Purim and the Holocaust

Zachor, Remember what Amalek did to you when you were leaving Egypt; that he ambushed you on the way, and he struck those of you who were in the rear, all the weakest at your rear, when you were faint and exhausted, and he did not fear Gd. It shall be that when  your Gd, gives you rest from all your enemies all around, in the land that, your Gd, gives you as an inheritance to possess it, you shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven—you shall not forget!

Iranian  leadership  in responding to criticisms of its program to acquire nuclear weapons, sounded much like Hitler when they proclaimed, “Israel must be wiped off the map!” and that the Holocaust is a “myth!” What’s most amazing to me is that this war with Amalek continues—that the world is still so concerned with the fate of Israel and the small number of Jews in the world who do not even amount to a percentage of error when calculating the world’s population. The rhetoric is apocalyptic, even Biblical. Why care about Israel and the Jews? It must be a spiritual struggle of the generations. The Torah then has been proven to be incredibly wise in warning us never to forget or worse, to underestimate Amalek the anti-Semite—no matter how he may appear.

ON Purim and we will read the story of how Haman, a descendant of Amalek, persuaded Achashveros, King of Persia, to destroy the Jews. But it’s also the story of our time! Once again Persia threatens to destroy the Jews, only this time its name has changed. We no longer call it Persia, we call it Iran. Do you know why?

There was a love fest between Hitler and Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Persia, from the moment Hitler came to power in 1933. The shah was enamored with the concept of the Aryan master race—especially because Nazi racial theorists referred to Aryan origins in the Proto-Indo-European lineage of Persia. So intense was the shah’s identification with the Third Reich that in 1935 he—can you believe this—renamed his ancient country “Iran,” which in Farsi means “Aryan!” From that point on, Iranians were constantly reminded that their country was bonded with Nazi Germany for all time.

During the war years, Iran became a haven and headquarters for Gestapo agents and German operatives. In Tehran’s marketplace, it was common to see placards that declared, “In heaven, Allah is your master. On Earth, it is Adolf Hitler!” (Edwin Black, 12/19/05, JTA) And so how could the president of Iran now deny that the Holocaust ever happened when his nation is named for Hitler’s master race?

Let there be no mistake, the ultimate agenda of Iran and Hamas—like that of Hitler’s Germany—is not simply the destruction of Israel, but of the Jewish people.

The Torah is clear, Amalek and Haman and all of Jewish history teach us that we must take our enemies at their word. They mean what they say and they say what they mean.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Bernhard H. Rosenberg, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth-El, Edison, New Jersey received his ordination and doctorate of Education from Yeshiva University in New York. He also possesses A.A., B.A., M.A., and M.S. degrees in communication and education. He possesses a Doctor of Divinity from the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York. He taught at Rutgers University in New Jersey and Yeshiva University in New York. His books include: “Theological and Halachic Reflections on the Holocaust,” “Contemplating the Holocaust,” “The Holocaust as Seen Through Film,” and "Echoes of the Holocaust."
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