Joy and Killing
Much like the Book of Judith, the story of Esther is another that is full of danger and violence but this time counterpointed by trust in God . . . and great rejoicing. Today and tomorrow we discover that despite palace intrigue, envy and anger, joy is present. If today’s story calls you to search for more surprises, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today we find joy in times of massacre and war.
Chapter 9 of Esther’s story describes the origin of the Purim festival, a celebration of the Jewish nation’s deliverance. We know that after a plot against these faithful was thwarted and as too often happens when power changes hands, wide-scale killing takes place. Old feuds rise and are settled. Grudges surface and are acted upon. Personal agendas take over.
We humans have not moved much past these ancient rituals of slaughtering the conquered. Despite the fact that in many cultures leaders are elected by free and fair elections, too many peoples suffer at the hands of those who see instability as a time to take over, to amass power, and to use corruption as a governing tool rather than social justice or the rule of law. And we need not look to the evening news to find examples of how we repress one another in the hope of currying favor or gaining control. Our workplaces, neighborhoods and even our homes sometimes serve as microcosms of the problems we see on a more global scale.
Today we may be horrified at the acts of revenge we read in the Book of Esther. And today we might also be surprised at the elation that sweeps through these people who thought themselves dead. Today we remember that we witness many small killings too frequently in our lives, the killing of the spirit, the killing of the heart, mind and soul, the killing of ideas, hopes and dreams. The killing of innocence. And then . . . let us reflect on how we might find joy in times when insanity reigns and reason disappears.
Verses 9:17-23: This was on the thirteenth day of Adar. On the next day, the fourteenth, there was no more killing, and they made it a joyful day of feasting. The Jews of Susa, however, made the fifteenth a holiday, since they had slaughtered their enemies on the thirteenth and fourteenth and then stopped on the fifteenth. This is why Jews who live in small towns observe the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a joyous holiday, a time for feasting and giving gifts of food to one another. Mordecai had these events written down and sent letters to all the Jews, near and far, throughout the Persian Empire, telling them to observe the fourteenth and fifteenth days of Adar as holidays every year. These were the days on which the Jews had rid themselves of their enemies; this was a month that had been turned from a time of grief and despair into a time of joy and happiness. They were told to observe these days with feasts and parties, giving gifts of food to one another and to the poor. So the Jews followed Mordecai’s instructions, and the celebration became an annual custom.
Let us pause and consider how we might refrain from seeking revenge when we have been wronged. Let us mediate on the meaning of interceding for our enemies. And let us celebrate deliverance from evil and killing we too often find in our own lives.
For more information about the feast of Purim, click on the image of Queen Esther above, or visit: http://www.chabad.org/holidays/purim/article_cdo/aid/645309/jewish/What-Is-Purim.htm and http://www.mythicmaps.net/Festival_calendar/March/Purim.htm
For more Noontime reflections about this woman’s story, enter the word Esther into the blog search bar and explore.
Read the rest of this story in Esther 9-10.
For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/