"Speak and It Shall Be Done" ~
an intergenerational Purim service
created by Erika Hewitt, Consulting Minister
UU Fellowship of Los Gatos •16 March, 2003
Hineh mah tov umah nayim. Shevet aheem gam yahad.
How good it is and how pleasant for people to dwell together. ~ Psalm 133
Congregation rehearses Hineh Ma Tov (# 392)
Good morning! Welcome to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Los Gatos. My name is Erika Hewitt, and I serve as the minister of this congregation. With me is our Director of Religious Eductation and Storyteller, Diana Humphrey. We’re also happy to have several storyplayers who are going to tell us the Purim story this morning. We’re going to back in time – far back in time many years! – we’re traveling across many lands and seas to an ancient city in Persia called Shushan.
I’m here to help begin things, to help you know when it’s time for you to do your part by singing a song or saying something. After our story, I hope you’ll join me for something special to eat and drink on our deck. But now, before we get to the story part, let’s meet our visitors....
(visitors are introduced & welcomed)
It’s time to travel in time, and around the world.
Over 2,000 years ago, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. The Jewish people were sent away from the Land of Israel and were forced to live in Babylonia. Fifty years later, Babylonia was defeated by Persia. Achashverosh (pronounced Ah-chash-vey-rosh) was the second Persian king. He ruled 127 provinces from Hodu (India) to Kush (Africa) the largest, strongest kingdom in the world.
A new king needs a new capital, so Achashverosh chose this city of Shushan. There are many different people living here in Shushan, including Jews. The Jews don’t feel safe anywhere in Persia because some people don’t like them, but they try to find ways to find joy and safety together, and to worship together.
The Jewish people were threatened while living in Shusan, and almost had a very unhappy ending. But a brave queen named Esther saved the Jewish people from destruction. Because of her courage, Jewish people around the world still celebrate her story, as it was written down many years ago in the Book of Esther. That celebration is called Purim.
We’re celebrating Purim here today not because we’re Jewish, or pretending to be Jewish, but because it’s a special story – a story that has been told for thousands of years – with a valuable lesson. It’s important for us to learn the story of Esther because it gives us a chance to learn about another faith tradition, and it reminds us to be brave in using our voices to speak our truth, and to protect others. And it lets us have fun being silly together!
To begin Esther’s story today, let me introduce the four main characters in our story – two of them need your help.
(As characters are introduced, they step forward.)
• You have already heard that King Achashverosh has a large, powerful kingdom. You will see that this King doesn’t always think things through. Sometimes he’s too busy having fun to think about how to run his kingdom well.
• Then there’s Haman, the villain in our story, a rich man with no principles. We need your help here, because tradition says that every time you hear the name of Haman, you boo or use your noisemakers to cover up his ugly name! Let’s try that now.
• Mordecai is the wise and kind Uncle in our story, who gives help to his niece:
• Esther, our heroine. This is also a place where you can help, because tradition says that every time you hear Esther’s name, you cheer! Let’s try that now.
Before our story unfolds, please join in singing a Hebrew song, taken from Psalm 133. The words mean "How good it is and how pleasant for people to dwell together."
Opening Song Hineh Ma Tov (#392)
Service Leader: Chalice Lighting
How good it is, and how pleasant to worship together. As we light this chalice, may we remember the joy we take from this community, and our common strength to do good in the world.
We give thanks for being together this morning.
Let the story begin!
In his capital of Shusan, King Achashverosh held a great feast to celebrate his powerful kingdom. He had invited all the people of the city, but Mordecai, the leader of the Jews, warned his people not to go to the feast. He did not trust the King, because Mordecai suspected that he did not like the Jewish people. At the end of the feast, King Achashverosh announced that he would be looking for a wife to be the new Queen.
That night, Mordecai went home to his niece, a young woman and orphan named Hadassah. That was her Hebrew name, but in Persian her name was Esther. (cheers) He told her that the King was looking for a new Queen, and that she was so beautiful that surely the King would choose her.
