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Purim Guide for the Perplexed, 2014

tel aviv purim

1. Purim’s Scroll of Esther represents fundamental tenets of Judaism:

*Faith in God, in contrast to idolatry and cynicism;

*Value/principle-driven realism (right vs. wrong and civil liberties), in contrast to opportunism and wishful-thinking; *Attachment to roots (religious, cultural, historical), in contrast to detachment;

*Optimism confidence and courage, in contrast to fatalism, despair and fear;

*Tenacious defiance of enormous adversity, in contrast to defeatism, submission and accommodation;

*Community-driven responsibility, in contrast to selfishness/recklessness.

2. According to Jewish sages (as indicated by Yoram Hazony’s, The Dawn.), the Torah was initially bestowed upon the Jewish people in Sinai, and then – symbolically – during the time of Queen Esther. Hazony explores the political sophistication of (the eventual vizier) Mordechai and Queen Esther, who snatched – against all odds – victory out of the jaws of a Haman-conspired holocaust. Mordechai’s political savory was preceded by that of Joseph, who, a thousand year earlier, ascended to be the vizier for Pharaoh, and Daniel, who had risen to a similar position in the court of Persia’s Darius a few decades earlier. Hazony contends that the Mordechai-Haman confrontation was also a clash of civilizations between faith in God and idolatry, as was the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh and Abraham and pagan worshippers.

Mordechai introduced civil disobedience, insisting that absolute right and wrong are superior to state decrees. In addition, Mordechai, Moses and Abraham, as well as Gideon, the Judge and Samuel, the Prophet, ushered in the concepts of limited government, civil liberties and the centrality of the constituents.

3. Purim’s Clash of Civilizations constitutes an early edition of the war between right and wrong, liberty and tyranny, justice and evil, truth and lies, as were/are Adam/Eve and the snake, Abel and Cain, Abraham and Sodom and Gomorrah, Jacob and Esau (grandfather of Amalek), the Maccabees and the Assyrians, the Allies and the Nazis, the West and the Communist Bloc and Western democracies versus Islamic rogue and terrorist regimes.

4. Purim’s historical background according to Prof. Israel Eldad: *Xerxes the Great, King Ahasuerus, succeeded Darius the Great. He ruled the Persian Empire (from India to Ethiopia) during 465-486BC, 150 years before the rise of Alexander the Great, who defeated the Persian Empire. *Greece was Persia’s key opponent in its expansion towards the Mediterranean and Europe, hence the alliance between Persia and the Phoenician-related Carthage, a rival of Greece.

*Greece supported Egypt’s revolt against Persian rule, which was subdued by Persia with the help of the Jewish warriors of Yeb (in Egypt) and Carthage, which had a significant Jewish population and a Jewish-Hebrew connection dating back to King Solomon’s alliance with the Phoenician kingdom (e.g., the names of Carthage’s heroes, Hannibal and Barca, derived from the Hebrew names, Hananyah and Barak).

*Xerxes was defeated by Greece at the battle of Salamis (480 BC), but challenged Greece again in 470 BC.

*According to a Greek translation of the Scroll of Esther, Haman (the Agagi) was Macedonian by orientation or by birth. Agagi could refer to Agag, the Amalekite King (who intended to annihilate the Jews) or to the Greek Aegean Islands. Haman aspired to decimate the Jews of Persia and opposed improved relations between Xerxes and the Jews of Yeb. He led the pro-Greek and anti-Carthage faction in Persia, while Mordechai was a chief advocate for the pro-Carthage orientation.

5. “Purimfest 1946” were the last words of Julius Streicher, the Nazi propaganda chief, as he approached the hanging gallows (Newsweek magazine, October 28, 1946, page 46). On October 16, 1946 (in the Jewish year 5707), ten convicted Nazi war criminals were hanged in Nuremberg. An 11th Nazi criminal, Hermann Goering, committed suicide in his cell. Julius Streicher’s library, in his ranch, documented his interest in Purim and its relevance to the enemies of the Jewish people.

About the Author: Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger is consultant to Israel’s Cabinet members and Israeli legislators, and lecturer in the U.S., Canada and Israel on Israel’s unique contributions to American interests, the foundations of U.S.-Israel relations, the Iranian threat, and Jewish-Arab issues.


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5 Responses to “Purim Guide for the Perplexed, 2014”

  1. Kranti Farias says:

    Purim always fascinates me as I have been following Jewish customs being followed with joy and gusto in India by the adherents of Judaism in India .

  2. Queen Esther has always held my interest. As a Christian, I appreciate this in-depth understanding of the holiday celebration of Purim. I also enjoy the reason for the "Mezuzah".

  3. Hal Green says:

    I really relate to this. The very essence of a decent and constructive life.

  4. One more thing: I thought Mordechai was the reincarnated soul of prophet Samuel who was brought to Earth to finish his job (Tikun), while Esther was the reincarnated soul of king Saul.

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