Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • The Month of Adar
To dedicate this lesson

Why We Need Purim So Desperately


Rabbi Berel Wein

A Jewish family of five including a three month old infant was murdered in their sleep this past week by a new brand of Hamans that constantly appear to attempt to destroy us. The army promises to find the murderer/s and arrest him. Though that is a necessary step it will hardly serve as a lasting comfort to all of us who live here in our homeland. The greatness of the story of Purim is not so much that Haman and his cohorts were hanged and killed, important as that is in itself, but that the Jewish people were saved from annihilation. It is the salvation and survival of Israel that is the focal point of the Purim story. The punishment of our enemies is certain, though not always apparent and certainly not always immediate. But over the long run of history all those who have persecuted us unmercifully and attempted to wreak our destruction have all disappeared from the face of civilization and power. And the Jewish people, bloodied but always unbowed, continue to exist and be the engine of education, innovation and moral conscience to humankind. Thus Purim is not an historical event alone, a story about far away Persia in a long ago time, but it remains our story currently, always relevant and timely. The reality of the world is that there has always been and there will always be a Haman - a Jew hater. Today he even still comes in a Persian name and language and threatens our destruction. Purim teaches us that he eventually will be doomed to defeat though there is no guarantee as to the price we may God forbid have to pay to accomplish this end.

There are two heroes to the story of Purim. One naturally is the great queen Esther who emerges to be the savior of her people. Esther is the example of the Jew who feels responsible for the Jewish people and its future even at the cost of personal gain or even one’s position of power, influence or life itself. It is an act of desperate courage for her to rise against Haman who apparently has the king’s ear and confidence and who also apparently represents the majority opinion of the people that she rules over and certainly her behavior could not be considered politically correct. There are many Jews today of influence and wealth, power and stature that unfortunately fail to stand up for their fellow Jews and for the only Jewish state in existence in the world. Truth be said, many of them, in all sorts of guises and fancy pious sounding names really stand against us. They fulfill the rabbinic requirement of Purim that they are so drunk on their own Jewish ignorance and assimilation and self-righteousness that they cannot distinguish between Mordecai and Haman. It is Esther who rises to the occasion and sees things as they are and not as many others would naively wish to see them. This is the source of her heroic role in the Jewish story and the reason that she has had so many namesakes of wonderful Jewish women over the ages.

The other hero is Mordecai. Mordecai is the Jew that annoys us, that is stubborn, demanding, prickly, and possessed of great Jewish paranoia. He is described in the book of Esther in a most succinct fashion: "And Mordecai will not bow down and will not prostrate himself." Midrash teaches us that there were many who disagreed with Mordecai’s behavior. They found his stubbornness to be provocative and that somehow therefore he was at least indirectly responsible for Haman’s genocidal intents. Again there are many who feel that the abused bring the abuse upon themselves, that the victims are somehow at least partially or perhaps even fully at fault in their victimization. The UN, the EU, many NGO’s, the boycotters and divestiture activists certainly would pillory Mordecai for his behavior. But without Mordecai there is no Esther and no happy ending to the Purim story. We need stubborn Jews even if we disagree with them ideologically, politically and socially. And we see at the end of the Purim story that even after Mordecai emerges as such a hero not all Jews are happy with him. They found him wanting spiritually, educationally, study wise. Such is the fate of great people in Jewish life. There never is one hundred percent approval of anyone. But history and the Jewish people have immortalized Mordecai’s stubbornness and he remains with Esther the hero of the Purim story. I pray that our Purim story also ends triumphantly and clearly.
את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר