Queens! Murder! Treason! Court intrigue! Secret identities! Epic violence! OMG, is it “Game of Thrones”?! No, sadly, but we’ve got the next best thing: PURIM! Another great holiday where Jews celebrate having flipped the script on those who wanted to destroy us.
Our megillah (story) begins in ancient Persia in the fifth century BCE. The first Jewish Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed, and the Jews were kicked out of the land of Israel and became subjects of the huge Persian empire.
King Ahasuerus ascended the Persian throne and threw an absolutely lit 180-day-long party for all his subjects that Tyrion Lannister would have totally enjoyed.
Ahasuerus had a bit of a gross Robert Baratheon vibe.
He commanded his wife, Queen Vashti, to appear nude before all the drunk dudes in the capital city Kings Landing—er, Shushan. Vashti, however, wasn’t feeling like being exploited that day.
Ahasuerus was not a woke bae and ordered Vashti’s execution. Sadly, she also did not have any undead Kingsguard sworn to her service or copious amounts of wildfire at her disposal, so goodbye Vashti.
Ahasuerus wanted a new wife, so he sent his bros around Persia, taking women to Shushan where they were kept so the king could misogynistically appraise them for possible queenship based entirely on their physical appearance.
Mordechai was the leader of the Jewish community in Persia, and he had a dope cousin named Hadassah.
Hadassah was forcibly taken to this “beauty contest.” Mordechai warned her not to tell them she was Jewish, and to use the cover name “Esther.”
When Esther appeared before the king, he was like, “Damn!” Esther was forced to become the new queen of Persia and Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea.
Shortly after, Mordechai overheard two members of the king’s small council discussing a plot to assassinate the king.
Mordechai reported the plot and the traitors were hanged. Although it was recorded in the royal book that Mordechai, the Jew, had saved the king, no one told Ahasuerus.
Haman, one of Ahasuerus’ ministers, was promoted to the position of prime minister. He was a Ramsay and a half.
The king issued a decree ordering everyone to bow down whenever Haman appeared—which was totes problematic since he walked around with a large idol hanging from a chain around his neck and Jews don’t like idols.
When Mordechai refused to bow down before Haman (and by extension Haman’s idolatrous bling), Haman was more pissed than when Ramsay found out he was going to have a brother.
Haman legit had no chill and asked Ahasuerus for permission to kill the Jews. Ahasuerus, who disliked Jews only slightly less than Robert Baratheon liked Targaryens, was fine with this plan.
Haman immediately sent a bunch of ravens to all parts of Persia.
These declarations ordered the Persian people to rise up against the Jews and kill them all—men, women and children—on the 13th of the month of Adar.
Mordechai knew he needed to move fast AF in order to avert this genocide. He sent a message to Esther, asking her to talk to the king and beg him to spare her people.
Esther, ever the savvy Margaery Tyrell of this situation, knew that bopping in to see the king without being summoned equaled a 99.99 percent chance of death unless he was in a super good mood. Mordechai Jew-shamed her and told her she had to risk it, because if she didn’t act she would probably end up dead anyway if they discovered she was Jewish. Esther, who frankly hadn’t signed up for any of this, asked Mordechai to gather all the Jews in Shushan to fast and pray for her success. She put on her finest Tyrell thinking wimple and plotted her next steps.
Esther went to Ahasuerus’ throne room. Luckily for her, the king was feeling benevolent and let her approach.
Esther took the opportunity to invite the king and Haman to a private dinner party.
During Esther’s party, the king asked Esther whether she had anything specific to request. “Yes,” Esther responded. “Tomorrow, you guys need to come back for round two! This was just the first night of a two-night party! And then I’ll give you my personal request.”
Haman left the first party feeling pretty great about himself. #Hubris
But standing at the king’s gate was Mordechai—who still refused to bow to Haman—and it just ruined Haman’s mood. He went home and preemptively built a DIY gallows on which to hang Mordechai.
King Ahasuerus had some insomnia and instead of asking for milk of the poppy, he asked his servants to read for him from the royal chronicles, which was apparently his ASMR trigger. They read how Mordechai had saved the king by foiling the plot of the two treasonous conspirators. Ahasuerus was flummoxed that he had never realized Mordechai had saved his life.
At that moment Haman rolled up to get the king’s permission to hang Mordechai. Before Haman could open his mouth, the king asked Haman what he thought should be done to someone the king wanted to honor. Haman was so vain he thought this song was about him, so he said, “Oh, give him royal garments and a royal horse and parade him around the city so everyone can see how great he looks!”
“Great idea,” Ahasuerus responded. “Now do just what you suggested for Mordechai the Jew!”
Haman was shooketh.
The next day, seething internally, Haman went and honored Mordechai as the king had ordered, before heading back to the palace for Esther’s feast part deux.
To add insult to injury for Haman, during the feast Esther dramatically revealed she was Jewish, and implored the king to spare her life and the lives of her people. She then turned to Haman, identified him as the would-be orchestrator of this massacre, and said, “Guess what, a$%hole? I’ve been Jewish this whole time!”
Haman realized he had vastly misunderstood the situation and threw himself at Esther’s feet, begging her for mercy.
LOL. Nice try. When the king was informed that Haman had built some gallows for Mordechai, the king ordered that Haman be hanged on them instead.
Mordechai got promoted to prime minister.
Haman was dead, but his evil decree was still in effect. But the king gave Mordechai and Esther permission to lead the Jews in defending themselves against their enemies, using any and all means at their disposal, including dragons, direwolves, Valyrian swords and conveniently placed moon doors.
On the 13th of Adar, the Jews throughout the Persian empire mobilized and killed the enemies who had wanted to kill them. In Shushan, the dead included Haman’s 10 sons. Whether they were baked into a pie or not was not recorded in the megillah.
Esther asked the king’s permission for the Jews in Shushan to have one more day to destroy any residual threat—and the king allowed it. On that day, the 14th of Adar, the Jews of Shushan killed more of their enemies.
Mordechai and Esther established the holiday of Purim to commemorate these legendary events! To celebrate Purim, Jews participate in several activities associated with the holiday.
We give gifts.
We give charity and volunteer.
We read the megillah of Esther out loud.
We say special prayers.
And, most important, we get drunk! (It’s a commandment. Don’t @ me.)
Happy Purim, everyone!