web analytics
April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Jewish History’

How Not to Remember the Holocaust

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, and I’m troubled.

History is important, because justice today depends on a correct understanding of yesterday. If your vision of the past is distorted, then your objectives for the future and present actions can be morally wrong, pragmatically futile, or both. If you don’t believe this, think about the consequences of the false Arab and leftist narratives about Israel and “Palestine.”

Therefore, understanding what Hitler did to the Jewish people, what historical trends led up to it and how the world responded, is critical for all of us today. There needs to be a Holocaust remembrance Day and it ought to tell its story in detail, over and over to each generation of humanity, and not just to Jews and Europeans.

But certain ways of observing this day make me very uncomfortable.

One is what I call the “universal kumbaya Holocaust observance.” The message here is that there are lots of genocides, they are all similar, and we have to try to understand our fellow man in order to prevent them. I went to an event once in which it was said that the real Holocaust encompassed 11 million people — Jews, Gypsies, gays, disabled and mentally ill people, etc.  I didn’t understand how they got to 11 million, nor why they stopped there: about 60 million people died as a result of WWII, probably about half of those in the European theater. Estimates range from 10 to 20 million Chinese dead in the conflict with Japan. Perhaps they should have lit 30 candles for the evil done by Hitler, and added another 30 for Imperial Japan?

The trouble with a universalized observance is that it obscures the significance of the specifically Jewish genocide, the fact that the Holocaust was the perfection, made possible by modern technology and careful planning, of the pogrom, the culmination of  the hundreds of anti-Jewish murders committed over the centuries simply because the victims were Jews, as the Nazis said, a final pogrom which would, for once and for all, erase the Jews from the world.

And by hiding the meaning of this event in plain sight, as it were, among all the other horrors of war, it also absolves today’s Jews from the responsibility to find their own solution to the specifically Jewish problem of endemic Jew-hatred, which has not gone away.

Another kind of Holocaust observance is the “emotional binge,” in which participants try to bring themselves to the point where they can almost feel the doors of the gas chambers closing on themselves or (worse) their children, in order to fully internalize the “real meaning” of the Holocaust. These events include talks by survivors about their experiences, dramatic performances and even re-enactments in which participants play the role of Jews and Nazis (all of these have been done in my community). The common characteristic is that they are intended to evoke the strongest possible emotional responses.

The catharsis provided by emotional binges is greatly enjoyed by some people, but it adds nothing to the understanding of history. Indeed, it creates a dangerous fixation on the dead Jews of the 1940s, to the detriment of those living today.

Finally there is the “symbolic but trivializing gesture.” A local synagogue is attempting to collect 6,000,000 buttons in remembrance of the 6,000,000 Jewish victims of Hitler. It was explained that this is a big number, and the stack of buttons that they will make will help people visualize the extent of the Holocaust.

It’s hard to comment on something quite this silly. Collecting, storing and displaying that many buttons is  a large effort, which one imagines could be exerted to much more effect in some other way. Personally, I have no problem visualizing 6,000,000 people: I just think about the Jewish population of today’s state of Israel.

Which brings me to the general problem I have with all of these ways of commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. They are entirely consistent with total ignorance of the real lesson of the Holocaust for Jews, which is not that 6,000,000 is a big number, or that the death of a child is horrible, or that genocide is bad everywhere, in Rwanda or Armenia or anywhere else.

This is why it is possible for some Jews to light candles, cry, and “dialogue” about the need for cross-cultural understanding with non-Jews until the cows come home, and then go out and (for example) join a demonstration against Jews moving into eastern Jerusalem.

Passover Guide for the Perplexed 2013

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

1.  A central Passover lesson: Liberty entails responsibility, communal-awareness, blood, sweat and tears; not complacency, wishful-thinking or egotism. Sustaining liberty obligates free people to assume the cost, risks and sacrifice of self-reliance, including forty years in the desert and the defiance of great powers, lest they forfeit liberty and risk oblivion. The Hebrew word for “responsibility” – אחריות – consists of the word “liberty” – חירות – reinforced by the first Hebrew letter – א – which is the first letter of the Hebrew words for God, faith, Adam, human-being, father, mother, light, soil, land, love, tree, covenant, soil, credibility, awesome, power, courage, spring, unity, horizon, etc.

