Purim is coming! As the sages say, when Adar enters, joy increases.
Forgive me for saying so, but it doesn’t feel like it.
While I accept that this is a spiritual failing on my part, I say this because all I read are timely analogies of current events to the ancient story.
In one case, Bibi is like Mordechai, controversially willing to speak out as Mordechai did when he urged the Jews not to attend Ahasverus’s great gala feast, which started the story off.
In another, Bibi is analogized to Queen Esther, speaking truth to the highest power, with all the trepidation and risk that attends such a decision.
Whether these analogies resonate, or even hold water, there is one inescapable connection between then and now: a climate of fear and foreboding.
As the holiday nears, the air is getting thicker with parallels that all bespeak the tremendous anxiety of Israelis as we contemplate the possibilities of a nuclear-enabled Iran. We are scratching our heads wondering why anyone, let alone the putative leader of the Free World, would unleash the most brazenly aggressive, imperialistic and even avowedly genocidal regime in the world?
Just as our ancestors must have wondered (“Wondered” doesn’t actually quite capture the right feeling when the wonderer is wearing sackcloth and ashes.) what the King was thinking/drinking when he authorized Haman to kill them – loyal citizens that they were, contemporary Israeli Jews look at the White House and wonder what the motive could be for the American “king” to empower those who, unimpeded, would love to replicate Haman’s plan.
The feelings of fear are compounded by the realization that the “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” mindset of the American “king” is to normalize a climate in which Jews should appropriately feel fearful. So, despite the rising tide of global anti-Semitism, there have been little or no efforts to create a firewall from it in the US.
Far from it. The inability to call a Jihadi spade a spade has promoted an unnerving of Jews in the US, and has made Israelis feel all the more isolated. Politics aside, few Israelis believe that their Prime Minister, whether he is Mordechai, Esther or Vashti’s accountant, is the reason for this.
What is happening is too tectonic, too transformative to be the product of a protocol dispute. That dispute might be the red herring, the smoke screen, but it is certainly not the heart of the matter.
As in Purim, the heart of the matter is a profound shift in the thinking of the “king” and his advisers. Like many profound shifts, it is impossible to know at this point what the parameters of change will ultimately be.
In other words, how far, how deep does this go?
When Ahasverus signed Haman’s directive, there was no shortage of those who were eager to answer the call for a genocidal field day. Today, there is the copycat, imitative attitude in which one anti-Semitic act breeds or inspires another; where the barely concealed disdain for the Israeli PM helps foster an attitude of sanctioned contempt.
The American “king” did not create anti-Semitism on America’s campuses. But in his craven desire to cut a deal with the neo-Hamans, he is not only doing nothing to staunch it, but also he is arguably, though perhaps inadvertently, fanningita flames.
* * *
While the Megillah takes about a half hour to read, the story plays out over a year period. The anxiety of the people, as personified by Mordechai and Esther, was enormous. We feel a similar anxiety now, and know that it will likely increase before it hopefully abates.
One of the great messages of Purim is the hidden role that God plays. His name is never mentioned in the Megillah and the sense is of the, dare I say it, randomness of it all. But of course, we believe that He was very much with us during the ordeal and strengthened our leaders to provide what was needed to save the Jewish People.
As Mordechai tells Esther, one way or the other, salvation will come for the Jews. We need to keep that firmly in mind, even though, we cannot now see from where it might come.
But one thing that happily serves as a differentiation from the days of Shushan to today: we are sovereign in our own Land, with our own great resources to protect us. At the end of the day though, our greatest resource remains He who saved us way back when.
So yes, it feels like Purim, the nail-biting part of the story that led up to our great salvation and victory. Just as we draw the analogies to the difficult parts, so let us remember to pray, plan and work for the redemptive aspect of Purim as well.