As we know, Achashveirosh sanctioned Haman to write an official letter to everyone in the empire explaining the edict that Haman so deeply desired – that the 13th of Adar will be open season on killing Jews. All Jews – men, women and children – and the murderous gangs were encouraged to plunder the Jews’ possessions. The letter was written בְּשֵׁ֨ם הַמֶּ֤לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרֹשׁ֙ נִכְתָּ֔ב וְנֶחְתָּ֖ם בְּטַבַּ֥עַת הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃ “in the king’s name and with the king’s seal” (Megilat Esther, 3:12).
The Megillah does not share with us the contents of that letter but Midrash Esther Rabbah does. Just imagine what kind of difficult task Haman had. What crimes can Haman possibly invent to justify this holocaust? After all, the Jews had been living among their non-Jewish neighbors for many years. What heinous crimes could Haman reveal that no one was aware of until now?
The Midrash portrays Haman’s initial efforts to convince the king about the need for such a severe edict. Both King Achashveirosh and the חֲכָמִים וּבַחַרְטֻמִּים “wise men and magicians” that the king brought in, voiced grave objections to Haman’s plan out of fear of God’s retribution. Haman, however, claimed that whatever power God displayed in the past was no longer relevant. Since Nebuchadnezzar was able to destroy the Temple and exile the Jews, Haman concluded that God was elderly and powerless. Apparently, this argument won the day (Esther Rabbah, 7:13-14)
Haman the spin doctor
Since Haman could not pin any crime on the Jews of Persia he chose to let the world know of their true nature. The centerpiece of the letter was a description of the ‘deceitful’ way the Jews treated the wonderful Egyptian people and their kind and generous leader – Pharaoh. After all, Pharaoh took the Jews in, settled them in the best lands of Egypt and sustained them during a famine. Instead of showing gratitude, the Jews resorted to עֲלִילָה, “manipulation”. One day the Jews claimed they were going to worship their God for three days in the desert and return. They asked the unsuspecting Egyptians for gold, silver, fine clothing and donkeys. It turns out the Jews had no intention of returning, rather, it was a ploy to embezzle the kind, innocent people of Egypt. Naturally, Pharaoh had to chase after them to retrieve the stolen goods but the Jewish leader, Moshe, used witchcraft to drown Pharaoh and his army. The letter goes on and on describing how, throughout the years, the Jews mercilessly slaughtered the innocent and completely virtuous Amalekites (Ibid). Needless to say, Haman’s charge that the Jews used עֲלִילָה, “manipulation” was, in itself, a manipulation. As is the hallmark of antisemitic tropes, Haman conveniently left out a few critical facts. Yoseph saved Egypt and the world from starvation. The valuables taken from Egyptians was a partial payment for many years of slave labor.
Purim – God is in control of “ordinary, every day” life.
Do Haman’s charges sound familiar? Do you hear elements of Nazi propaganda? German doctors argued that Jews spread disease and were responsible for outbreaks of typhus. Their professional medical opinion was used to rationalize the creation of ghettos throughout occupied Poland to ‘protect’ the population from the spread of typhus. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion describes a Jewish plan for global domination. It was first published in Russia in 1903, but is alive and well today among extremists and the sentiment seems to be going mainstream. The Left’s portrayal of Israel as an apartheid state is no less spurious.
Purim isn’t about open miracles like splitting the red sea or the ten plagues. It’s God intervening to save us from the sordid legacy of Haman that comes on the scene in every generation. God’s (hidden) miracles to protect us are no less grand, it’s just that we have to be more spiritually grounded to perceive them.