2.  The Passover-U.S.-Israel connection:  Moses, the U.S. Founding Fathers and Israel’s Founding Father, Ben Gurion, were challenged by the “loyalists,” who were intimidated by the cost of liberty, preferring subjugation to Egypt, the British King and the British Mandate.

3.  Passover (פסח) highlights the fact that the Jewish People were passed-over (פסח) by history’s angel of death, in defiance of conventional wisdom.  Non-normative disasters have characterized Jewish history ever since slavery in Egypt and the Exodus: the destruction of the two Temples, exiles, pogroms, expulsions, the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, daily Arab/Muslim terrorism and wars, etc. The 1948 re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty – against global, regional, economic and military odds - constituted a modern day Exodus and Parting of the Sea.  Principle-driven tenacious defiance-of-the odds constitutes a prerequisite to Jewish deliverance in 2013, as it was during The Exodus some 3,450 years ago.

4.  Passover’s centrality in Judaism is highlighted by the first, of the Ten, Commandments: ”I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” The Passover ethos is included in daily Jewish prayers, Sabbath and holiday prayers, the blessing over the wine, the blessing upon circumcision, the prayer fixed in the Mezuzah (doorpost) and in the annual family retelling of the Exodus on the eve of Passover. Passover symbolizes the unity, interdependence and straight line/direction between the People of Israel, the Torah of Israel and the Land of Israel.  In Hebrew, Israel (ישראל) means “straight,” “overcoming” and the acronym of the names of the Jewish Patriarchs (אברהם, יצחק, יעקב) and Matriarchs (שרה, רבקה, רחל, לאה).

5.  David Ben Gurion, the Founding Father of the Jewish State, Passover and the reaffirmation of Jewish deed over the Land of Israel: “More than 300 years ago, a ship by the name of the Mayflower left Plymouth for the New World. It was a great event in American and English history. I wonder how many Englishmen or how many Americans know exactly the date when that ship left Plymouth, how many people were on the ship, and what was the kind of bread the people ate when they left Plymouth.

Well, more than 3,300 years ago, the Jews left Egypt…and every Jew in the world knows exactly the date we left. It was on the 15th of [the month of] Nisan. The bread they ate was Matzah. Up to date all the Jews throughout the world on the 15th of Nisan eat the same Matzah, in America, in Russia. [They] tell the story of the exile from Egypt, all the sufferings that happened to the Jews since they went into exile. They finish by these two sentences: ‘This year we are slaves; next year we will be free. This year we are here; next year we will be in Zion, the land of Israel.’ Jews are like that (The Anglo-American Committee, March 11, 1946,http://bit.ly/evSqbP).

Rabbi Gamliel, Head of the Sanhedrin, mid-first century: “In each generation, every individual must consider himself as if he/she personally participated in the Exodus from Egypt.”

6.  President Ezer Weizman, Passover and the avowal of Jewish roots in the Land of Israel, Jewish unity and collective-responsibility:

Only 150 generations passed from the Pillar of Fire of the Exodus from Egypt to the pillars of smoke from the Holocaust. And I, a descendant of Abraham, born in Abraham’s country, have witnessed them all. I was a slave in Egypt. I received the Torah at Mount Sinai. Together with Joshua and Elijah, I crossed the Jordan River. I entered Jerusalem with David, was exiled from it with Zedekiah, and did not forget it by the rivers of Babylon. When the Lord returned the captives of Zion, I dreamed among the builders of its ramparts. I fought the Romans and was banished from Spain. I was bound to the stake in Mainz. I studied Torah in Yemen and lost my family in Kishinev. I was incinerated in Treblinka, rebelled in Warsaw and migrated to the Land of Israel, the country whence I had been exiled and where I had been born, from which I come and to which I return…. And, like our forefather King David who purchased the Temple Mount, and our patriarch Abraham who bought the [Hebron] Cave of Machpelah, we bought land, we sowed fields, we planted vineyards, we built houses, and even before we achieved statehood, we were already bearing weapons to protect our lives… (German Bundestag, January 16, 1996, http://bit.ly/10aOcJr).

