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September 28, 2016 / 25 Elul, 5776
Judaism
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Dust Off The Windows (Part Three)

It’s so easy to point the finger of blame at others, to believe the tragedies of Jewish history are caused by individuals who are evil or mad and not because we have turned away from our covenant with G-d due to our intense desire to become like all the nations.

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Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis



In my previous column I continued to focus on the dusty windows that obscure our Jewish vision. I noted the inexplicable hatred and persecution that has plagued us throughout the centuries.

In every generation there are those among us who try to convince us it is our distinct Jewish appearance, customs and observances that have alienated us from our non-Jewish neighbors.

But how can these people explain the fact that Muslims, Hindus, monks, nuns, and priests who wear special garb do so generally undisturbed, even commanding respect?

Take a look at the yarmulkes worn by the pope and the cardinals of the Catholic Church. And the pope has a special hat, a mitre, which is quite similar to what was worn by the high priest of our holy Temple.

So how is it that we who introduced religious head coverings to the world should be treated with such disdain and brutality?

In our obsession to blend in with the nations we keep shedding more and more of our Jewishness but, paradoxically, the more we try the more we try to be like others, the more we are resented.

In vain did Ezekiel the prophet call out in days of yore that no matter how much we scheme in your hearts to be like all the other nations, we will never be considered the same as them. And he warned us of the terrible consequences of renouncing our heritage, our covenant.

Sadly, despite the admonishments not only of Ezekiel but of all our prophets, we have yet to learn our lesson. We continue to assimilate with fury – an assimilation compounded by our Jewish illiteracy. The great majority of our people have no knowledge of the Torah, the Prophets, or the Talmud. If you were to ask them just for the titles of our sacred books, not even a description of the contents, they would stare at you blankly.

Hashem, who knows the past, present and future, created in His infinite mercy windows for us. Windows through which we would be able to see what our minds reject and our eyes cannot envision. We have forgotten the message, yet it is easily accessible if we’d only look through the windows.

These windows prominently showcase the message of all our Yom Tovim but we refuse to look. In our pursuit of money, assimilation and good times we allow dust to settle on our windows until we can no longer see through them.

I started to write this series of columns between the weeks of Purim and Pesach. Even small children are aware of the magical story of Purim. Queen Esther was prepared to sacrifice her life to save her people from Haman. They know Mordechai was determined to awaken every Jew. But what really happened in that story?

Years before Haman’s ascent, King Achashveirosh called for a great celebration in honor of his marriage to the evil Vashti. All citizens of the empire were invited, including the Jews. Mordechai warned his brethren not to attend. The food would not be Jewish food. The atmosphere would be a desecration of G-d’s Name.

The people chose to ignore Mordechai’s warning. They had their own rationalizations to justify their participation. “It is not good for us to stay away…to refuse an invitation from the king. Persia is our host country. We have a good life over here. We have good relationships with the Persians.”

So they went and took part in a banquet that quickly became a nightmare of unspeakable drunkenness and debauchery.

Nine years down the line Haman was elevated to his position as second to the king. He convinced the king to annihilate all the Jews, pointing out that the Jews had forsaken their covenant. “It’s time to attack! When they abandon their G-d they become putty in our hands.”

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

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