Within what is called the “Hebrew Roots” Movement there are many differing opinions on the two “non-Levitical” feasts. These are Purim and Chanukah. Both were not “commanded by God” in the Torah, so it becomes a question for people about whether or not they are “man-made traditions like Christmas and Easter.
As I have processed and considered what these festivals mean, I have chosen to celebrate them and I hope I can explain in this article why I have made this choice. These festivals are mentioned in the Bible. Purim is spoken of at the end of the book of Esther. Here is what was written in Esther 9:
The other Jews, those in the royal provinces, had assembled, defended their lives and won rest from their enemies, killing 75,000 of those who hated them, but without touching the spoil, 17 on the thirteenth day of the month Adar. So on the fourteenth day of Adar they rested and made it a holiday for celebrating and rejoicing. 18 However, the Jews of Shushan assembled on both the thirteenth and fourteenth days of Adar, so it was on the fifteenth that they rested and made it a holiday for celebrating and rejoicing. 19 This is why the Jews of the villages, those who live in unwalled towns, make the fourteenth day of the month of Adar a day for celebrating and rejoicing, a holiday and a time for sending each other portions [of food].
20 Mordekhai recorded these events and sent letters to all the Jews in all the provinces of King Achashverosh, both near and far, 21 instructing them to observe the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and the fifteenth day, every year, 22 [to commemorate] the days on which the Jews obtained rest from their enemies and the month which for them was turned from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; they were to make them days of celebrating and rejoicing, sending portions [of food] to each other and giving gifts to the poor.
23 So the Jews took it upon themselves to continue what they had already begun to do, and as Mordekhai had written to them; 24 because Haman the son of Hamdata the Agagi, the enemy of the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them and had thrown pur (that is, “cast lots”) to crush and destroy them; 25 but when Ester came before the king, he ordered by letters that [Haman’s] wicked scheme, which he had plotted against the Jews, should recoil on his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. 26 This is why these days have been called Purim, after the word pur. Thus, because of everything written in this letter, and what they had seen concerning this matter, and what had come upon them, 27 the Jews resolved and took upon themselves, their descendants and all who might join them that without fail they would observe these two days in accordance with what was written in [this letter] and at the appointed time, every year; 28 and that these days would be remembered and observed throughout every generation, every family, every province and every city; and that these days of Purim would never cease among the Jews or their memory be lost by their descendants.
29 Then Ester the queen, the daughter of Avichayil, and Mordekhai the Jew, gave full written authority to confirm a second letter about Purim. 30 He sent copies of it to all the Jews, to the 127 provinces of the kingdom of Achashverosh, ensuring their peace and security 31 and requiring the observance of these days of Purim at their designated times, as Mordekhai the Jew and Ester the queen had enjoined them, and as they had established for themselves and their descendants concerning the matters of fasting and lamenting. 32 At Ester’s order these matters of Purim were confirmed and put in writing in the book.
I tried to highlight the important pieces of “instruction” as to how and why Purim started and even the explanation of what the word “pur” means. It has to do with the casting of lots that Haman did when he plotted to kill the Jews.
From reading the book of Esther, it is easy to see how some people would say that this is a “man-made appointed time” because it was something that Mordecai and Esther established. It was not a “God-given feast.”
This event was part of a book (Esther) that was allowed into the Bible. This event was significant enough that the Holy Spirit placed it into what we know as the “Old Testament.” It was a historical event God wanted documented for ALL who read the Bible to understand.
What one must understand is that, just like for Chanukah, if this historical event had not taken place, the Jews would have been wiped out. Esther was definitely placed in the king’s court and palace for “such a time as this.” If she had not been brave enough to approach the king, her people, the Jews, would have been wiped out.
If the Jewish race would have been annihilated, Jesus would not have been born. Yes, God could have used a different way to bring about the Savior of the world, but He chose to use the Jews and the line of David to bring the Messiah. It was prophesied this would happen, so He needed to preserve these people. If it had not happened through them, He would have gone back on His Word.
It is clear, from the book of Esther, that ALL the Jews chose to celebrate their victory. They celebrated by "sending portions of food to each other and giving gifts to the poor.” Yes, Mordecai and Esther then had it “confirmed and written in the book,” but all the Jews were part of the celebration and seemingly wanted it to be an annual day of rejoicing!
What happens today at the time of Purim?
Well, I must be honest to say that I do not agree with everything that is happening during Purim celebrations today. I have been in Jerusalem during the Purim holiday, and personally, I do not think that God is pleased with what He sees.
At some point in the celebrations, people began to dress up as Esther and Mordecai. Girls dressed up to look like a queen. Boys dressed up like a man from the time of the Bible. Candy began to be distributed.
Dress up… Candy… can you see something similar to “halloween?”
I am not opposed to dressing up and acting out the story of Esther. In fact, this could be a positive teaching tool if it is handled properly. Children could learn a lot from being a part of such an activity.
However, for many people today it is just like halloween in the US. Children dress up as any character they want. There are parades with candy, and floats that do not necessarily tell the story of Esther. The day has become more fun and games than it has an understanding of what really happened and why the day is so important.
In Jerusalem, when I was there, people were getting high in the streets, dancing as devils, drinking ALL night long. This is a common theme on this day - how much can you drink? And, “let’s party all night long.”
Can you see how God might not be pleased with these celebrations today?
What would be a positive way to celebrate this holiday?
Most “religious Jews” read the whole book of Esther. This is not difficult to do. There could be many new things learned, or seen, every year as the story is told.
There are many layers hidden in the book of Esther that could be shared with people of ALL ages and intelligence levels. We have several books about Esther that are quite deep and explain hidden pieces that are only found if one knows Hebrew and understands the Hebrew alphabet.
The book of Esther makes it clear that they “gave gifts to the poor.” Gifts are given during the Purim holiday. In markets across Israel baskets are prepared and ready to sell, but most of them are filled with sweets. Maybe it is time to return to giving practical gifts to the poor and finding ways to support them.
Many might argue that because they are not Jewish, Purim does not need to be celebrated. Just like with all the Jewish festivals and appointed times, if you believe Jesus is your Messiah - He was Jewish. These are appointed times that He would have celebrated. Jesus would have celebrated this festival every year because it was a reminder to His people that God preserved them and took care of them.
I believe it is time we take back our understanding of history. It is time we look at the Word of God as living and active, and if God saw it important enough to have the story of Esther and the Purim event in the Bible, than it should be important for us to study and understand why. I pray this teaching brings clarity to the importance of this day each year.
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