7. “Next Year in the rebuilt Jerusalem” concludes the annual reciting of the Haggadah, the Passover saga.  It reaffirms the ancient Jewish commitment to build homes all over Jerusalem, the 3,300 year old indivisible capital of the Jewish people.

8.  Passover’s centrality in the American ethos inspired the Puritans, the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers and contemporary American morality and state of mind.

The Pilgrims
 – beginning with William Bradford’s “Mayflower” and John Winthrop’s “Arabella” – considered Britain “modern day Egypt,” the British king was “the modern day Pharaoh,” the sail through the Atlantic Ocean was “the modern day parting of the sea” and America was “the modern day Promised Land.”

The Founding Fathers
 were significantly inspired by Moses and the Exodus.  In 1775, the president of Harvard University, Samuel Langdon, said that “the Jewish government [that God handed down to Moses] was a perfect republic.”  Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” (the cement of the 1776 Revolution) referred to King George as “the hardened, sullen tempered Pharaoh of England.”

The term Federalism is based on “Foedus,” the Latin word for “The Covenant.” The Founding Fathers studied the political structure of the semi-independent 12 Tribes (colonies), which were governed by tribal presidents (governors) and by Moses (the Executive), Aaron (the Judicial) and the 70 Elders (Legislature). John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin proposed the “Parting of the Sea” as the official U.S. seal. George Washington and John Adams, the first and second presidents, were compared to Moses and Joshua. Washington was eulogized as Moses and Virginia was compared to Goshen.

Yale University President, Ezra Stiles stated (May 8, 1783): “Moses, the man of God, assembled three million people – the number of people in America in 1776.”

“Let my people go” and “Go down Moses” became the pillar of fire for the Abolitionists. “Proclaim liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10) is inscribed on the Liberty BellThe Statue of Liberty highlights a Moses-like tablet. The biography of Harriet Tubman, who dedicated her life to freeing other slaves, is called The Moses of Her People. Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was motivated by the laws of Moses, which condemn slavery. Martin Luther King was considered the Moses of his age.

Daniel Boone
 was referred to as “The Moses of the West.” 

A statue of Moses stares at the Speaker of the House of Representatives, is featured (along with Maimonides) in the U.S. House of Representatives Rayburn Building subway station, towers above the Supreme Court Justices (in addition to seven additional Moses statues in the Supreme Court Building) and is found in the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress.  A Ten Commandments monument sits on the grounds of the Texas and the Oklahoma State Capitols. Cecile DeMille’s hit movie, The Ten Commandments, promoted U.S. liberty, morality and freedom of religion and expression, in contrast to Soviet oppression.

Theodore White wrote in The Making of the President: “It is as if Kennedy, a younger Moses, had led an elderly Joshua [LBJ] to the height of Mount Nebo…and there shown him the Promised Land which he himself would never enter, but which Joshua would make his own.”

9.  Moses, the hero of Passover, has been a role model of effective leadership, highlighting humility, faith, principle and endurance-driven leadership, along with human fallibility.  Moses’ name is mentioned only once in the Passover Haggadah, as a servant of God, a testimony to Moses’ humility. The only compliment showered upon Moses, by the Torah, is “The humblest of all human beings.”

10.  The Exodus is mentioned 50 times in the Torah, equal to the 50 years of the Jubilee, a pivot of liberty. Fifty days following the Exodus, Moses received the Torah (Pentecost Holiday), which includes – according to Jewish tradition – 50 gates of Wisdom.  Where does that leave the 50 States?!

11.  Passover highlights the centrality of spiritual, social and national Liberty. The difference between the spelling of Ge’oolah (“deliverance” in Hebrew - גאולה) and Golah(Diaspora in Hebrew - גולה) is the first Hebrew letter, Alef - א.  (Please see #1 above).

12.  Passover – the role model of liberty – interacts with Shavou’ot/Pentecost – the role model of morality.  Liberty and morality are mutually-inclusive.  The liberty/morality interdependence distinguishes Western democracies from rogue regimes.

