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Purim and politics

Netanyahu, much like Queen Esther, will warn of the danger, not just to Israel but also for all democracies

Next week, the holiday of Purim, celebrating the victory over the anti-Semitic Persian Empire of King Ahasuerus and his Prime Minister Haman, will be celebrated by Jews throughout the world. With the eating of Hamantashen, the blotting out of Haman’s name with groggers as well as singing songs depicting the heroism of Esther and Mordechai and the unfolding narrative itself, it will be fun for all (except for Haman and his followers).

Every Jew knows the story — the whole Megillah, but what many of us may not know is the tradition that the story was not a one-time event, but rather a pattern that, unfortunately, would be repeated throughout much of Jewish history: Jews as readily available scapegoats for despotic or morally corrupt governments, unwilling to face their own weaknesses or inadequacies, at whom they could point their accusatory finger and blame for all of their society’s problems.

As we remember, the turning point of the Megillah is when Queen Esther, bucking tradition, common knowledge as well as the dreaded word: Protocol, enters the throne room of the King without her being summoned by His Majesty, in order for her to plead for the lives of her People. What led up to Esther’s chutzpadik entrance, was the fact that the King and Haman had made a secret deal, unknown to the rest of the kingdom, permitting Haman to launch a genocidal attack upon the Jews of Persia and destroy them to the last man, woman and child. Finding out the secret details from her uncle, Mordechai, Esther, with fear and trembling, risks her life to enter the throne room and publically disclose the secret plot against the Jewish People.

If she would not, at great personal danger, have broken protocol and confronted the king, the Book of Esther would have had an entirely different ending.

Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu may or may not have broken protocol by accepting an invitation to address the Congress of the United States next week, but I for one, applaud his action! He, like Queen Esther, carries a warning of danger, not just to Israel and the Jewish People but also for all democracies, including our beloved United States of America.

Queen Esther’s actions were not championed by all of her People; I’m certain that many of them would have preferred for her to just keep quiet and let things roll the way they would roll, not making waves. Prime Minister’s actions are not being championed by all of his People either, but in time of danger, words of warning must be heard, if not, all might be lost.

This weekend, 20+ members of our temple will be travelling to Washington, D.C. to join with 16,000 other supporters of Israel, Jews and Christians alike, for the AIPAC National Policy Conference. I look forward in rising for a standing ovation and welcoming Prime Minister Netanyahu when he speaks to us before addressing Congress. I wish him success upon his entering the Hall of Congress and pray that his words will also be heard by our leaders as were Queen Esther’s.

Then it was ancient Persia, today it is modern Persia (Iran), but the same hatred remains. May another Purim miracle occur for us all as it did so many millennia ago.

About the Author
Rabbi Norman S. Lipson is Founding Rabbi of Temple Dor Dorim in Weston, Florida. Israel advocacy and education have been in the forefront of Rabbi Lipson's more than 50 years in the rabbinate. Having led numerous Pilgrimages to Israel, he teaches about Israel and Judaism through inter-faith and adult education programs in South Florida. A graduate of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, he holds a Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. He is the author of two books: “How Many Memories Make a Minyan?” and “Rabbi, My Dog Ate My Shofar!” both available on Kindle Bookstore.
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