Elie Yossef

The 7th of Adar: Moshe Rabbenu and The Struma

Today is the 7th of Adar.

Moshe Rabbenu was born on the 7th of Adar and died on the 7th of Adar. Haman thought that because Moshe died on the 7th of Adar it is a month that the Jews don’t have “luck” and therefore fitting for it to be chosen as a month to destroy the Jewish people.  What he didn’t know was that the 7th of Adar was also the day that Moshe was born.

Moshe was given his name by the daughter of Pharaoh, as it is written “from the water I have drawn him”, thereby calling him “Moshe”.  The Maharal of Prague explains that the essence of Moshe is reflected in his name. He explains that the water is the power that contradicts Moshe.  Moshe did not die in the water he was thrown into and in the end dies as a result of the waters of conflict in the desert. The Maharal explains that the reason Moshe died as a result of the waters of conflict in the desert was because he called the Jews “rebels” after they were complaining all the time. From here we can deduct that the essence of Moshe’s life was not to be influenced by the actions of the Jewish people, but always to believe that even if they had bad actions they could be brought back to the way of God. Only on one occasion did he lose his calm and relate to the disobedience rather that to their inner essence.


The first time we meet Moshe as a man is when he goes out sees the Egyptians beating the Jews.  Moshe is unique in that he refuses to accept the common-day reality which was that Jews would regularly get beaten by the Egyptians. He was not influenced by the “norm” but rather by his own spiritual belief which is that every nation has its own dignity.

On Purim we celebrate that Haman was wrong about the Jewish fate and that his plan of destruction was turned on its head. However in the month of Adar 1942, close to 2,000 years after the story of Purim, Haman was proven right. In Adar 1942, 800 Jews were stranded in the Black Sea on a dilapidated boat called the Struma. These 800 Jews had managed to escape the horrors of the Holocaust in Europe and sought refuge in Israel. They hung signs all around the boat with cries “save us” but no one in Israel came to save them.  Lord Moyne, the head of the British Empire in the Middle East at the time, wrote a letter to Churchill not to let the Jews off the boat and into Israel. On the 7th of Adar, the boat was torpedoed by a Soviet submarine.  Most of the Jews on the boat were instantly killed, but 100 people remained alive in the water for close to 24 hours.  All of these people died of hypmothermia when 24 hours later no one came to take them out of the water. In the end there was only one survivor by the name of Dovid Stoliar.

A few days later a young boy by the name of Eliyahu walked the streets of Tel Aviv and saw people sitting in coffee shops and selling tickets for a Purim festival. That day he wrote in his diary “I can’t believe it.  Only yesterday our brothers were on a dilapidated boat crying for us to save them. Today, I don’t understand how people could sell tickets to a Purim party when only yesterday our brothers drowned in the sea.  I must say that we have no conscience.  We can’t even express our mourning in a fitting way.”

Moshe Rabbenu’s message was dead.  When the idea that we cannot accept the “norm” that it is OK to kill the Jewish people is dead, than Haman is right. That is the secret that Haman understood.

The word “water” in Hebrew is “mayim”.  Why is it mayim? Because it was plural.  Moshe was singular and the water is plural symbolising the masses.  The Maharal explains that Moshe was not affected by the masses.  That is why water and Moshe are opposites.  Moshe was taken out of the norm. The Jews on the Struma were waiting in the water for us to take them out and we left them in the water.  We abandoned them and we abandoned our ability to save the Jews the of Europe.

The Struma could have and should have been a massive wake up call to believe in our strength and that we can stop it.  Instead a few days after the Struma sunk on Adar 7th 1942, the gassing of the Jews began in Europe.

Like Moshe, who could not accept the Egyptian reality in which Hebrew slaves were regularly abused, young Eliyahu Hakim did more than merely protest Britain’s anti-Jewish policies. Eliyahu joined Lehi (the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel) – a small Jewish underground – and traveled to Cairo to successfully assassinate Lord Moyne, an action that not only drew the world’s attention to Israel’s plight but even inspired solidarity from student activists at the University of Cairo. Eliyahu Hakim and his comrade Eliyahu Bet-Zuri were apprehended and sentenced to hang for their deed. When approaching the gallows, their puzzled executioner asked them how they could smile just moments before their deaths. The Eliyahus answered the hangman that they were smiling at the next generation who would see a Hebrew flag over Jerusalem.

About the Author
Eli Yossef is an educator, lecturer and activist. He currently works with the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, Machon Meir and Machon as well as in Real Estate. Published works include “The Act” (1992) for which he won the Yair Prize.
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