You Can Be a Hero Too

March 12, 2024

My daughter thinks that she’s a unicorn. Sometimes. On other days, she imagines that she is a Disney princess. And more often than not, she is just herself, which is a wonderful thing to be too.

All of this will make finding her a costume for the Jewish holiday of Purim an easy task, considering she already spends much of her day jumping in and out of characters.

However, it’s worth considering how unusual of a practice this is for a religious holiday nowadays – how in a world where we’re empowered to embrace authenticity, the holiday of Purim invites us to consider the world of masks and concealment.

It’s worth asking then, what’s the real reason Jews dress up on Purim? And as importantly, how can we bring the meaning behind the mask into our own story today?

Beginning in the 14th century, Italian Jews began wearing costumes and masks for Purim, mirroring similar secular European traditions. But the actual origin of the Jewish practice came directly from the Purim story itself. In an act of heroism, Queen Esther hid her Jewish identity from King Achashverosh, waiting for the perfect moment to reveal her true identity, ultimately swaying the King towards saving the Jewish people. Her calculated concealment foiled Haman’s plans to eradicate all of the Jews of the Persian Empire.  By perfectly timing her big reveal, she won favor in the king’s eyes. 

Esther’s uncle Mordechai also concealed his identity from the King. In a courageous act of resistance, Mordechai refused to bow down to Haman, who at the time was the king’s right-hand man. Haman, furious over Mordechai’s refusal to kneel before him, enacted an edict to kill all of the Jews. In a separate event, Mordechai saved King Achashaverosh from an attempted assassination, reporting on two nefarious guards who plotted to poison the king. Unbeknownst to the King, this was the same Jewish Mordechai that Haman was after! Still blissfully unaware of this happy coincidence, the king rewarded Mordechai for his loyalty by having Haman parade Mordechai around the city in the royal garb.

Given all the subterfuge – even God’s name is absent from the text  – we must ask what message the story is trying to teach us. 

As we see with Esther and Mordechai, the Purim story encourages us to reflect on the complexities of identity and the subtle ways in which divine guidance can manifest in our lives, often in ways we cannot see. 

But the Purim story also teaches us about the greatness that is dormant within us – known to us but lying, half-acknowledged, beneath the surface. The story of Purim encourages us to recognize when that inner core must rise to the forefront, when circumstance requires that we rally ourselves in the truest expressions of our inherited wisdom, moral courage, and faith. It is on us to step up, brave and strong, for God and His people.

In today’s tumultuous times, we face the same challenges as Esther and Mordechai of when to remove the mask. As the late Holocaust Survivor, Elie Weisel, said: “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” 

Now is the moment to reveal our true selves – to stand up for our faith, the land, the Jewish people, and God. Together, we can emulate Esther and Mordechai, standing up – no longer hidden – for truth and for God.

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Sara Lamm

Sara Lamm is a content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. Originally from Virginia, she moved to Israel with her husband and children in 2021. Sara has a Masters Degree in Education from Bankstreet college and taught preschool for almost a decade before making Aliyah to Israel. Sara is passionate about connecting Bible study with “real life’ and is currently working on a children’s Bible series.

Sara Lamm

Sara Lamm is a content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. Originally from Virginia, she moved to Israel with her husband and children in 2021. Sara has a Masters Degree in Education from Bankstreet college and taught preschool for almost a decade before making Aliyah to Israel. Sara is passionate about connecting Bible study with “real life’ and is currently working on a children’s Bible series.

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