Pooh pooh Purim if you must. Dismiss the likelihood of Jews gaining an upper hand to such an extent that, in the city of Shushan, our people executed 300 of the enemy and then proceeded to annihilate 25,000 Persians throughout the rest of the country, if you are so inclined. Just don’t tell me that there is nothing to be learned from the Book of Esther.
Instead, I ask that the following three realities resonate over the raucousness of centuries of cacophonous graggers:
As Jews, we take great comfort in the fact that we have never handed the enemy complete and total victory. As a people, we have become intoxicated with soundbites such as: “They wanted to exterminate us. They couldn’t. They lost. We won. Let’s eat.” When it comes to the enemies of our people, the sobering reality is that just as they failed to obliterate us, so too did we fail to obliterate them. As a result, the descendants of Haman are still very much alive. One in particular is Haman’s 21st century grandson, Sayyid Al Hosseini Khamenei, the current Ayatollah. And yes, every time he speaks about launching nuclear missiles aimed at Israel, I cannot help but feel that Haman sheps nachas.
As Jews, we delude ourselves with an attitude of “it can’t happen here” or “it can’t possibly happen to me.” Knowing that his ward possessed such an attitude, Mordechai minced no words when he told Esther: “Do not think that you will be able to escape in the King’s palace any more than the rest of the Jews…you and your father’s house will perish.” Esther wasn’t the first to think that she was safe, even though her people were not. Rarely, if ever, does the enemy draw distinctions when it comes to Jews. Prudent Jews, in my opinion, will always have a valid passport (I have passports from two countries) with at least one thousand dollars cash at hand. If my Israeli cousins living in Dolev (known as occupied territory to the rest of the world as well as to some Jews) own an apartment in Petach Tikvah because they fear that the time may come when they are uprooted by the Israeli government, then what makes us so smug? There are those who believe that all Jews – regardless of where they reside – live in occupied territory. Governments change, times change, and moods of the people change.
As Jews, we make noise. Our parents and grandparents hesitated to speak up, fearing anti-Semitic backlash, but we – their children and grandchildren – make ourselves heard – often louder than any grogger. We champion causes. We sign petitions. We demonstrate. As praiseworthy as exercising the freedom that is ours as Americans is, it behooves us to prioritize our causes. Are the causes that we take up in any way harmful to us as Jews in the long run? Have we examined these causes to make sure that they are not in any way antithetical to Judaism? Do we realize that social justice should not always be viewed as an absolute, in that social justice is not in any way impervious to the zeitgeist? However noble it is to “hammer out danger,” it’s equally if not more noble to ascertain that danger truly exists, and to fully understand the ramifications of hammering out that danger. It’s quite possible that a more insidious danger lurks to replace the danger that is being hammered out.
The Purim costumes and masks have served their purpose. The graggers have been put away. The megillahs are once again stored for another year. But the realities remain:
Haman is alive and well in the body of Sayyid Al Hosseini Khameinei of Iran.
Governments are as fickle as their leaders. Ahashuerus is alive and well in the body of any number of rulers who stand for nothing but will listen to anyone.
As Jews, we have been silenced for so long that there are those of us who appear to be intoxicated with the need to speak up and be heard. As Jews, let us remind ourselves that the obligation of discernment must supersede demonstrations, petitions, and taking up causes. Let’s make sure Haman sheps no nachas. Let’s do everything in our power so that the naches is shepped by Mordechai.