Author Topic: Pre-Purim "Fast of Esther" Today  (Read 3407 times)

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Pre-Purim "Fast of Esther" Today
« on: March 01, 2007, 06:51:24 PM »
Pre-Purim "Fast of Esther" Today
by Hillel Fendel

( The joyous month of Adar takes a "day off" to commemorate the fasting and prayers led by Queen Esther against the genocidal decree of the evil Haman.

Jews around the world are fasting today, in remembrance of the prayers, fasting and repentance that preceded the Jewish People's miraculous deliverance from Haman's plan to annihilate them some 2,500 years ago. The story is recounted in the Bible's Book of Esther, which is read aloud on Purim night and morning.

The Fast of Esther is generally held the day before Purim. This year, however, Purim falls on Sunday, and since the Sabbath is not a day of fasting (except if it coincides with Yom Kippur), the fast is pushed up to Thursday. The fast began at dawn, and ends shortly after sundown.

Special penitential prayers, known as S'lichot, are added to the Fast of Esther morning prayer service, as on every day of fasting. The following are excerpts from the Fast of Esther prayers (translated by the late Rabbi Abraham Rosenfeld):
"They resolved to sell us, in our helplessness... I raised my eyes toward heaven and called upon Thee to... blot out [my enemy's] memory...
Having listened to [Haman's] lying words, [King Ahasuerus] issued a hostile decree and invested himself with priestly garments [seized from the Holy Temple]... and ordered that diverse vessels from the marble Temple be used at the banquet, and Satan also came to take his stand among them. When the [Jewish] people residing in Shushan partook of their foul repast, he opened his mouth to slander them and to deliver them into the hand [of Haman] who offered a price [to the king] for them; the Al-mighty consented that a document be written to destroy their hope...
[The angels cried, and the Torah mourned, and Elijah the Prophet] girt his loins with a plaster of sackcloth and hastened to inform the three Patriarchs, asleep in [the Cave of] Machpelah; then he hastened to the shepherd [Moses, saying], Why are you sleeping so peacefully? Arise, call upon your G-d...
[Mordechai] knocked at the gates of the schools, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat on ashes [and fasted and prayed]... On both sides stood the children of my Patriarchs and my great ones; they all cried, and their cries went up to the L-rd... [Moses said], O L-rd, deliver from this wicked enemy those who are doomed to die. Then the All-Merciful's pity was deeply moved...

"...Then the lot was reversed, that [the Jews] should rule over their enemies. The gallows stood ready to receive [Haman] the Agagite; the cloak of power was torn off and cast away from his face, and darkness enveloped the adversaries of our people. Peace and truth were decreed throughout [the realm]... Wherefore they made feasts which were ordained to be kept throughout the generations, and the recitation [of these events] should be read [aloud]...

"...O G-d, Thou hast taught us to recite the Thirteen Attributes; remember this day in our favor the Covenant of the Thirteen Attributes [as is written], The L-rd, the L-rd is a merciful and gracious G-d; slow to anger and abundant in kindness and truth; He keeps kindness for thousands [of generations], forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and acquitting; therefore, forgive our iniquity and sin, and take us for Thy inheritance. Forgive us, our Father, for we have sinned..."
The prayers include references to some of the important themes of Purim: The total reversal of fortunes enjoyed by the Jews and suffered by Haman, as well as the Purim feast and reading aloud of the Book of Esther; the name of Haman, a descendant of Amalek, is "wiped out" with noise and jeering every time it is heard. Other Purim obligations include special gifts of charity to the poor, gifts of food to friends, wearing of costumes (emphasizing the "reversal" theme), and reaching a heightened state of joy - usually by intoxication. Torah scholars and students emphasize the importance of Torah study on this day as well.

The atmosphere on Purim in particular, and throughout the month of Adar, is one of great joy and thanksgiving to G-d for the miraculous deliverance. Individual communities that enjoyed similar deliverances throughout history have marked the occasion locally with a holiday called "Little Purim."

Purim is celebrated in most of the world on the 14th of Adar, this coming Sunday. In Jerusalem and other cities that were walled during Biblical times, Purim is commemorated on the 15th of Adar.