13.  The Exodus took place around 1,400 BC, establishing the Jewish People in the forefront in the Clash of Civilizations between democracies and rogue regimes.  Passover is celebrated on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nissan ניסן – the first month of the Biblical Jewish year and the introduction of natural and national spring (Nitzan is the Babylonian word for spring and the Hebrew word for bud).  Nissan (Ness - נס is miracle in Hebrew) is the month of miracles, such as the Exodus, the Parting of the Sea, Jacob wrestling the Angel, Deborah’s victory over Sisera, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, etc.

14.  The 15th day of any Jewish month features a full moon, which stands for optimism – the secret Jewish weapon – in defiance of darkness.  It is consistent with the 15 parts of the Hagaddah (the Passover saga); the 15 generations between Abraham’s message of monotheism and Solomon’s construction of the first Temple; the 15 words of the ancient blessing by the Priests and the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shvat, Arbor Day – the “Exodus” of vegetation.  The Hebrew value of 15 corresponds to two Hebrew letters which are the acronym of God – י  and ה.

15.  Passover has four names:  The holiday of Pesach (“Passed-over” and “sacrifice” in Hebrew), the holiday of liberty, the holiday of Matzah and the holiday of spring.  The number 4 features in the Passover Saga, representing the four women who shaped the life of Moses (Batyah – Pharaoh’s daughter, his savior, Yocheved – his mother, Miriam – his sister and Ziporah – Jethro’s daughter, his wife); Joseph’s four enslavements- twice to the Midianties, once to the Ishmaelites and once in Egypt; the 4 times that the word “cup” was mentioned by Pharaoh’s jailed wine-butler when recounting his dream to Joseph; the 4 Sons (human characters) of the Haggadah; the 4 glasses of wine drunk on the eve of Passover; the 4 Questions asked on the eve of Passover and the 4 stages of the divine deliverance from Egyptian bondage. The 4th Hebrew letter (ד) is an acronym of God.

16.  Passover is celebrated in the spring, the bud of nature.  Spring, Aviv in Hebrew (אביב) consists of two Hebrew words: Father – אב - of 12 – יב – months/tribes.  The word spring is mentioned three times in the Torah, all in reference to the Exodus.  Passover – which commemorates the creation of the Jewish nation – lasts for 7 days, just like the creation of the universe.  Passover is the first of three Jewish pilgrimages, succeeded by Shavou’ot/Pentecost, which commemorates the receipt of the Ten Commandments, andSukkot/Tabernacles, named after Sukkota – the first stop in the Exodus.

“Next Year in the rebuilt Jerusalem”

Visit The Ettinger Report.

The Meaning of Freedom

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

It’s an interesting time in Israel now. The Passover holiday is days away. It’s a holiday that I mostly dread because it comes with immeasurable work and only spare moments to enjoy – at least for me and for many women who are still fulfilling the more traditional roles of caring for home and food and such. No matter how much help I get in the house, it seems I am still the planner, the coordinator, the ultimate one responsible for seeing, checking, and often doing what it takes to bring the holiday in.

I have come to dread it – from the start to the end and have yet to learn how to enjoy the more important aspects. There is an amazing rabbi who was asked how long it should take to clean for Passover. I remember more the principle of what he answered than the clear numbers he cited. It was something like a day or two, perhaps three. The person then went and asked his wife how long it takes her to prepare and she answered, three weeks, just like everyone else. Perhaps it was four.

Passover is often lost in the details and it is a shame. The details are cleaning your home – your office, your car, etc. – but sadly, too many turn it into spring cleaning and so you see the neighborhood, in fact the country, alive with those who are painting their apartments, fixing railings outside, buying new furniture and appliances. None of that is really connected to the holiday and yet my windows are dirty from the long winter and I want them cleaned.

Already, my arms are starting to hurt – the deep inside pain I get when I strain them. I’ve carted out garbage, washed cabinets, sorted through drawers and more. This year seems especially tense and stifling. We crave freedom – and yet we are being smothered from the holiday on one end and Obama’s visit on the other. I need to travel to the center later this afternoon – how will Obama’s arrival impact on that? One major highway will be closed for some time – the second, to which traffic will be diverted, is a road that was built to by-pass Arab villages and protect Israelis as they drive to Jerusalem. It is called Route 443. People have been murdered on that road – shot at point blank range. Regularly there are stoning attacks. The army promises to put more surveillance on the road, more jeeps and soldiers.