Sure enough, because Esther (cheers) was kind and gentle and very beautiful, the king chose her as his new queen as soon as he saw her. Before she left her uncle’s home, Mordecai told her:
Don't be afraid. Go to the King’s palace. But do not tell anyone that you are Jewish! Surely that will displease the King.
Every day, Mordecai sat outside the palace gate to wait for news from Esther. One day as he was sitting by the palace, Mordecai happened to hear two men plotting to kill the king. He warned Esther (cheers), who notified the King, saving his life. The two men were caught and taken away.
Although it was recorded in the Royal Book that Mordecai the Jew had saved the king, the matter was soon forgotten.
As we pause in our story, please join me in singing verse 1 of hymn #112, Do You Hear? (remain seated)
Soon after Mordecai saved the King’s life and was forgotten, King Achashverosh appointed the richest man in the kingdom as his new prime minister: Haman (boos). All the king's subjects were ordered to honor Haman (boos) and bow down to him. Everyone did, except Mordecai. It was permissible to honor Haman and bow to him as the prime minister, but Haman wore a large medallion, engraved with the picture of an idol, on his chest. Mordecai didn’t want people to think he was bowing to the idol too, and a Jew is forbidden to worship or honor idols.
Choir sings "Wicked, Wicked Man":
Haman was furious that Mordecai would not bow to him. He went straight to the king to complain.
There is one nation scattered throughout your kingdom, which is different from all other nations. They don't eat our food, drink our wine, or marry our daughters! They don't keep the king's laws and they don't work! Every seventh day they rest and they are always celebrating holidays. If you give me permission, I will destroy them for you.
Achashverosh gave Haman (boo) his royal ring, to seal the orders and decrees. Anxious to do a perfect job, Haman (boo) wanted to execute his plan on the right day, a lucky day blessed by his gods and the stars. He cast lots -- purim in Hebrew -- to choose the day. Then he sent out letters, sealed with the king's royal ring, to each of the provinces in the kingdom.
On the 13th day of the month of Adar you are to destroy, kill and slaughter all of the Jewish people, young and old, women and children, all in one day. Their money and property will then belong to you.
Mordecai (to Esther):
This decree is terrible news! I fear for our people. You must go to the king to try and save the Jews!
Poor Esther (cheers)! She was afraid, for it was forbidden to counsel the king. But Mordecai encouraged her to speak.
It could be that you were made Queen for this purpose! If you are silent now, help will come to the Jews from some other place -- and you will perish!
Let us pause again in our story to sing verse 2 of #112, Do You Hear? (seated)
Service Leader: Joys and Concerns
In Jewish tradition, there are four mitzvot, or acts of blessing, which are obligatory on Purim: the reading of the book, or Megillat, Esther; festivity and rejoicing; Shalach Manot, or sending gifts; and Matanot L'Evyonim, or giving gifts to the poor. We are telling Esther’s story with rejoicing, we have brought canned goods to share with the poor and hungry of Los Gatos, and we will enjoy a gift from the children at the end of the service. But for us Unitarian Universalists, I would call the sharing of Joys & Concerns obligatory for our services, because it is there that we see each other beyond the masks and share our hearts.
Like Esther, there are times in our lives that we feel silenced, either because we’re afraid, or because we think that we don’t have anything important to say, or because others have silenced us. We can feel as though we can’t speak up for ourselves, or protect others. Sometimes people tell us that our thoughts and feelings and needs are unimportant.
In this religious community, we value people for who they are – their ideas, their feelings, what makes them joyful and what brings them sorrow. In this loving Fellowship, we invite people to speak from their hearts, and share themselves freely. During this time of Joys & Concerns, I invite you to come forward and briefly share a personal celebration or sorrow, using your voice to weave us into community.
Meditation in Words and Silence
Let us continue our meditation in song by singing together verse 3 of #112, Do You Hear?
