually the year 5771, signifying that Jewish history goes back that far—5,771 years.

September 8th will be the eve of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah (pronounced rush ha-sha-na). The beautiful blowing of the shofar, a trumpet-like musical instrument made from a ram's horn, will usher in the holidays at Jewish synagogues and celebrations throughout the world.

Rosh Hashanah is also known as “Yom Teruah,” The Feast of Trumpets. The command to observe a Jewish New Year came down to the Israelites through Moses from God, and can be found in Leviticus 23:23: The LORD said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites: 'On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts’.”

The Jewish Day of Atonement—Yom Kippur (pronounced yome ki-poor')—follows Rosh Hashanah ten days later. This year, it will be from sundown on September 18th to sundown the next day. Yom Kippur is a serious observance, not to be taken lightly.

On Yom Kippur, every Jewish person who is “of age” (thirteen and over) is required to fast from food and drink (except for water), and stop work of any kind for the twenty-four hour period. Many Jewish people spend part of this day at a synagogue praying for God's forgiveness of sins, and approach people whose forgiveness they seek.

God's original command for Yom Kippur can be found in Leviticus 16:29-30: "This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work…because on this day atonement will be made for you to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord you will be clean from all your sins….” (excerpts, NIV).

The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are called the “Ten Days of Awe.” Within this period, Orthodox Jews will recite the “slichot,” prayers of repentance.

How should Christians recognize Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?

Although Christians and “Jewish believers in Jesus” believe that Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrifice for all sins (Romans 6:10), we can still commemorate the Jewish Day of Atonement as a reminder to be truly repentant. All people who believe in God need confession and repentance. It will also be a good testimony to our Jewish friends that we respect and know about their day.

Now, tell your Jewish friends "Shanah Tovah" -- have a great Jewish New Year!

(This is a copyrighted excerpt from the book What Every Christian Should Know About the Jewish People. (c. 2008 wine Press Pleasant Word Publishing). All rights reserved. The book is no longer available, but please enjoy the other posts on this website.

Photo: Shofar being blown in Prague, 2009. Donated to Public Domain by Martin Kozak at Wikimedia Commons. 


Jewish Holiday Passover begins March 29, 2010

The Jewish Holiday of Passover for 2010 begins Monday, March 29 at sundown.

*How do Jewish people celebrate their ancestors' release from Egyptian slavery?
*How can Christians and Jewish believers in Jesus view this holiday?
See the post "How Christians Can Celebrate Passover" here on this blog for more information.


Archaeological Dig uncovers possible piece of Solomon's Temple

In February, 2010, an archaeological excavation in Israel uncovered a gate, tower and wall that could verify the existence of Solomon’s Temple 3,000 years ago.

The structures, near the Temple Mount outside Jerusalem, are currently being verified as dating back to the tenth century B.C. This would place them at the time of the first temple built by King David’s son Solomon, as recorded in 1 Kings 5 of the Old Testament.

Skeptics have tried to disprove biblical events since the days in which they occurred, but some archaeological finds have stood the test of time in proving biblical events as truth.


Jewish Holidays: Purim, the Story of Queen Esther

The Jewish holiday of Purim began at sundown February 27, 2010. See the new 2013 explanation of Purim on this blogsite!