Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Purim & The Month of Adar
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Purim Today


Rabbi Berel Wein

In thinking about Purim 5710 a few things are fairly obvious. There is no shortage of Hamans around with the current Persian ruler a good leading candidate for the part. Nassralah, Mashad and a few others of our cousins can also be counted to be in contention for the role. There are also many contenders for the role of Achashvairosh. These include Goldstone, Ban, the Guardian, Putin and sometimes even the professors and intellectuals of the Israeli left who demand that the universities that pay their salaries somehow be subjected to boycott and deligetimization. In fact many of the so-called Western world leaders are certainly capable of being stand-ins for the false and power hungry king who has no scruples over participating in the threatened annihilation of millions of Jews. The main crime that Jews are guilty is of the crime of being Jews. There are other faults that the Jews possess, certainly individual Jews, but those are only ancillary issues compared to the great crime that the Jews are a "different" people. And there is no repentance possible for that crime. The American Secretary of State, powerless and forced to always be flitting around the world so she can’t influence and trouble the American administration in Washington probably is a good candidate for the poor Queen Vashti who had her head handed to her by a loveless boss. Maybe our own Tzipi can also audition for that role of being unable to deal with the fact that she is not currently running the country. The current contrempts over Naomi and her beloved but ill named New Israel Fund makes her also a possible contender for the role. And then there are the secretaries, spokesmen, roving ambassadors and the State Department who merrily execute the orders of Achashvairosh and Haman without any hesitations or moral compunctions. And in the spirit of Purim everyone is wearing a costume and a disguise so that the whole situation is seemingly backwards and turned on end.

Candidates for the roles of Mordecai and Esther seem to be in short supply today. People who are unwilling to bow and scrape before tyrants and evil, who have principles for which they are willing to risk personal honor and even life itself. Mordecai is interested in saving the entire Jewish people irrespective of their individual opinions, behavior and attitudes. The plight of the Jewish people pains him deeply and personally. He is even willing to bear the strange indignity of having some of his rabbinic colleagues criticize him for his efforts to save the Jewish people and he does so unflinchingly and without rancor. He asks for no reward for his services and is solely interested in a positive outcome to his efforts. He was proven right in his predictions regarding Achashvairosh and Haman and he never states that "I told you so." Such a person is truly difficult to find in our current divided and divisive society. Mordecai the Jew is the quintessential Jew but he is also the rarest of characters in Jewish history. His niece Esther is also somewhat of a rarity. Jews in high public office in non-Jewish governments do not have a sterling record of protecting Jewish interests, even when Jewish survival is at stake. To put one’s concern for the Jewish people over personal ambition and position and to address the ruler in terms that certainly reveal that primary concern for the Jewish people is an act of honesty, loyalty and courage. Again, there do not seem to be too many candidates today vying for the role of Esther.

The unseen hero so to speak of the Purim story is naturally the God of Israel Himself. That role is filled today as well. The unseen hand that guides us through history and guarantees our survival as a people is certainly present in today’s Purim drama as well. The Jews of Shushan were not particularly God fearing or observant. They felt very comfortable and assimilated in the society and values and political correctness of the time. They were therefore shocked by the enmity directed at them by the community of nations that they had so mightily tried to assimilate into. Yet in the end they were forced to see their true situation realistically and rely upon God’s salvation - the hidden miracles that are part of our daily lives and existence. That part of Purim is certainly in play in our situation today as well. In a society that oftentimes cannot distinguish between Haman and Mordecai, Purim comes to remind us of our vulnerability and our hopes for a brighter tomorrow. That is what makes Purim such a great and joyous holiday.
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