Esther (cheers) was afraid. She and Mordecai were the only people who knew that the wicked Haman (boo) was going to try to kill her people, and realized that the King was unaware of exactly what Haman (boo) wanted to do.
Royal law said that not even the Queen was allowed to counsel the king. Esther (cheers) knew that she had to be very careful in telling King Achashverosh about the evil plan of Haman (boo). The King knew that something was troubling Esther (cheers).
What is your request, my queen? Half of my kingdom is yours for the asking!
I fear to tell you, my King.
What is your wish? Whatever you want is yours!
But still Esther (cheers) could not speak, silenced by her fear. "How strange," thought the king.
That night, Haman (boo) saw Mordecai at the palace gates. He was filled with hate.
I am important enough to be the prime minister, and that Jew refuses to bow down to me?!
Haman (boo) wanted to kill Mordecai then and there, without waiting for the 13th of Adar!
That night, the king could not fall asleep. He tossed and turned and finally called for his servant to bring out the Royal Book and read him to sleep.
The heavy book fell open to the story of how Mordecai the Jew had warned of the plot against the king and saved the king's life.
What reward did Mordecai receive?
He saved my life and received no reward?!
Just then, someone burst in. It was Haman, (booBOO) coming for permission to hang Mordecai the Jew. He was in such a hurry he couldn't even wait for the morning!
Haman! Tell me, what shall be done for a man the king wishes to honor?
Storyteller: Haman was gleeful to hear the question, because he thought the King was talking about him!
I know just the thing. Let him wear the king's royal robes. Place the king's royal crown upon his head. Let him ride the king's royal horse. And let a servant walk before the horse and cry out: Thus shall be done to the man whom the king wishes to honor!
Wonderful idea! I shall leave it all to you. Find Mordecai the Jew and do exactly as you described, down to the last detail!
Haman did as he was commanded, and Mordecai was led with royal honor through the streets of Shushan.
This man has been honored by the King! This man has been honored by the King!
Service Leader: Offertory
The King bestowed riches and gifts onto Mordecai for all that he had done. In this community, we too have reason to be grateful for the blessings that we have received from each other, and from our being together. We help one another by giving of our time, our experience, our talents and our money. We will now receive this morning’s offertory for the work of this church within and beyond our walls.
(Service Leader: after offertory) For the work of the church which is weaving a tapestry of love with our lives, we give thanks for this offering and the people who make it possible.
Haman (boo) returned to the palace a bitter, broken man. But he had no time to brood. He heard the king ask his queen, again:
What is it you desire, Esther? Speak and it shall be done!
Spare my life, and the lives of my people. We have been sentenced to death!
Death? Your people? By whom?
By an evil and wicked man -- by your prime minister, Haman!
What plan have you tried to sneak under my nose? This shall not be! Take him away!
In the end, Mordecai became the king's new prime minister in place of Haman!
There are many lessons in this Purim story – as many lessons as there are ears to hear it. One of the lessons that Esther had to learn in order to discover her courage was in the words of her wise uncle, Mordecai: "Speak, and it shall be done."
There are many things that we can’t do just by speaking them out loud. But when we feel to scared to speak up, or feel scared that people will laugh at our ideas, we can remember Esther’s courage to use her voice to protect other people. But first we have to believe in ourselves.
A Unitarian Universalist minister named Rev. Mary Gregolia wrote a song about one way that we can remind ourselves to be strong and keep growing when we get in a tight situation. This song reminds us of all of the strength inside of us, waiting to come out. It’s called "I’m Gonna Learn."
Congregation sings together:
I’m gonna learn, I’m gonna love, I’m gonna live through this hard time (2x)
I’m going to grow in wisdom, in humor, beauty, and strength (2x)
There are a few more pieces to the Purim story. Listen again to this song:
choir reprises "Wicked, Wicked Man":
(Cookies are passed out to all)
Service Leader: Benediction
As you move through your days
may you have the wisdom to recognize injustice,
the courage of a queen who protected her people,
and the strength to live from your convictions in such a way that the circle is ever open.