The Temple Institute: Purim Revisited

 

 


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Purim Revisited

February 21, 2002 2002 The Temple Institute, Rabbi Chaim Richman - All Rights Reserved

Our sages teach: "When the month of Adar arrives, our joy increases."

The holiday of Purim expresses a profound spiritual revelation. It is the day that most succinctly expresses the Holy One's unbounded love for His people Israel. Even Yom Kippur, the great day of atonement and reconciliation, reflects only a shadow of the spiritual radiance that shines forth on Purim, as reflected in the Hebrew name Yom HaKippurim, "a day like Purim."

Yet Purim can be seen as a day of enigma and paradox; the Scroll of Esther, which tells of the Jewish people's miraculous deliverance from the wicked Haman does not mention the name of G-d even once. But this anomaly offers us more than just an insight into the nature of the Purim miracle; it challenges us to comprehend a deeper understanding of our relationship with G-d.

Next week all of Israel will be celebrating Purim. Each year, as the holiday draws closer, our children grow restless in anticipation and excitement, preparing their costumes and making plans for holiday fun. These days, pre-Purim joy is not such an easy commodity to muster, and is muted for most Israelis - to say the least - while more than a few homes are lit erally draped in mourning. This year our children are more restless than ever. But now it with grief over their friends and relatives who have fallen in the current wave of terror, and with anxiety over whether or not to leave the house. Parents agonize over whether it is safe to let their children go shopping or meet a friend downtown.

Palestinian children are also restless, and have been strongly affected by the hatred they have learned from their European-funded school textbooks: The past several weeks have seen an alarming number of terror attacks against Israelis perpetrated by children, including the murder of a Jewish woman in Jerusalem by a gang of youths whose youngest member was fourteen. Yet every story about murdered Jews reported by the news agencies always contains a sentence that includes a current "body count;" how many "have been killed on both sides since the violence began," as if the two sides can be compared. As if Israelis go out hunting for Palestinian children, like Palestinians go hunting for our children.

Our children, and their children. On the day that Arafat's men murdered Mrs. Ahuva Amergi, mother of a two and four year old, he made an appearance before Palestinian schoolchildren in Ramallah and declared: "This people (the Palestinians) are mighty and steadfast and together we will reach Jerusalem." Purim is about putting masks on and taking them off, and Arafat has taken his off. Like the wicked Haman of Purim fame who sought to destroy each and every Jew, the Palestinians under the bloodthirsty Arafat have embarked upon a strategy of warfare against every Israeli man, woman and child. The goal is to make us bleed, and to keep it up, until as a people we collectively expire. All Jews are fair game, whether from the right or left; soldiers on duty or children eating Pizza on a Saturday night; whether young mothers, or octogenarians. The methods become more and more innovative and varied: suicide bombers with explosive belts, car bombs, indiscriminate machine gun fire, grenades. These past days, we have bedded down to the sound of ambulance sirens, and risen to hear the new day's funeral details, time and place, on the morning news.

The death toll for the small family of Israel - and we are all one family - staggers us. One day, two murdered; another day, six; another day, four. And while European or American voices may express concern lest Israel respond too harshly, thus far, in the true Don Quixote spirit of sparring with windmills, our government - elected on a platform of bringing security to every citizen - continues to bombard empty buildings. Indeed, many Israelis wonder: Do our leaders have a plan?

How did the Jews in ancient Persia feel? After all, the lots that determined they should all be killed in Adar, had been cast almost a year earlier, during the previous month of Nisan. (Esther 3:7) Thus the Jews had a full eleven months to mull their fate, and receive the taunts and goads of their neighbors, their partners in co-existence, who most certainly took every opportunity to remind them, in every chance curbside meeting: "Know that in another few months... in another few weeks... .we are going to slaughter you all."

A central factor in Haman's plot was to foment incitement against the Jewish people. He reasoned that once he won over the local populace, he would have no trouble enlisting their help in annihilating them. One element his diatribe focused on was the Jews' practices in the Holy Temple. (Esther Rabba 7:13) Haman declared:

"...And after King David, his son Solomon rose up and built the Holy Temple for them, and I have no idea what was going on inside. When the Jews prepare to go out and do battle, first they go in there and do their witchcraft. Then they go forth from the Temple, murdering people and destroying the world."

Indeed, the struggle to rebuild the Ho ly Temple lies at the center of the Purim story. Today as well, as the holy Temple Mount has been closed to Jews for the past year and a half, we must admit that the Palestinians are very straightforward in calling their war the "El Aksa Uprising." Those who proclaim that this is not a religious war, who are quick to apologize on our enemies' behalf, and explain that when Arafat calls for 'jihad' against the Jews in Arabic speeches to his people, he doesn't really mean 'jihad,' are perhaps deceiving themselves, but they are not deceiving us.

So, Haman suggested, it is worthwhile to kill them now, in advance, before they succeed in rebuilding their Temple. The Jews, for the sake of peace and like good "partners for peace," tried to cooperate. So they attended the lavish banquet hosted by King Acheshverosh. But at the banquet, Acheshverosh made a mockery of everything holy to the Jews, by brazenly donning the priestly garments and eating from the sacred Temple vessels. The Jews were honored to have been invited to the party; thus they sat by and did not protest this desecration of G-d's honor. In truth, it was only on account of their participation in this meal that the decree was made against them.

