The Purim story has many subplots and messages. One of the important aspects of our hero, Mordechai, is often overlooked. His message is to teach the Jew the importance of defiance and being able to stand up for one’s Jewishness with pride and without fear.
In 1974, I took a political science course on the Middle East crisis. It was taught by a vicious Jew hater. For some strange reason, the class consisted of half Jews and half African Americans with one exchange student from Germany. The professor succeeded in removing the guilt of the Holocaust from the young woman from Germany. He made ridiculous comparisons between the slavery of the American Blacks during the Civil War, and the Jews in Egypt. At every opportunity, the good professor demonstrated a disdain for the Jew and undermined Israel’s right to exist.
I was the only Jew who wore a kippa and I was the only student that challenged the professor every time that I thought he was inaccurately presenting the facts. I wrote him a letter demanding that I be given an “A” for having to listen to his poison and falsehoods over a fifteen-week semester.
The Jewish students repeatedly warned me to keep a low profile and if I kept up my opposition to the professor, he would certainly fail me. I was given a “B” for the course and the title of the course was changed to, “The Arab View of the Mid-East Conflict.
Hopefully, I acted properly in the way I conducted myself. And I hope that I acted in the manner taught by Mordechai in the Megillah. Mordechai was warned by his peers that he was going to make things worse by refusing to obey Haman’s decrees. Mordechai was not afraid and showed his defiance. Even when it was proven that he did act in the right way and he became the viceroy to the king, he was still met with disapproval by other Jews.
They insisted that the best policy was to keep a low profile and not make waves In our dealings with non-Jews. If we put our heads in the sand, our problems will disappear. This is alluded to in the last verse of the Megillah. Mordechai was considered great among “most” of his brethren. The Talmud emphasizes that it specifically said most and not all, because there were still those who felt Mordechai did not act as he should have.
Today, we are still plagued by frightened Jews who refuse to remove the mentality of the Exile. They do not know how to proudly announce their pride in being part of the seed of Abraham. They meekly submit to the attacks against our people. Their biggest fear is what will the Gentile say. They do not want to look bad in their eyes.
Mordechai taught us not to be afraid in the face of the Hamans of the world. When we are true to our beliefs, refusing to budge despite the pressures upon us, G-d will step in and bring about our salvation. We must be defiant like Mordechai and not lose our faith in all that we hold dear.
If we can do this, we will feel a sense of satisfaction that we held true to our ideals. We will be strengthened with the knowledge that we are fully committed to our people, our G-d, and our Land. The grade we will receive in Heaven will be an “A plus”!