Purim holiday, Corona, and ancient Persia

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Hamantaschen, traditional Purim pastries

Every year, one month before Passover, we celebrate Purim to remember the events described in the book of Esther. This year many of the annual celebrations have been cancelled due to the coronavirus. It is not, however, the first time that Purim celebrations are stifled.

When I arrived to Israel in summer 1995, I looked forward to celebrate my first Purim in Israel. I had just turned 14. As spring 1996 came around I dressed up to go to the Purim party in school. And then we heard the news. A terror attack in central Jerusalem. Two suicide bombers murdered 45 people. I arrived at the school and the planned festivities were non-existant. People were dressed up for Purim, but no one celebrated. Instead, the teachers and principal spoke about the attack, honoring the victims, etc. I think so anyway. My Hebrew wasn’t very good at the time.

The terrorists did it on purpose of course. Purim is one of the happiest silliest days of the year, and the terrorists set out to ruin it for us.

The coronavirus is not as aware of our holidays as the terrorists are, but somehow it ruined the same holiday. It’s not as bad as in 1996, though. My kids did have time to enjoy Purim parties in their schools, people did dress up and there were some celebrations.

But isn’t it weird that we celebrate events that took place in ancient Persia? We celebrate victory over a Persian enemy, and now the coronavirus hits Iran really hard. It’s one of the countries most affected by the virus. Is this just a coincidence…?

Yes.

I think it is very dangerous to attribute a virus like this to godly interference, God’s judgment, end of the world, etc. It could be true, but it could also not be. Fact is, there are a lot of coincidences in the world. In books and movies everything has a purpose. There are no meaningless coincidences. In made-up stories, like the ones I write, a coincidence never happens for no reason. The reason could be that someone was really orchestrating it, or it could be that it solves a plot point and the author was a little bit lazy. In either case, coincidences always have a reason and a purpose when they occur in fiction. In real life, they don’t.

I am not going to explain the holiday of Purim to you. It’s all over the book of Esther, just go and read that. It’s about how the entire Jewish people was almost wiped out, and God saved them. Saved all of us. Yes, you gentile Christians too. No Purim, no Jewish people, no Jesus. Purim is really about how God is sovereign and watches over us, even when we feel he is distant. God isn’t even mentioned in the book, only alluded to. But his presence and sovereignty and care is all over the book.

I think we can take the same comfort today with this corona threat. God is sovereign, whatever happens. I am not very afraid of the virus itself, I am not in a high-risk group. I am a bit worried about the economic downturn it will cause, and I am worried about being put in quarantine. Me and my family are in the midst of moving apartments, and getting quarantined would be a serious nuisance.

Happy Purim, and may God give you comfort and security during this worrisome time.