Jewish holiday of Purim may have echoes in American history, says New York rabbi

Jewish holiday of Purim may have echoes in American history, says New York rabbi
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The story of the Jewish holiday of Purim, which commemorates the survival of the Jewish people, has continued to reverberate throughout history, Rabbi Dr. Ari Lamm of New York told Fox News Digital.

Lamm is chief executive of BZ Media, which works to "bring together the creative talent and philanthropic resources to produce the best Jewish and Israel content for mainstream Gen Z audiences and beyond."

The story of Purim is found in the Book of Esther, part of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament.

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In modern times, Purim is celebrated with a retelling of the story of the Purim miracle, a feast, charitable giving, and dressing up in costumes. The date of the holiday changes each year; in 2024, it occurs on the evening of Saturday, March 23, and through Sunday, March 24.

"Set during the reign of the Persian Emperor Ahasuerus — known in the Greek historical tradition as Xerxes — the Book of Esther narrates an attempt by Ahasuerus’s viceroy, Haman, to exterminate the Jewish people," said Lamm.

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Kids walk on 14th Avenue dressed in costume.
Modern celebrations of Purim typically involve dressing in costumes.

The story "then records the Jews’ subsequent salvation through the forceful efforts of Ahasuerus’ Jewish queen, Esther — aided by her cousin Mordecai."

He went on, "The most poignant interaction between Esther and Mordecai comes in the wake of Haman’s announcement of his intention to destroy the Jewish people. Mordecai beseeched Esther to intervene with her husband Ahasuerus exclaiming, ‘Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’ (Esther 4:14)."

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These words, which "called a reluctant hero to decisive moral leadership," said Lamm, "finally convinced Esther to act."

Several centuries later, this phrase likely moved another leader to act. That was President Abraham Lincoln, said Lamm.

etching of An etching of an 1865 painting showing queen Esther condemning Haman.
Purim is an annual celebration of the survival of the Jewish people against Haman's attempt to exterminate them.

"About two weeks before publishing a preliminary draft of the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln met with nationally prominent abolitionist Rev. William Weston Patton," said Lamm.

During the summer, Lincoln expressed a desire to emancipate the slaves in the South, but had not yet done so, he said.

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"And so it was that Lincoln found himself, on a Saturday morning, confronted by a fiery Patton making the religious case for emancipation," said Lamm.

"Patton tried a variety of different arguments, all of which Lincoln parried. But in the final moments of their meeting, Patton unleashed one additional salvo: Esther 4:14."

Patton said he told Lincoln, "At the time of national peril of the Jews, under Ahasuerus, Mordecai spoke ... to Queen Esther, who hesitated to take the step necessary to their preservation, in these solemn words: ‘For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed; and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’"

Patton believed Lincoln could "be his generation's Queen Esther," Lamm told Fox News Digital.

abraham lincoln split with rabbi lamm
Rabbi Ari Lamm of New York, at right, told Fox News Digital that the biblical story of Purim may have reverberated through the centuries and given President Lincoln a boost of courage.

"We believe that in divine providence you have been called to the presidency to speak the word of justice and authority, which shall free the bondsman and save the nation," Patton reportedly told Lincoln.

"In response, all Lincoln could say was, ‘Whatever shall appear to be God’s will I will do,’" said Lamm.

While it is impossible to know if Patton's quoting of Esther was the catalyst to move Lincoln to act on the Emancipation Proclamation, Lamm believes that it just might have been the case.

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"If David Gilmour Blythe’s 1863 painting of Lincoln drafting the Emancipation Proclamation — in which Lincoln draws his inspiration from two resources: the Constitution and the Bible — is any indication, Patton certainly succeeded," he said.

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Original article source: Jewish holiday of Purim may have echoes in American history, says New York rabbi