I travel that road regularly – often out of the Israeli principle of dafka. Dafka is an amazing Israeli word that defies translation. I learned it decades ago, long before I lived here. I remember way back in college, freshman English course at Barnard College. We were having an intellectual discussion and I disagreed with the previous person. It was a free-flowing, open conversation among the entire class, with the teacher (the only male in the room) looking on proudly.

“Dafka the opposite,” I said and began to explain. A few, very few, looked confused and so the Jewish professor smiled and said, “explain ‘dafka’, Paula.”

I tried..Dafka means…on purpose…dafka means…intentionally so….deliberately so…but it has a twinge of insolence, resistance. If you tell a child to stand over there, they will dafka sit down. Defiance, pride, intention. I can’t explain dafka but it is the dafka principle that has me driving on 443, even when they throw stones there. I will not let them keep me from my country.

So Obama will come to Israel today and Israelis will be diverted to a road on which there are often more stoning attacks and likely there will be more because the Arabs too want to deliver a message to Obama. I doubt Obama will know that yesterday in Ramallah, they were driving cars over pictures of his face, burning American flags, and painting big red X’s over his nose.

Meanwhile, Obama seems to be the only one truly free here. He has freely chosen to insult Israel by deciding that students from one university will not be invited to his meeting with university students. Ariel University is located over what Obama calls the “green line” – how convenient it is for him to ignore the fact that Ariel, like  ALL universities in Israel, admit hundreds, even thousands of Arab students and provide them with access to educational degrees widely honored and respected. The last I heard, three of Israel’s five universities are in the top 100 in the world. This is the education we make available to Jew and Arab alike – but Obama will insult us be showing his selective prejudice.

Searching for the Past at Tel Shiloh

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

I was thinking about writing about Israel’s possible new coalition government, what I think of PM Binyamin Netanyahu and the chutzpadik new political power Yair Lapid, but Arlene Kushner says it so well that I suggest you read her article aptly titled Outrage.

Here in the Holy Land, there’s one month in the Jewish Calendar that typifies “spring” as the poets would describe it, and that’s the month of Nissan, miracles and the holiday of Passover, Pesach.  As has been my practice for quite a few years, I go to pray at Shiloh HaKeduma, Tel Shiloh, the site where the Biblical Mishkan,Tabernacle rested/was located for 369 years after the Exodus from Egypt, from the time of Joshua until the death of Eli the High Priest.  For almost four centuries, Shiloh was the religious and administrative Capital of the Jewish People/Nation.

 

 

Recently, archaeologists have been back to Tel Shiloh looking for ancient treasures and secrets to show what life had been like in Biblical times when Jewish pilgrims came to Shiloh to pray.

 

 

 

Visit Shiloh Musings.

The German Women Who Stood Up to the Nazis

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

This year marks the seventieth anniversary of a remarkable public protest by ordinary German women against the Nazi regime.

From February 27 to March 6, 1943, a group of unorganized German women went into the streets of downtown Berlin, within a few city blocks of the most feared centers of Nazi power, to protest for the release of their Jewish husbands, who had just been arrested by the Gestapo. Daily giving voice to their collective demand – “give us our husbands back” – first softly, then with increasing urgency, they succeeded in achieving their goal.

For these German women, the brutal Nazi state had lost all legitimacy. Like very few others, they were willing to express this publicly, on the streets, for all to see. For decades, their story was largely absent from histories of Nazi Germany. Their story challenges the comforting, generally accepted narrative that opposition was honorable but always futile. This year’s anniversary is an opportunity to focus deserved attention on these women’s brave action – and its implications for resistance more broadly.

On February 27, 1943, as part of the Nazi plan to remove the last remaining Jews from German soil, the Gestapo arrested some 2,000 Berlin Jews who had not yet been deported because they were married to non-Jews. In response, hundreds of women – wives of those arrested – pushed their way onto the street in front of Rosenstrasse 2-4, an office of the Jewish community where these arrested Jews were being held, and began to protest.

