The Feast of Purim – Sorrow being turned into Joy

Week Thirty One: Esther

After Esther saved her people, the Israelites were told to commemorate the time “when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into…celebration.”[i]

Modern day Israel and Jews around the world still celebrate the feast of Purim. It is a time of festival or sometimes called a Jewish Carnival because of costumes and drama performances, retelling the story of Esther.

The word Purim is Hebrew for the word “Lots” or the Feast of Lots. Haman cast lots to find out which day would be the most auspicious for his evil plan and the lots told him that things would go well for him on the 14th day of Adar, a month in the Jewish calendar.[ii] The ritual observance of Purim begins with a day of fasting, Ta- anit Esther (Fast of Esther) on the 13th day of Adar, the day preceding the holiday.

The synagogue service on the feast of Purim is a reading of the Book of Esther. The Megillah is the scroll containing the Book of Esther which is symbolic of the rolled letters sent throughout the Persian Empire telling the people that the Jews had been saved. The Book of Esther is the only Jewish book of scripture that can contain illustrations. In the synagogue, during the reading of the Book of Esther, whenever Haman’s name is mentioned, people boo and stamp their feet.

There are also non-religious, fun customs such as baking the three-cornered pastries called hamantaschen meaning “Haman’s pocket” or oznei Haman meaning “Haman’s ears.” Children dress up in costumes and plays are performed with Haman being characterized like the boogey man and Esther as the beautiful queen who saves all of Israel. The modern-day celebration of Purim is similar to our Halloween, with children going from house to house in costumes of princesses, kings, heroes, and demons to receive treats.[iii] Some Jewish communities put on Purim plays and an election of a Queen Esther can also be a part of the celebration.[iv]

On July 24th, many of us celebrate a day in our religious history when sorrow was turned into joy as the pioneers entered the Great Salt Lake Valley. We remember our heroes, our ancestors who gave so much for their faith, similar to Esther’s faithful sacrifice. What does your family do to celebrate Pioneer Day? You may have fun traditions of a family barbecue, watching a parade, or dressing up like pioneers. Many young people have enjoyed going on trek where they have simulated the pioneering experience. Pioneer celebrations do not only happen in Utah. I can remember as a young girl in New York, my family would dress up in pioneer clothes and pull a wagon around the yard while we sang, “Some must push and some must pull as we go marching up the hill.”

This act of remembering, especially when the Lord has made our sorrows turn into joy is a holy tradition which we should establish in our families. We can also have our remembering be very personal as we celebrate precious times when the Lord has blessed us individually. These remembrances strengthen our testimony and help us always remember Him.

If we are in the midst of sorrow, we can also have hope that the Lord will turn our sorrow into joy. The Lord gave His apostles this hope, knowing their future trials: “I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”[v]

When Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail, he cried to the Lord for comfort, and the Lord gave it to him. He said that “if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”[vi] Elder Robert D. Hales said: “Suffering is universal; how we react to suffering is individual. Suffering can take us one of two ways. It can be a strengthening and purifying experience combined with faith, or it can be a destructive force in our lives if we do not have the faith in the Lord’s atoning sacrifice. The purpose of suffering, however, is to build and strengthen us.”[vii]

The feast of Purim is still a time when the people of the Jewish faith remember when their destruction was turned to deliverance by the faith of a lovely Jewish woman. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we too can celebrate the early pioneers of our faith. Personally, we can remember the times when the Lord has turned our sorrows into joy.

May we find joy in the Lord this week as we remember Him and the Lord’s power of turning our mourning into celebration.

[i] Esther 9:22

[ii] The Free Dictionary, Purim, Lots,

[iii] Purim – Definition, story, history, traditions, and facts, Encyclopedia Britannica

[iv]The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press.

[v] John 16:16, 20

[vi] D&C 122:7

[vii] Robert D. Hales, “Your Sorrow shall be turned to joy,” GC October 1983

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