Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Hidden Story of Purim

Did you know that the story of Purim took place in Iran? Yes it did and it was named Persia not Iran. But there is more interesting details that we have overlooked and that is where are the tombs of Mordechai and Esther?

According to Esther 2:7, Esther was originally named Hadassah. Hadassah means "myrtle" in Hebrew. It has been conjectured that the name Esther is derived from a reconstructed Median word astra meaning myrtle or hidden. Given the great historical link between Persian and Jewish history, modern day Persian Jews are called "Esther's Children". A building known as the Tomb of Esther and Mordechai is located in Hamadan, Iran, although the village of Kfar Bar'am in northern Israel also claims to be the burial place of Queen Esther. A few years ago, the normally hostile Iranian regime took the rather unusual step of adding a Jewish holy site to its National Heritage List.  Reguardless both sites are perserved and protected.

It is said that Morechai is in Iran and Queen Esther is in Israel. I'm not certain which place is correct or who is where. It is a fact that the high mountains of Iran that there is a city called Hamadan. BUT, notice that if you remove a “da” from Hamadan, you get “Haman.”  Haman, by the way was the one who tried to get Mordecai hung, but instead was hanged on the gallows that he had built for Mordecai (Esther 7:9-10). I don’t know when Hamadan was renamed, but at one time it was called “Shushan,” and that is where the Queen Esther and Mordechai story takes place.
There is a tomb for Queen Esther and Mordechai, and that tomb was built right in the middle of what is now known as Hamadan, but was indeed recorded as being Shulshan Persia.
Iran has the largest Jewish community in the Middle East -20,000 to 25,000 by different estimates after Israel, and the shrine is visited by many pilgrims every year.

Iranian Jews revered the shrine, and many would travel to Hamadan to observe Purim there by reading the Megillah alongside the tomb. Others held family celebrations, such as bar-mitzvahs or circumcisions, at the site.

The entrance to the building is said to have been built intentionally low, in order to compel visitors to bow their heads upon entering, thereby engendering a requisite attitude of respect. Inside the main hall, which is adorned with Hebrew inscriptions, lie two large, decorated wooden boxes, or trunks, below which are said to be the final resting places of Mordechai and Esther.

A small synagogue adjoins the tomb, and the site is also considered holy by Muslims and Christians, who come to pray there as well.

Next to the mausoleum lies a large hollow in the ground, which Iranian Jews believe to be an entrance to a tunnel that stretches all the way to Jerusalem.

See picture here inside:

The article entitled, "Who is Buried in Queen Esther's Tomb?" states:

"While various monuments in Persia have been cited as their burial place, a strong alternate tradition indicates that even though both Esther and Mordechai died in the Persian capital city of Shushan, they were brought to Eretz Israel for burial. Written tradition from the Middle Ages locates the burial place in the Galilean village of Bar'am, along Israel's northern border with Lebanon."

Apparently, this written tradition began with the account of HaRav Shmuel ben Shimshon who visited the site Bar'am in 1211. In 1537, the sefer Yichus Ho'ovos Vehanivi'im recorded, that "every Shushan Purim a minyan goes to her grave [in Bar'am] from Tsefas and reads the Megillah there."

The article later notes that knowledge of the exact location of the kevarim was lost over the centuries. The site identified today as the kevarim of Mordechai and Esther is located "more than a kilometer southwest of the ruins of ancient Bar'am".

As early as 1215, Rabbi Menachem Ha-Hevroni wrote that while visiting the Galilee, he came across the tomb of Queen Esther, "who, during her lifetime, had instructed her son Cyrus to bring her there [for burial]". Later pilgrims mentioned the site, and noted that special celebrations were held there on Shushan Purim. Currently, the tomb is believed to be located in the ruins of a building found in the Baram National Park.

Why is this hidden?  Maybe it does not matter where they are buried? Or perhaps Queen Esther wanted it this way to teach us a new lesson or continue to teach us new and hidden messages? Even while I can not say with any certainty which of the two locations is more authentic or correct, of one thing we can all be sure: the deeds of these two great Jewish people will never fade from our collective memory. As the Megillah (9:28) itself tells us: "and these days of Purim shall not pass from among the Jews, and their memory shall not elapse from among their descendants".