Today the theme of that banquet replays itself. Our own people have a direct role in bringing about their own downfall. The Israeli left's movement calling for soldiers to refuse to serve in Judea, Samaria and Gaza plays right into Arafat's hand. He is counting on this to cause a rift in the fabric of the nation until finally popular opinion will force Israel to withdraw from these areas. As Hizballah's Sheik Nasrallah said, "the Israeli left are our partners, and they will do the work for us... they will force the IDF to withdraw, just as they withdrew from Lebanon."

But withdraw to where? To the insecure borders of June 4th, 1967? The PLO, with its goal of destroying Israel, was founded in 1964, long before there was any such thing as settlements. This war is not about territories or settlements. It's about the fact that for some inexplicable reason, those irksome Jews are still here. Like a French diplomat recently said at a London dinner party, "that s----- little country that causes all the problems in the world." Sounds familiar, especially around the time of Purim? It's the Big Lie again; Haman with his, and Hitler with his, and everyone else throughout history who finds it expedient to blame the Jews for everything: "... they go forth from the Temple, murdering people and destroying the world." That's how it is. Arafat, undaunted by the apprehension of his weapons boat and master at keeping a straight face, continues to rule over a fiefdom of murder, and we sit here and destroy the world.

The issue all along was Israel's very right to exist, and it still is. Our enemies are patient to wait until we are wearied enough to continue withdrawing, one step at a time, into the sea.

The pathetic and tired among us would be better off listening to the Biblical command that begins, "And it shall be, when you come to do battle, that the priest shall approach and speak to the people, saying: Hear O Israel, you draw near today to do battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, nor be terrified because of them, for the L-rd your G-d is He that goes with you, to fight for your against your enemies, to save you." (Deut. 20) The verses continue: " ... And the officers shall say: Who is the man that is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, lest his brethren's heart melt like his heart." We would then all be better off, for these among us have a hand in the continuing attacks against their own people. Arafat sees that the violence works; Israel tires, her society becomes divided... and so he orders more violence. Their protests and public debate, in which they question the legitimacy of the purest and most moral army in th e world, the IDF, to defend the lives of Jews who are being murdered every day, is an abomination. This is the grave sin of moral equivalency; comparing the barbaric murder of innocent Jews, with Israel's controlled and tempered response, taken out of a need to protect her own citizens. These misguided people are still feasting at Acheshverosh's politically-correct banquet, and lending their support to the continued destruction of the Holy Temple... in today's terms, our very existence.

When Haman's decree was announced, the Jewish people were profoundly affected. A change took place; they fully realized their error and cried out to G-d with sincere repentance. And if until now they had forgotten the Holy Temple, its desire was reawakened within them.

Our sages teach that G-d only allowed Haman to ascend to greatness, in order to better publicize his downfall... to make an example for all to see of the end that awaits Israel's enemies. The righteous Mordechai and Esther did not consider the possibility that Haman might be a partner in "the peace of the brave." They refused to be photographed with him on the White House lawn. They knew that with those who plot to destroy the Jewish people, there could be no possibility of going back to the negotiating table. Instead, our people became focused and united, and repented, committing themselves totally to "accept that which they had previously started." (Esther 9:23) G-d then intervened in the twinkling of an eye, and "the evil which Haman planned against the Jews was returned upon his own head." (ibid. v. 25)

Our ancestors who experienced that first Purim were surely perplexed. Where was G-d to be found? Were they then to fall victims to Haman's evil? Had they been abandoned? Never. Just as His name is not to be found in the Scroll of Esther, so too, they did not at first perceive His presence in their predicament. Like our children who celebrate the miracle of G-d's hidden deliverance by wearing masks, He purposely concealed Himself behind the veils of their convoluted experiences, forcing them to search Him out... and to search themselves. As our sages teach, (Hulin 139:B) "Where is Esther alluded to in the Torah? In the verse, 'I will surely hide My face from them on that day' (Deut. 31:18); (in Hebrew, the expression 'I will surely hide' is 'haster asteer' - a play on words related to the word Esther).

Purim is about putting masks on, and taking them off; concealment, and sudden illumination. The Holy One, blessed be He, conceals His presence within the fabric of our lives and gives us ample hints as to how we may find Him, if we would but look. On Purim G-d's hidden plan was revealed. True Purim joy - he manifestation of the highest level of G-d's love for His people, Israel - comes about when we can begin to detect this plan. However hidden it may seem, it is the only true reality. It is the constant and unshakable process through which He beckons to us to return and take responsibility for our own destiny. And it continues to unfold, day by day, leading to the rebuilding of the Holy Temple and the ultimate Redemption.

Happy Purim!

With blessings of consolation and rebuilding,
Rabbi Chaim Richman
THE TEMPLE INSTITUTE
www.templeinstitute.org

PO Box 31876 Jerusalem, Israel 97500

 

 

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