Purim’s message remains true today

by | Mar 4, 2019 | Torah Thought

urim’s extraordinary fun-making masks and matches the extraordinary seriousness of the life and death issues behind it—while allowing for a healthy release of pent-up tension and emotion. After all, a threat of genocide hanging over the Jews with a plot in place in the vast Persian empire was not to be taken lightly.

The salvation found through an intermarried Jewish queen who happened to be, or was placed, in a pivotal position to help her kin while in dire straits, adds an intriguing dimension to a drama whose historical veracity remains uncertain. The challenges and lessons contained in the fascinating Scroll of Esther have remained applicable throughout the Jewish saga.

The Rabbis have taught that in the messianic era yet to come, of all the Jewish holidays, only Purim will continue to be celebrated. Is it perhaps because we should never take Jewish survival for granted and need to always be on guard? Is that why God’s name is not mentioned, even once in the scroll, a notable exception to all the other books in the Bible?

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, stated that when the lion and the lamb will dwell together, he still would like to be the lion just in case…. That is ample testimony to what the Jewish people have learned the tragic way. We are thus invited to ponder those unique features of a mesmerizing account in which Jews are called upon to act in God’s name. Of course, the absence of the divine name does not necessarily imply God’s silence nor indifference to such matters of supreme importance.

Curiously, the terrorizing dictatorial leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran (once Persia) now celebrating the 40th anniversary of their theocratic revolution, continue to seek hegemony in the Middle East and the Muslim world. Their bloody involvement in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen, and elsewhere is ample testimony. They have not given up on “wiping Israel off the map.” This time with the aid of nuclear power, aware of Israel’s mortal vulnerability given its limited geography, to conclude what Haman and Hitler began.

Has not the Haman-like, and even the more dangerous leaders of Iran, read the Scroll of Esther and taken to heart the fate of those who seek to destroy us? Denying the Holocaust, they seek to deny Israel’s existence, and if necessary, to hasten its demise through a “real Holocaust.”

Alarming is the precipitous rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, as well as in the U. S., with the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue massacre of 11 Jews.

Queen Esther was forced to hide her Jewish identity otherwise she could not get into the palace to fulfill her mission of saving her people. Still, the beautiful and heroic Esther had to be prodded by wise and courageous Mordechai. However, she did perform, forever earning an honored place in the pantheon of Jewish heroines and heroes.

Esther’s people are not yet fully safe, but are finally capable of defending their lives in a way that was not possible before. Remember, experienced Uncle Mordechai engaged in successful counter plots. Self-defense is a top Jewish and human mitzvah, particularly in the post-Holocaust era. It is a sacred imperative beyond blotting out Haman’s name at the raucous Megillah reading. A sovereign Jewish state and an influential American Jewish community make a critical difference.

May we act and pray so that the contemporary Iranian plot will meet the fate of oblivion of the early prototype of biblical Amalek’s descendants, while we are ever vigilant. Our ultimate goal, so elusive for so long, remains a peaceful world of Shalom through the sacred task of Tikkun Olam’s healing, hope and harmony for all of God’s children.

Dr. Israel Zoberman, founding rabbi of Congregation Beth Chaverim and Honorary Senior Rabbi Scholar at Eastern Shore Chapel Episcopal Church