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Purim in the Wake of War


March 26, 2024
Sondra Oster Baras


It was not easy to celebrate Purim this year. We are in the midst of a terrible war that began with the horrific, monstrous attack by Hamas against Israel on October 7th.  For nearly six months, we have been trying to absorb the horror, all the while struggling to stay strong as our children, husbands and fathers are fighting against this cruel enemy.  The knowledge that we are a stone’s throw away from people who derive insane pleasure from torturing, raping and murdering men, women and  children, does not give us rest.

In recent weeks many of the reserve soldiers have been released from active duty and we are able to breathe a sigh of relief, knowing they are now home.  For most of us, life is beginning to return to a sort of normal.  But for those soldiers still in Gaza, and their worried families, the reality of war is ever-present. For the tens of thousands of families from both the north and south of the country who are still in hotels, unable to return to their homes which have been destroyed in this ongoing war, the war is far from over.  For those families whose sons, daughters, parents or siblings are still held hostage in Gaza, the war is a constant nightmare.  And for those families, like my own, who have lost loved ones on the battlefield or in terrorist attacks, there is that constant pain of loss.

And as we follow the news each day, we are greeted with constant bad news.  The IDF cleared out the northern parts of the Gaza Strip a few months ago and then moved on to the southern areas.  Recently, we learned that Hamas terrorists are back in the north and our soldiers are working hard to find them and eliminate them.  International pressure to provide ongoing humanitarian aid has lengthened the war, as Hamas has succeeded in controlling most of the aid coming in, distributing it to its members and supporters and selling it at highly-inflated prices to the rest of the population.  This aid has strengthened Hamas’ control of Gaza, removing their incentive to release the hostages and surrender.

Canada and the UK have called for an arms embargo against Israel, and the US has threatened the same if Israel does not stop the fighting.  And just yesterday, the US refused to veto a decision of the UN Security Council calling for an immediate cease-fire.  While the resolution calls for the immediate release of the hostages as well, neither call is conditioned upon the other.  Israel takes its obligations under international law very seriously while Hamas celebrates its crimes against humanity. So effectively, the UN, with the backing of the US, is calling upon Israel to cease fighting while Hamas is free to hold the hostages under impossible conditions, refusing to allow international aid organizations to visit them, and continuing to attack Israel with impunity. 

How is it that the nations of the world, including our closest allies, have become hardened to the tragedy that Israel is enduring and has endured since October 7th.  Where is their humanity?  Where is their morality? 

It is against this backdrop that we began the holiday of Purim.  Purim celebrates the miraculous salvation of the Jews of the Persian Empire from the wicked Haman, as recorded in the Book of Esther. Jews have long referred to the worst of our enemies as current versions of Haman. And this year is no different.  Yahya Sinwar is certainly a modern-day Haman.  When we read Esther in the synagogue and, as custom dictates, booed every time Haman’s name was mentioned, we thought of Sinwar.

On Purim, we let loose – we dance in the streets, imbibe a bit of alcohol, don costumes, and enjoy parties.  A phrase in the Book of Esther has become a theme of the holiday: “and it was reversed” (9:1).  The Jews succeeded in defeating their enemies instead of the reverse that had been planned by Haman.  So it is a day of reversal – our normal habits and behaviors are set aside for a day of craziness.  But we always recall the point of it all – a day that we celebrate God’s salvation, albeit expressed in subtle ways in Esther, without God’s name appearing even once in that book. 

This year we realized what it must have been like to celebrate the Purim miracle in the middle of a pogrom in Eastern Europe or during the Holocaust.  But celebrate they did.  Because as Jews we remember God’s miracles and we must always be grateful for what He has done for us.

This year, when we praised God for our salvation in ancient Persia, we added a prayer for our own salvation.  We did celebrate this year, but our merriment was peppered with discussion of the war, of the state of our nation, of our fears.  But we remembered the Purim story, and as we celebrated we were able to feel hope.  We were able to look ahead and see the light that awaits us even in the midst of the darkness.  We celebrated Purim as an act of faith.


3 thoughts on “Purim in the Wake of War”

  1. No dear sondra,
    Not all have hardened hearts instead Look intensivly on the lies of your enemies and pray and pray and let others be informed , so do i…your Friend!
    But the Media will Not say any word only of poor gazapeople(which like hamastoo)…Like gueteress😱
    That makes me fury
    Shalom!!! Psalm 2

  2. shabbat shalom sondra,

    bless you for your article, the everlasting covenant. an excellent comprehensive piece that shows who israel belongs to: god who gave his chosen people the privilege of living there. i will be sharing it with as many as i can.

    we need to pray, too, for the people living in gaza, both those believers that they remain faithful and unbelievers that their eyes may be opened and repent. the same prayer needs to be said of the people living in the west bank.

    we need to pray, too, for the people living in israel, both those believers that they remain faithful and fearless; and unbelievers that their eyes may be opened and know jesus. majority of the people in israel are either atheists, or secular. most of god’s chosen people still do not recognize and accept jesus as the promised anointed one of god (the lamb that takes away the sin of the world prefigured by the passover lamb they sacrificed annually until the temple was destroyed).

    john reveals that just before the return of jesus, god’s people will undergo the severest persecution that they will finally ask for god to send the messiah. this is because they would not know jesus till he returns and save them physically and spiritually.
    i believe jesus’ coming will not be in the next 200 years. and so what we can pray for is that god will give his people a reprieve in the midst of their unbelief in our lord because of god’s yet unfulfilled promises to his chosen people.


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