Part of our family history as Catholics are the Jewish festivals. We don’t observe them today, but the are part of our long-term heritage. The Jewish festivals pointed backward to important events in salvation history and forward to their fulfillment in the Lord’s life and mission.
Purim began yesterday and ends today, 10 March, at sunset.
What is Purim?
Purim celebrates how God, through Esther and her adoptive father Mordechai, saved the Jewish people from the hateful Hamman and the King during the Persian captivity. Purim is not one of those major festivals like Passover or Tabernacles, but it was a time of rejoicing, annually celebrated with traditions.
One of the customs of Purim is to read or sing the whole Book of Esther, which is called “the whole megillah (megillat – scroll)”. Now you know where that phrase comes from. There are several “megillah books”, but Esther is probably the most associated with the word.
During the singing of the whole megillah, when the name of the evil Hamman is pronounced, the people often shout and make noise with noisemakers to blot out his name, a kind of damnatio memoriae. There are some interesting Youtube videos of the singing of Esther that have this blotting out of “Hamman”. For example, HERE, at synagogue in Tampa, they really get into it. Check out about 1:30.
By the way, don’t be puzzled by the seemingly cheerful raucous music that introduce some of these Megillah Esther videos. Purim is a time of serious partying. There is a lot of dressing up in costumes and feasting.
Here is a singing of Esther from the Synagogue in Rome (Hebrew with an Italian accent). Chapter 3 starts at 12:35 or so and right after is a mention of the hated Hamman.
It is probable that when the Lord went up to Jerusalem for a “feast of the Jews” in John 5, and when he healed a man at the Pool of Bethesda, it was Purim.
BTW… you might review the dialogue of the Lord with the man who was for so long by that pool. Given that this pool was outside the walls, where no one dwelt, and the man in theory couldn’t get around on his own, and therefore had to be brought there daily, the Lord’s question: “Do you want to be healed?” takes on a new quality.