SS men as well as policemen guarded the single entrance. Over the course of the following week the Gestapo repeatedly threatened to shoot the protesters in the street, causing them to scatter briefly before resuming their collective cry of “give us our husbands back.”

Decades later, I interviewed one of these women, Elsa Holzer, who remembered arriving on the street in search of her husband. “I thought,” she said, “I would be alone there the first time I went to the Rosenstrasse…. I didn’t necessarily think it would do any good, but I had to go see what was going on…. If you had to calculate whether you would do any good by protesting, you wouldn’t have gone. But we wanted to show that we weren’t willing to let them [our husbands] go. I went to Rosenstrasse every day, before work. And there was always a flood of people there. It wasn’t organized, or instigated. Everyone was simply there. Exactly like me. That’s what is so wonderful about it.”

During the same week of this protest, some 7,000 of the last Jews in Berlin were sent to Auschwitz. On Rosenstrasse, however, the regime hesitated; almost all of those held there were released on March 6. Even intermarried Jews who had also been sent to Auschwitz and put in work camps were returned to Germany.

Surprising as it might seem, these events on closer examination fit with the treacherous strategies of the Nazi regime for domestic control. The Rosenstrasse protest occurred as many Germans were tempted to doubt Hitler’s leadership following Germany’s debacle in the Battle of Stalingrad. As he elaborated in Mein Kampf, Hitler believed that popular support comprised the primary pillar of his authority among the German “racial” people, and his dictatorship throughout strove to maintain this basis of his power. To end this protest, the regime released the intermarried Jews, furthering, for that moment, Hitler’s goal of quelling any appearance of dissention.

The murderous Nazi regime also appeased other public protests. On October 11, 1943, on Adolf Hitler Square in the city of Witten, some three hundred women protested against the official decision to withhold their food ration cards until they evacuated their homes as part of Nazi policy to protect civilians from bombing raids. The following day Germans in Lünen, Hamm and Bochum also protested on the streets for the same reason.

In response, Hitler ordered all regional authorities not to withhold ration cards as a method of forcing civilians to evacuate their homes. This was followed by further orders by Nazi officials to refrain from “coercive measures” against evacuees who had returned. In his cold calculations, Hitler chose not to draw further attention to public protest, judging it the best way to protect his authority – and the appearance, promoted by his propaganda machine, that all Germans stood united behind him.

The Book of Esther: A Political Analysis

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

The Book of Esther, which is read on Purim and to which that holiday is dedicated, has been interpreted many ways. Yet there is much to be understood by analyzing the story in terms of political ideology and strategy.

Ahasuerus is the powerful king over Persia and much more. He holds a banquet and invites the leaders of all of the provinces to come in order to wield together his diverse empire by showing his wealth, strength, generosity, and bringing together his political elite in terms of fellowship and equality with each other.

While drunk, he orders Queen Vashti to come to the banquet to display herself. She refuses, for unspecified reasons, and his advisors urge him to depose her and select a new queen. A young Jewish woman, Esther, is among the candidates. Urged by her uncle Mordechai, she conceals her religiosity-ethnicity, enters the competition, and eventually wins.

At this point, the story introduces a new theme. The king makes Haman prime minister. Mordechai, for unspecified reasons, refuses to bow to him. On discovering Mordechai is a Jew, Haman resolves to destroy all the Jews in the empire.

The story provides a sophisticated analysis of antisemitism:

First, Haman’s antagonism toward all Jews springs from a personal and psychological conflict. This has often been true in history including today.

Second, that conflict is then dressed up in political language to justify it to the ruling authority and the masses.

Third, Haman provides the classic, statement of non-theological antisemitism that could easily fit into the nineteenth and twentieth century and even today, mirroring the kinds of things hinted for example by nominee for secretary of defense Chuck Hagel. Haman explained:

“There is a certain people, scattered and dispersed among the other peoples…of your realm, whose laws are different from those of any other people and who do not obey the king’s law, and it is not in your majesty’s interest to tolerate them.” In other words, the Jews comprise what would later be called a separate national group. It is impossible to assimilate them; they are disloyal due to dual loyalty; and despite their apparent weakness they plot against you.

