Happy Purim!

March 8, 2012

Thank you for all the concern about my burned-to-a-crisp leg. It really doesn’t hurt at all. I just hope I don’t have a permanent tattoo advertising the cheapest curling iron I could find at Target.

You guys. I am sad. I am pretty much done with the Little House books. I still have to read The First Four Years and Farmer Boy, but both of them are different in tone and characters. I just finished These Happy Golden Years.

Laura is all grown up and she just got married to Almanzo. It’s happy, but also sad because she is no longer a little girl playing with Mary along the banks of Plum Creek. Now she cooks and teaches and sews dresses for herself. On her very last night at home, she asks Pa to play the fiddle and she remembers each of the songs and is reminded of her home in the big woods, and on the prairie, and in the dugout and on Silver Lake. “Then while the sun was going down he played all the old tunes that Laura had known ever since she could remember.”

It’s OK to cry at books, you guys.

So we’re celebrating Purim this evening! Like I mentioned yesterday, the holiday of Purim comes from the book of Esther. During this time, the Israelites were in exile and under the control of the Persian king. This king decided he wanted a new wife, so he searched the kingdom for some beautiful ladies. Hadassah (Esther) was one of them. She won the favor of the king and became queen, but she never told him that she was a Jew. Esther had a cousin named Mordecai and he made a man named Haman angry because he would not bow down to him. Haman apparently took things a little too personally because he decided to kill all of the Jews in the whole world simply because Mordecai made him mad. Haman managed to get the king to agree to this killing, and he planned to murder all the Jews in the month of Adar. Well, Esther stepped up and was very brave — she ended up telling the king that she was Jewish, and she exposed Haman’s plot and the king sided with her. The Jews would not be killed, and instead, Haman was hanged on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai. Bam! Haman, what now?!

So, in Esther 9, the holiday of Purim is instituted. Purim is the plural of “pur” which means “lot” because Haman cast a lot against the Jews. This holiday is celebrated every year because God saved his people from destruction. For the Jews, the Bible says,  “it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor.”

Purim is a very celebratory holiday. You eat good food and drink wine and read the story of Esther to remember God’s work. Whenever Haman’s name is read, you shake noisemakers to blot out his name from the earth. This is because Haman was a descendent of Amalek, and Deuteronomy 25:19 says that when the Israelites get to the Promised Land they should “blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget.”

One tradition of Purim is to make Hamantaschen which are triangular cookies. Hamantaschen means “Haman’s pockets” in Yiddish. I made some last night — some filled with a poppyseed/honey mixture and some filled with Nutella. They did not all stay so triangular, but I tried.

I’ve never celebrated Purim before, so it’s been fun to learn about it. We’re celebrating tonight at small group, which should be great. We’re bringing canned goods to give to the food shelf at our church, and we’ll eat and read the story of Esther. We’re also dressing up in costumes and masks — it’s traditional to “masquerade” during Purim because the name of God is actually never mentioned in the book of Esther, but it is clear that he was at work behind the scenes, saving his people from destruction.

So, that’s Purim! It’s fun and celebratory and a remembering of God’s continued faithfulness to his people.

Alright, I must be off. Have a Happy Purim!

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Branded

March 7, 2012

You guys, short and sweet today because unfortunately I have an Aramaic midterm this afternoon. Even more unfortunately, I do not know any Aramaic.

OK, I promised I wouldn’t subject you to pictures of the burn on my leg, but I thought you should see this.

This is what my curling iron says.

And this is what my leg says.

I’ve been branded.

Last night in my Hebrew class we talked about how complicated it is to figure out the theology of Joshua. There’s a lot of killing and many people have a hard time understanding God because of all the violence he commanded. We talked about how, as much as people want there to be, there’s probably not any easy answer — we have to consider the types of writing (law code is different than narrative), the worldview of the Ancient Near East, the redemptive model of Scripture, the way God hands out historical judgments to other nations and to Israel, the meaning of “the ban” in Joshua, and on and on and on. It doesn’t mean that there’s no solution, but I do think it means that we probably can’t give a quick, neat answer to questions about justice and judgment in the Scripture. We have to be thoughtful and we have to think well. We have to take the time to discuss and ponder. It may not be a quick answer, but we know the character of our God and his holiness and goodness.

So the holiday of Purim starts tonight at sundown! Purim was not one of the seven holidays commanded by God, but we see it begin in the Bible in the book of Esther. It is a joyful holiday that commemorates when God saved his people from destruction at the hands of the evil Haman. The Bible commands the Jewish people to celebrate it every year by giving gifts, and giving to the poor and having a great feast. I’m not actually celebrating it until Thursday evening with my small group, but I’ll tell you lots more about it then. If you do want to consider celebrating, you mostly just dress up and eat lots of good food. And on Thursday, you could give to the poor and bring treats to friends!

OK, seriously. I’ve got to study for this awful midterm. I’ll see ya soon!