Pastor Trey Graham, senior pastor at First Melissa in Melissa, Texas wrote an op-ed for the Jerusalem Post at this time last year, encouraging Christian Zionists to “joyfully celebrate the happiness of Purim” together with the Jews. He based his point of view on, among other things, this verse from the Book of Esther:
the Yehudim undertook and irrevocably obligated themselves and their descendants, and all who might join them, to observe these two days in the manner prescribed and at the proper time each year. Esther 9:27
Graham wrote, “Christian supporters of Israel, did you know you were mentioned in the Purim story in the Bible? There we are, called “those who allied themselves” with the people of Israel in the Book of Esther chapter 9. This means that Purim is a Jewish holiday that can be, and should be, celebrated by non-Jews.”
Breaking Israel News recently spoke to Graham, who added a contemporary spin to his perspective of the relevance of Purim for Christians.
“Christian lovers of Israel see the threat from Iran’s leaders (read ancient Persia) toward Israel today and realize that our generation’s problems of antisemitism are not new. God’s covenants toward His people are everlasting and so is the opposition. As He was with Esther and Mordechai, may HaShem be with the Jewish people today.”
Graham’s message, that Purim’s connection to anti-Semitism makes it relevant for Christian Zionists, was echoed by David Nekrutman, the executive director for the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC).
Nekrutman believes that the Purim story is extremely pertinent for Christian Zionists. He maintains that the presence of the Book of Esther in the Christian canon is divinely guided, intended to preserve the message that God wants non-Jews to stand with Jews against anti-Semitism.
“In my opinion, it was a move by God to ensure that the veracity of what this book meant remains clear to all,” Nekrutman said. “It is a book about anti-Semitism, plain and simple. It is a book that identifies the people of Israel as Jews. It is the first time that we are referred to as Jews and the only time we refer to ourselves in liturgy as Jews and not Yisrael.
“In the end of chapter eight, just before the battle, there are Persians that realize that God’s plan is unfolding in history, meaning the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” he argued. “These are total heathen, idolators, who have attached themselves to the nation of Israel and stood alongside the Jews. In this fight against anti-Semitism, the Jews were not alone.”
Other non-Jews are more motivated to embrace aspects of the Purim holiday because of its Biblical significance.
Michigan resident Suzette Robinson grew up Baptist and now identifies as messianic/Torah observant. She told Breaking Israel News, “I celebrate Purim because it’s in the TaNaK. It is near my birthday and I know I was born for just such a time as this,” referencing a verse from the Book of Esther.
On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Yehudim from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis.” Esther 4:14
“When I was coming into Torah early 2009, the Fast of Esther was the first fast I had ever done in my life, despite growing up Baptist. I still try to do the fast. We also fast for Yom Kippurim.
“We sometimes have a Purim party. We read the Book of Esther. We use groggers (noisemakers used to drown out the name of Haman during the reading of the Book of Esther). At one Purim party we had everyone make a crown and wear them.
“We make and eat traditional Purim foods like hamantaschen (fruit-filled Purim pastries) or foods from the Middle East. When we lived closer, my son and I would sometimes attend the local Conservative synagogue for their Purim celebrations.
“We often watch Purim teachings from sources like Aleph Beta.
“Our Torah study group celebrated Purim and my birthday (March 8th) this Shabbat with festive foods and an Esther study. I [brought] my Purim props – groggers and crowns and other holiday motifs.
“The world still needs to be fully redeemed, and especially Yisra’el. It is still relevant. And I am joining y’all, my Jewish brethren. There is power in unity,” Robinson asserted.
Lisa Gardner, also from Michigan, told Breaking Israel News about her journey integrating Purim into her life over the years. “I’m a non-Jew. Years ago, I got together with a couple friends to drink and talk about the story. Then for a few years I got together with a couple other friends to read the Megillah (Book of Esther) and do a craft.
“Last year, I learned about the custom to give gifts of food. I gave ‘soul food’ by buying Jeremy Gimpel’s album for a couple of my friends. I told them it was a Purim gift. This year I plan to attend a Megillah reading at a nearby Chabad House (Orthodox Jewish center). I was also invited to the party the following night, but I don’t feel comfortable to attend because I don’t really know people there yet, and it is always awkward for me because I’m a non-Jew.”
Sara Weaver is from Texas and identifies with Lapid Judaism, which she described as “a new sect of Judaism based on the old sect of Judaism as practiced by Yeshua the Nazarene” who they believe is Messiah son of Joseph. “Almost all of our members are former Christians,” Weaver reported.
Her community does an English reading of the Book of Esther, which is traditionally read in Hebrew. “We try to all dress to a theme (for example, Purim in the jungle, medieval Purim, Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean, etc.) and the men reading the Megillah use different accents…for hilarity’s sake.
“We make gift baskets of kosher snacks for some nursing home contacts and places like the fire dept and police station. The recipients of our Purim boxes know we are doing it for one of our holidays. The boxes have Purim decor and some Hebrew but they might not really understand what Purim is or anything about us at all. We just say that it is a special gift in memory of the miracle that God did for the Jews as recorded in the Book of Esther. We also have a couple parties to invite friends to and celebrate with a meal that is not centered around the reading of the Megillah.
Regarding the Fast of Esther, Weaver said, “Some in our congregation do the fast.” She said that more people in her community fast on the 9th of Av and Yom Kippur because they are taught about the significance of those fast days in advance. “The minor fast days I have not yet seen publicized so much,” she noted.
In 2018, at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Tennessee, Israel365, the NRB and Tennessee’s Congregation Sherith Israel organized a reading of the Book of Esther on the holiday of Purim for approximately 100 Jews and Christians together.
“This is a first at the Convention and truly a blessed occasion when Jews and Christians can celebrate God’s miracles together,” wrote NRB in its official announcement about the reading.