I’m sure that Hagel is not antisemitic in any conscious way yet he echoes the same themes that Haman used. Haman might have said that he was not a “Jewish” minister but a “Persian” minister, who would not bow down to the Jewish lobby whose interests subverted those of the nation.

A contemporary problem in understanding antisemitism today is that hegemonic political, intellectual, and informational forces in the West want to measure antisemitism by conscious intent and not by the use of well-worn historical (these are even in the Bible!) themes, though that is precisely the criterion that they do use in examining just about any other sort of bigotry. They also begin by excluding all non-Western populations from possibly being antisemitic. But Haman was residing in a non-Western society.

Fourth, antagonism against the Jews camouflages a desire to loot their wealth, in other words material gain.

The king agrees—after all, his most trusted courtier has just told him it’s a kill or be killed situation—and issues the decree for genocide.

In contradiction to these claims of Haman is Mordechai’s good citizenship. This would later become a major theme of Jewish assimilation—I don’t use the latter word in a pejorative sense here—that Jews must prove they are the best, most loyal citizens. Mordechai saves the king by uncovering a real plot against him. By his example, Mordechai shows Jews are not subversives and disloyal.Yet Mordechai’s good behavior is useless if the king doesn’t know about it. Suppose mass media existed and hadn’t covered Mordechai’s behavior but reported on all of Haman’s speeches?

Especially remarkable is the behavior of Esther. Warned of Haman’s plan, Esther wants to do nothing lest she place herself at risk. After all, she is a fully “assimilated,” even hidden, Jew. But Mordechai reminds her: Do not imagine that you will escape because of your high position.

It’s easy to suggest that this can be compared to the Nazi desire to kill all Jews on a “racial” basis. But there are many types of such situations. What’s especially interesting is that Esther’s situation shows how individual Jews can try to set themselves apart to be immune or even prosper from persecutions: converted Jews against steadfast ones in medieval times; Modernized, semi-assimilated Jews against traditionalist immigrants in America and Western Europe; and anti-Israel Jews against pro-Israel ones and Israel itself today.

Purim of Yesteryear: Celebrations in TLV 1932-34 (Video)

Monday, February 25th, 2013

The “Adloyada” Celebrations in Tel Aviv in 1932-34.

Particularly interesting are the floats mocking the Nazis, complete with giant swastikas, and warning of the impending disaster in Europe.

Happy Shushan Purim!

Visit The Muqata.

Why Don’t We Celebrate Two Days of Purim in Jerusalem?

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

While the rest of Israel celebrates Purim this Sunday (the 14th of Adar), Jerusalem celebrates on Monday (the 15th of Adar).

Why?

Well, the easy answer is “because Jerusalem is a walled city from the time of Joshua.”

Which is partially right.  Jerusalem was a walled city in the time of Joshua, but the walls we see today were built in the 1500s, in the Ottoman Era.  From the early 13th century and until the mid-16th century, Jerusalem was not a walled city at all.  And indeed, it was unclear to the Jews of that time when they should celebrate Purim.

Rabbi Eshtori Ha-Parchi of the 14th century tells us that when he came to Israel, he was told that in Jerusalem they celebrated on both the 14th and 15th of Adar, as they were uncertain which one they were obligated to keep.  Rabbi Eshtori brings an entire Halachic discussion about what should be done, and adds that he wrote his rabbi, Rabbi Matityah in Bet-Shean, to ask him what he should do.

Rabbi Matityah wrote him back: If I would be in Jerusalem on the 14th of Adar, and they would read the Megillah, I would leave the synagogue.  Otherwise they could say about me “The fool walketh in darkness” (Ecclesiastes 2, 14).  And the same is true for Tiberias.

Rabbi Eshtori finished by saying that Rabbi Matityah is right.

We don’t know what changed the minds of the Jews of Jerusalem, but today there is no doubt – and we celebrate Purim in Jerusalem on the 15th of Adar.

Visit the Muqata.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/muqata/why-dont-we-celebrate-two-days-of-purim-in-jerusalem/2013/02/24/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: