Purim, told in the Biblical book of Esther, commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination.
The heroes of the story are Esther, a young Jewish woman living in Persia, and her cousin Mordecai, who raised her as if she were his daughter. Esther was taken to the King of Persia, to become part of his harem, and was made queen. But the king did not know that Esther was a Jew, because Mordecai told her not to reveal her nationality.
The villain of the story is Haman, an advisor to the king. Haman hated Mordecai because Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman, so Haman plotted to destroy the Jewish people.
In a speech that is all too familiar to Jews, Haman told the king,
“There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from those of every people; neither keep they the king’s laws; therefore it does not profit the king to suffer them.”
The king gave the fate of the Jewish people to Haman, to do as he pleased to them. Haman planned to exterminate all of the Jews.
Mordecai persuaded Esther to speak to the king on behalf of the Jewish people, which was a dangerous thing because anyone who came into the king’s presence without being summoned could be put to death, and she had not been summoned.
Esther, after fasting for three days to prepare herself, then went to the king, who welcomed her. She told him of Haman’s plot against her people, and the King, moved by Esther’s plea, ordered Haman hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai.
The Jewish people were saved.
To our readers observing the holiday, Purim Sameach!