Posts Tagged ‘fasting’

“Now in the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s command and edict were about to be carried out, on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them.” (Esther 9:1)

Ancient Persia of biblical times is today known as Iran.It is now more than two millennia since the Purim story took place there and an attempted genocide against the Jewish people was miraculously aborted. Haman of old had a plan. “Death to the Jews” was his program. Celebrating Purim is our commemoration of his failure. But history has a remarkable way of repeating itself. Jew-haters still live on, renewing Haman’s efforts with even greater dedication and perseverance—not only from Iran, the biblical home of Haman, but also from ISIS and many other countries where sympathy  for Islamic radicals is on the rise.

Although celebrating Purim is not a commandment from God, it continues to be celebrated because its message needs to be remembered. Those who seek destruction of the Jewish people are evil. Their evil must be acknowledged. Their words must be taken seriously. Their goal must be prevented.

And how do we celebrate Purim today in light of modern day Haman’s seemingly rise to power, strength and wealth? Perhaps the most important words of the Megillat Esther, the Scroll of Esther are V’Nahafoch Hu – “it was reversed”. (Esther 10:1) Tragedy was turned around at the last moment, and all the plans that Haman tried to implement in order to destroy the Jews were used in the end to save the Jews.

Today, we celebrate Purim with costumes, noisemakers, and a feast that includes wine and Hamantashen, special filled cookies that resemble Haman’s three cornered hat. We give gifts of food to our friends, and money to the poor.

“…as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor.” (Esther 9:22)

We also read from the book of Esther and use a special noisemaker every time Haman’s name is mentioned as a sign of disrespect and make our hearts glad with wine.

“A person should drink on Purim until the point where he can’t tell the difference between “Blessed is Mordechai” and “Cursed is Haman. (Talmud – Megillah 7b; Code of Jewish Law 695:2)

Some think that just as the Irish have a springtime drinking holiday called St. Patrick’s Day, the Sages instituted Purim as Judaism’s springtime drinking holiday. This is absurd!

To begin, we first need to define the Bible’s concept of feasting and gladness. Throughout Scripture feasting is always associated with drinking and rejoicing. Rejoicing often includes laughter. Laughter occurs when the unexpected happens. A toddler puts on her father’s big shoes—and we laugh. Someone forgets their lines in a play—and we laugh. The sudden surprise catches us off guard. And the more unexpected it is, the funnier it is.

The story of Haman’s downfall and Mordechai’s rise teaches us that even at a time when we’re powerless to think and respond logically, God continues to protect us and shield us. On Purim, we drink to life (“L’chaim”) with the knowledge that all of our troubles are temporary. We capture the joy that just as God redeemed us from previous dangers, sins and problems, He will do so again. Because God is always here, running the world for our ultimate benefit.

Many people drink to forget their problems—and for a while, it works. But if we were on a higher spiritual level, we wouldn’t need to drink. But since we’re not on such a high spiritual level, we drink in order to loosen up, laugh at our troubles and forget our anxieties. If we were truly clear on the idea that the only real power operating in the world is God, we wouldn’t have nearly as much worry and anxiety as we normally do. If we trusted in God, we would be fully relaxed. Then we could really see that God has everything under control, and in spite of us, everything will work out.

The message of Purim is that even though it’s hard to see Him, God is here in the world. Even when things look bad, even if we’re suffering, in some way it has got to be all for the best, because there’s a benevolent God behind everything, manipulating events for our good. This is what is means to “drink until you can’t tell the difference between Blessed is Mordechai and Cursed is Haman.” It is only because of our limited perceptions that we see a difference. But in God’s infinite reality, there is no difference between the two. It is all ultimately for the good. (This does not mean that we are to drink to the excess where we cannot walk or talk at all, but just to the point of not being able to use our logic)

A fun fact on this theme: In Hebrew, the numerical value (gematria) of “Cursed is Haman” is 502. The numerical value of “Blessed is Mordechai” is also 502. On Purim we drink to the point that we can no longer compute the mathematics.

A final word on drinking:

Let us use good judgement on Purim. We should set a model for our children by not drinking to excess and by supervising adolescents and teenagers to make sure that they do not drink. In this way we can all enjoy a safe, respectable Purim. There have been far too many teenagers as well as adults who require emergency attention after becoming too drunk. Drinking and driving is not only against Halacha, but obviously against common sense. Rabbis, teachers and parents should be encouraged to discuss this issue with all children and adults not only before Purim, but throughout the year.

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I have just finished my first week of my 40 day morning to evening fast. It has not been as hard as I thought it would be. In fact my wife has commented at how much more energetic I’ve become. I believe it’s because it wasn’t something that I decided to do on my own, but it was what God called me to do.

The purpose of this fast is to call on God to bring true spiritual revival to the church.

“Behold the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear, but your sins have separated you from your God and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59: 1-2)

“…if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn away from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and forgive their sins and heal their land.”  (II Chron. 7:14)

It is the responsibility of us who have been justified by the Messiah’s death and resurrection to seek God’s face, repent of our apathy and pray earnestly for revival. Revival in our own heart first as well as for those in our homes, our community, and our nation.

The church today is sick, near to death and is in need of intensive spiritual attention that will only come by returning to God, our Creator. We need a spiritual awakening!  A true spiritual revival! I believe that the time for revival is now! Not the revival that is planned with big tents and special ‘Revival Evangelists’ but a true Holy Spirit revival that changes the lives of believers.

Revivals begin with God’s own people; the Holy Spirit touches their heart anew, and gives them new compassion, zeal, and new life. And what a great responsibility this lays on the Church of God! Because if you hinder the work of God’s Spirit by your unrepentant hearts, then the people who are perishing in the world are the ones who really suffer! Revival is not excitement, or emotionalism. It is not even evangelism! Revival is the moving of God’s Spirit, through the power of His Word, to the hearts of His children, that resurrects new life in those areas that have been lying stagnant, dormant, or out of balance, and that results in a new love and obedience to Jesus Christ.

The captives in Babylon missed revival because they placed their idols above their one true God. And if revival is being withheld from us today it is because some idol remains still enthroned in our hearts. A wise man once said, “The sin that you tolerate is the sin that you love.”

Because we still insist on tolerating our own sin and place our reliance on human schemes we refuse to face the unchangeable truth that, “It is not by might, but by My Spirit says the Lord.” (Zechariah 4:6)

We have become very good at making excuses why we don’t see God moving in the church today. We blame others; we blame the government; we even blame the devil.  But just like the ancient people of God, we have not realized our sin, and we have failed to acknowledge the holy God that we were called to serve.

Why is it only when we feel threatened that we turn to God? When our money can’t help us, we may cry out to Him. When the doctors can’t save us, we may pray for a healing. When we feel we might not be quite as good as we should be, we might respond to an invitation and let the preacher massage our conscience by telling us that now that we have accepted Jesus we’re alright. We might come to God to be “blessed”, we might go to meetings to hear how God wants to “prosper” us and make us wealthy – but surrender to God? Devote our whole lives, hearts, minds, souls and strength, to His cause? Never!

We have become a nation of jail house converts! And all of the excuses and all of the reasons why the church today is not experiencing power and revival within and without can be combated by one word-REPENT!

We must come to God now and acknowledge our sin to him. Because we are in critical condition and are in need of reviving by the Spirit of God!

Call on the name of Jesus now! Surrender yourself to him and receive his forgiveness and mercy. If we, as the Body of Christ, repent of our sins and turn from our wickedness, then we will witness the healing of our land.

“Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters, they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward…..Come now, let us reason together saith the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land, but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword. For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”  Isaiah 1:4-20

A friend of mine shared a link that featured recording artist Bono of the band U-2 giving a speech at the 2006 National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 2, 2006. I found it very impressive and still relevant for today. Below is an excerpt from his keynote speech:

“But the one thing we can all agree — all faiths, all ideologies — is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.

If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and the speaking of wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire even in scorched places.

It’s not a coincidence that in the Scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It’s not an accident. That’s a lot of air time. You know, the only time Jesus Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor. “As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.” [I] believe that’s Matthew 25:40.”

Bono’s keynote address at the 2006 National Prayer Breakfast, Feb. 2, 2006