Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines humiliation as the act of destroying the self-respect of another person. Given the sensitivities of contemporary western society, there are few sins more egregious than humiliation. As such, the Palestinians “hit it out of the ball park” when they latched on to their mantra: “living under Israeli occupation is utter humiliation.” “Humiliation” has become the Palestinian’s “Toll Tag” for any and all terrorist crimes. “After all, you have to understand that such unspeakable acts of terror against the innocent, are the result of so many years of humiliation on the part of Israel”, bleats the sympathetic, yet utterly moronic West.
What happens however, when humiliation is totally and completely inadvertent? What happens when the ones who ought to be humiliated never give it a second thought, or are so very proud of what they saw taking place, that feeling humiliated never even occurred to them?
Such was the case this past Tuesday morning, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress. Listening to the eloquent manner of his speaking, observing standing ovation after standing ovation, I couldn’t help but think of how humiliating it must be for any or all of the following:
With any number of presidential hopefuls of either party looking to 2016, Mr. Netanyahu’s addressing congress must have been humiliating. Subject matter aside, Mr. Netanyahu’s clarity of remarks, his ability to articulate and most of all, his remarkable style of speaking could not help but create feelings of inadequacy as well as despondency on the part of any aspiring president. To the best of my knowledge, not one of the current crop of presidential hopefuls, as well as those waiting in the wings, can come anywhere near the Israeli Prime Minister as far as speaking skills. Add to that the fact that English is not the Prime Minister’s native language!
The Prime Minister made reference to Purim in his remarks. As much as Purim depicts Haman in a negative light, the festival depicts Mordechai in a positive light. Recall, if you will Mordechai’s words to the reluctant Esther: “For if you persist in remaining silent at a time like this, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from elsewhere”. As meaningful and memorable Mordechai’s words were, they don’t even come close to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s: “Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand… But I know that Israel does not stand alone. I know that America stands with Israel.” There is not the slightest bit of doubt, that upstaging Mordechai was the farthest thing from the Israeli Prime Minister’s mind. Yet, given the powerful poignancy of Mr. Netanyahu’s remarks to Congress, Mordechai would have had every right to feel humiliated, had Mordechai not been such a righteous and noble Jew.
It wasn’t only Mordechai who was inadvertently upstaged by the Israeli Prime Minister. Moses was inadvertently upstaged by the Israeli Prime Minister as well. While I can’t speak for other rabbis, I confess that I was choking back the tears, as I listened to the Prime Minister’s closing remarks. Speaking in Hebrew no less, (I never thought I’d live to see the day that an Israeli Prime Minister would think nothing of interjecting his remarks with Hebrew phrases!) the Prime Minister quoted Moshe Rabbeinu: “Chizku V’Imtzu! Be strong and resolute! Do not fear them nor dread them!” Had Moses not been the paragon of humility, he too, no different than Mordechai of the Purim saga, would have had every right to feel humiliated.
Chances are that any and all presidential hopefuls for 2016 will have long forgotten Mr. Netanyahu’s remarks as they set their sights on the nomination. On the other hand, Moses and Mordechai should feel nothing but pride. Not only does the Prime Minister of Israel address Congress, but receives a welcome fit for a most beloved and respected leader. Both Moses and Mordechai would be the first to proclaim: Not even our fathers would dream that such a thing could be possible.