Appointed Times — Purim And Hanukkah
The story of Purim can be found in the book of Esther. Esther, a Jewish girl, became the queen to King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I) who was the king of the Persian Empire. Her cousin Mordecai was one who sat at the king’s gate. He raised Esther as his own, and when she became queen, he instructed her not to tell the king that she was Jewish. Mordecai ends up saving the king when he hears of a plot against him. This would later come to bless Mordecai and his cousin and all the Jewish people in Persia. Haman, the king’s right hand man, hated Mordecai and his people and made the king to decree a law that could not be overturned: a law to eliminate all the Jewish people. Mordecai goes to the queen and tells her all that he has found out about Haman and his plan. Esther did not want to get involved, so Mordecai makes this profound statement: "Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?" Esther realizes that she must save her cousin and her people. Esther and her people begin a fast and they pray; during this time, the king realizes that he never thanked Mordecai for saving his life. So he calls in Haman and tells him that he must put the royal robes on Mordecai and sit him on the king’s horse and parade him around the town saying, “Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor.” Haman's hatred has not spilled over, and he goes into the king’s chambers just to find Esther who has come in unannounced!
Silence fills the chambers and everyone looks to see if the king will punish her for coming unannounced; but instead, he welcomes her and she asks him to come to a banquet in his honor. So he and Haman attend her banquet. The king tells her to make her request and he would even give her up to half his kingdom if she asked for it. Esther could not make her request yet, so she asks him to come again the next day. This time, she tells the king that Haman wants to kill the queen and her people. The king arose in anger and had Haman and his son hanged. He promoted Mordecai and he wrote a new decree that said that all the Jewish people could arm themselves on the day that was set to annihilate them.
So the Jews had victory over their enemies, and they made the 14th and 15th day of Adar (usually in March, one month before Passover) a day to celebrate, and they called the days Purim. Purim was a great victory that all who believe in the One True Living God can celebrate, for God gives his people the victory in all circumstances when we have faith in Him. Purim is not a holy feast of the Lord, but it is worth remembering.
Ways To Celebrate Purim
- Have a Purim play. When the name Haman is mentioned, it is traditional to boo. When the name Mordecai is mentioned, it is traditional to cheer. It’s something that children or adults can do or even the whole family together.
- Children can color and make masks of Esther, Mordecai, the king, and even Haman. Cut them out and place them on popsicle sticks.
- You can have a dress-up party and each dress as one of the Purim characters.
- Have a party with food and snacks.
Children and adults alike can celebrate Purim, but don’t forget to read the book of Esther, and always remember as you party that God gave the victory to have this party. There is so much you can do. Use your imagination and make your own traditions and memories.
Hanukkah is another story of faith and a great victory given by God. We find this story in the book of Maccabees. The story, in a nutshell, is about the Jewish people who were ruled by the king of Syria, King Antiochus. Antiochus fulfilled the prophecy in Daniel and Yeshua’s (Jesus’s) warning in Matthew, and he also represents the Antichrist in the book of Revelation. Antiochus wanted all the Jews to stop practicing the Torah and follow his pagan ways. But the Jewish people refused, so he murdered anyone who rebelled against him and destroyed their homes. He stormed the temple, defiled it, and replaced the Ark of the Covenant with a pagan god. Many Jews ran and hid, but not Mattathias and his five sons.
When Mattathias could no longer fight, he appointed his son Judah to be their leader. He told them, “Be strong and brave.” Judah was called Maccabee, “the Hammer,” and many people followed him and fought against the Syrians until they finally reached Jerusalem. They first went into the temple, which by now was all filled with weeds in the outer courtyard, and they took down the pagan idol and restored the temple and its courtyards and rebuilt the altars. They rebuilt the menorah and exactly three years to the date, relit the menorah and rededicated the temple. For eight days, beginning on the 25th day of Kislev, they celebrated joyfully before the Lord, for He had given them a great victory against all odds. Hanukkah is a victory all believers in the One True Living God can celebrate because He gives His people victory over the adversaries in their lives. Hanukkah is not a holy feast of God, but a time to remember and celebrate God’s power.
Ways to Celebrate Hanukkah
- Read the story in the book of Maccabees.
- Because Hanukkah is also about the miracle of the oil, jelly donuts and latkes (potato pancakes) are on the menu.
- Gift-giving and charity are also on the menu.
- Dreidel game with chocolate coins is a must. The dreidel was used by children during those days to learn their Torah lessons. You can find how to play online.
- Every day, light your Hanukkah menorah. It has a place for 9 candles, and each night you take the middle candle called the shamash and light the first candle for the first day; then the next day you take the middle candle and light the second candle followed by the first, and so on for eight days. If you are Jewish, here are the blessings that you read:
First night only - “Blessed are You, Adonai our God, King of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season, Amen.”
Every night - “Blessed are You, Adonai our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah light, Amen.”
Every night - “Blessed are You, Adonai our God, King of the universe, who did miracles for our forefathers in those days and at this season, Amen."
If you are a Gentile believer, you can read this before lighting the candles: “Blessed are you, Lord our God, who has given us Your Messiah Yeshua and You have given your people a great victory over the adversary by taking us out of the kingdom of darkness into Your kingdom of light.”
- Celebrate with family and friends and decorate with festive greenery.