The Purim holiday, which we celebrate on Sunday, March 12, 2017, is a joyous holiday that commemorates the great miracles that G-d performed for His people when he saved them from the evil clutches of Haman. Shortly after Haman decreed that all the Jews in the kingdom of Achashveirosh were to be wiped out on the 13th day of Adar, he experienced a complete downfall. The Jews were able to defeat their enemies and preserve their heritage for generations to come. We remember this great miracle by reading the Megillah of Esther, which chronicles the Purim story, giving food presents to friends and neighbors and charity to the poor, and eating a festive holiday meal.
The Jews were ordinary citizens of Achashveirosh’s kingdom. How was Haman able to convince the king to rid the kingdom of all the Jews?
The Megillah explains that Haman used the same anti-Semitic slurs that have been hurled against us from the beginning of time through the modern era. Quoting from the Megillah:
They’re one nation – they’re a unique nation with a unique history unlike any other;
Spread and separated throughout the kingdom– they don’t have a place to call their own (Even today, Israel can’t fend for itself. It is more beholden to world powers and public opinion than any other nation.);
Different laws and customs from everyone– they stick out in the office. They don’t celebrate our holidays. They’re always taking off from work with their Shabbat and other holidays;
Don’t listen to the kings laws– they respect a Higher Authority than the king;
And therefore– it’s not worth having them take up valuable space in the kingdom.
Of course, the facts tell a different story. Wherever the Jews lived, the host country prospered greatly. History bears this out. At the time of the Purim story, the Persian Empire was a world power. In more modern times, Spain flourished in the early part of the last millennium; the Jews played a large role in its success. Jewish communities flourished in many Spanish cities, where the Jews engaged in commerce, greatly adding revenue to the government coffers. After Ferdinand and Isabella forced the Jews to leave in 1492, it was only a matter of time before Spain lost its standing as a world power.
In essence, the Purim story speaks to the survival of our nation. Throughout our history, many “Hamans” have appeared on the scene, each with his wild accusations of a Jewish conspiracy to rule the world. They feel they must save the world from “Jewish dominance.” Ultimately, however, they all receive their due. The Jewish community continues to flourish while they are forgotten, save for a few paragraphs in history books.
Once again, the Jews are singled out in the world arena. An international court with limited authority is rendering judgment on Israel’s ability to protect its own citizens. No criticism is directed at those who perpetrate heinous suicide attacks, only at those who wish to defend themselves so they can ride a bus with the confidence of arriving at their destinations alive. The US State Department released a report criticizing Israel for human rights violations but leveled no criticism at the Palestinian Authority for the cold-blooded attacks they sanction. The Internet is awash with Jewish conspiracies, including blood libels and the theory that the Jews orchestrated the 9/11 attacks and blamed the Arabs for it. It is a lonely world for us.
Yet the Purim story teaches us that we can never give up hope. The Jews reacted to Haman’s decree by strengthening their bond with G-d in the midst of their crisis, for they realized the need for His help more than ever before. Mordechai roused the Jews to don sackcloth, fast to pray to G-d to save them from this terrible decree. Ultimately, G-d saved them. They merited that salvation because they restored their faith in the One Above and rededicated themselves to His service through studying and adhering to the Torah and observing its commandments. We can learn the same lesson in our own difficult times and renew our commitments to Torah learning and living. Then G-d will hopefully spare us from evil decrees just as he did in the Purim story.
Just a few months ago, we awoke on a cold Sunday morning to hear the exciting news that Saddam Hussein was captured. The man who terrorized the world and Israel in particular, with his scud attacks during the Gulf War, was found dirty and disheveled in an underground hole. Oh, how the mighty had fallen! The despot who baited the entire world and who occupied numerous lavish palaces had been forced to live like a fugitive, constantly changing his whereabouts usually staying in dingy, confined quarters. Justice was finally served on the modern-day Haman. Let us hope that all those who continue to terrorize our people will get their due, while we continue to serve our Creator in peace and tranquility, faithfully adhering to our Torah and its commandments.