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Purim and the Fast of Esther

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The 11th of Adar (the Fast of Esther) is a Jewish fast day equating to Thursday, March 9, 2017.

The 14th of Adar is the Jewish holiday of Purim which begins on Saturday evening, March 11, and ends the following evening. Adar is the 12th month of the Hebrew sacred calendar.

The Fast of Esther is observed as national day of fasting, mourning and repentance from daybreak until nightfall. It commemorates the time that Queen Esther asked all the Jews to pray for her as she was going to intercede for them before King Ahasuerus of Shushan.

Purim is the culmination of these answered prayers, in which the Jews were delivered from an impending Jewish holocaust in the fourth century BC. During the time of the fast and Purim, the entire book of Esther is cantorized out-loud in the synagogue. The book of Esther is a Megillah, meaning one of five books of the "Writings" in the Tanakh (Hebrew scriptures) and not part of the Torah.

During the time of Purim, families will 1) give money gifts to at least two poor people; 2) send gifts of two kinds of food to at least one person; 3) have a festive Purim feast, either public or private; 4) a traditional Purim dessert is hamantaschen (or oznay Haman), which is a three-cornered pastry bursting with poppy seeds or another sweet filling; 5) it is also customary for children (and adults, if they desire) to dress up in costumes.

In addition to the miracle of Jewish survival despite the efforts of our enemies, Purim celebrates God's intimate involvement in every aspect of this world. Here are two curious things that have happened recently on Purim:

1) In the early 1950s, Joseph Stalin, the ruthless butcher of millions of innocent people, had bloody plans for dealing with the "Jewish problem" in the USSR. Just as things were reaching a crisis point in 1953, he died ... on Purim!

2) In 1991, Saddam Hussein of Iraq defiantly invaded nearby Kuwait. As pressure ramped up from the international community, his army began firing SCUD missiles into Israel. Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson repeatedly assured the people of Israel that they would be protected. After the U.S.-led forces attacked Iraq, they were quickly victorious and the hostilities ended ... on Purim!

All are encouraged to join with your Jewish and/or Messianic Jewish brethren during this time. To truly learn more, come and partake in the Fast of Esther and Purim!

Rabbi Uziel ben Yochanan is from Derekh haMashiach (Way of the Messiah), the Orthodox Messianic fellowship located in Cedaredge. To receive additional information or times of assembly contact, rebuziel@gmail.com.

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