By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
Mishenichnas Adar marbim besimcha. The month of Adar is the happiest on the Jewish calendar. We commonly understand that the joy is brought on through commemorating the miracle that took place in the days of Shushan. However, it would seem obvious that the happiness flows from something more fundamental than the fact that the Jews were saved from Haman so many centuries ago. What does that historical brush with disaster and the nation’s salvation have to do with us today? So much has happened to our people since that day in Shushan over 2,000 years ago. What is so important about the miracle of Purim that it continues to excite us to this very day?
Jewish history is replete with stories of salvation from the hands of bitter enemies. It seems that in every generation, someone rises up against us, promising to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth, only to leave the world stage in defeat. A cursory examination of the past 100 years of Jewish history bears that out. From the Bolsheviks, Communists, Nazis, multiple Arab armies and terror leaders to modern-day Iran, Syria and their allies, the left in England, anti-Semites in France, and the rising leftist and ultra-rightist anti-Semitism in this country, so many have proclaimed their intent to free the world of its Jewish problem.
Yet, here we are, and despite them, we continue to grow and flourish. What was singular about Purim that its observance continues until this very day and, as the posuk says, will never be forgotten by the Jewish people?
We can understand that the impact of the miracle of Purim and what set it apart from all other deliverances was that it inspired the Jewish people to re-embrace Torah. The miracle of Purim caused the Jewish people to rejuvenate their Torah study and observance of mitzvos. Their rededication culminated with the re-consecration of the second Bais Hamikdosh.
Many times, we were in grave danger and persevered, but Purim stands out because it was then that we reaccepted upon ourselves the Torah, as we did at Har Sinai.
Someone who looks around the world today can be excused for thinking that everything is about to collapse. Let’s examine some examples. Following the news in this country, you need not be a political partisan to recognize that there is something incongruous about the fact that while a president was taking courageous steps to make progress in a festering 69-year-old quagmire with nuclear repercussions, Congress was listening to a convicted liar on his way to jail as he dumped dirt on the president. The station that invented cable news spent over 420 minutes reporting on the known huckster and twelve on the talks between Trump and Kim Jong Un.
What does that say about the condition of this country and the world? What can we infer from that about the ability of our countrymen to separate the important from the trivial?
The Left in Israel is thrilled and cannot believe their lucky stars. The prime minister called for early elections and everyone was convinced that he would win re-election. The only question was by how much. A retired general, a blank canvas, came out of nowhere, joined with Yair Lapid and the party apparatus he has been leading for several years, and they have rocked the system. The telegenic Lapid and the old general with a perfect platform have upended the polls and may have what it takes to stop Netanyahu.
The Zionist leader from the right, who has served almost as long as the iconic socialist David Ben Gurion, could not be edged from his seat, from which he kept Israel safe, rebuilt the economy, and established relationships with numerous countries across the globe. Try as they could, the left and the media could not convince the Israeli people to dislodge Netanyahu from power and allow the left to return to the positions they believe are rightfully theirs.
Now, with several embarrassing indictments in his future and a strong opposition party formed for this election, his enemies, domestic and foreign, can almost smell victory.
US senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren wrote, “First embracing right-wing extremism. Now manipulating a free press, accepting bribes, and trading government favors. The allegations against Prime Minister Netanyahu are serious and cut to the heart of a functioning democracy. Corruption – in Israel, in the US, or anywhere else – is a cancer that threatens democracy. We need to fight back. And we can start by having the courage to call it out wherever it occurs. Even among our allies.”
The New York Times has joined the piling on, writing that “Many American Jews are growing weary of the prime minister’s long-standing bargain with Israel’s ultra-Orthodox, resulting in policies that have repeatedly inflamed less observant Jews in the United States.” They haven’t forgiven him for choosing to be dependent on the religious parties in the present coalition and remaining loyal to their traditional view of Jewish law and customs.
American liberals and Jews are drawing further away from Israel, upset with Netanyahu’s right-wing policies and support of President Trump.
The Times quotes David Makovsky, a so-called Israel expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Dumping on the prime minister, he said that “Netanyahu’s survival instincts were ‘so all-consuming’ as to overtake important policy decisions, and that he had ‘so sanctified his political base’ as to make the Israel-Diaspora relationship ‘expendable.’”
Anybody who doesn’t agree with them, anyone who doesn’t approve of liberal policy in governance and religious observance, is dangerous and expendable. Because he has refused to grant legitimacy to religious conversions that do not include religious observance, Netanyahu is an enemy of American Jews.
The Times adds a punch for those who might not have understood. The paper of record writes that “those expressing distaste for moves that antagonize less religious or more liberal American Jews include some of the prime minister’s longtime admirers. ‘Even those who respect his security experience have just felt distant because of the lack of respect for their religious pluralism,’ said Abraham H. Foxman, retired director of the Anti-Defamation League. ‘From that perspective, change can only be better.’”
Because Netanyahu has chosen to side with traditional Jews, whose numbers happen to be growing and whose dedication to the Land of Israel is strengthening, “change” and getting rid of him would be better for the country. Because he doesn’t respect the Judaism of groups that merely serve as an exit ramp from the religion, he should be voted out of office. Because he hasn’t caved to the pressure of groups who have deviated from every semblance of the Jewish religion, Abraham Foxman and his cronies say that he doesn’t deserve to be prime minister, though those who would replace him would seek to separate religion from the Jewish state as much as possible and have no proven ability to maintain security and one of the strongest economies of the world.
When liberals enacted laws in this country enabling pregnant mothers to kill their babies, they claimed it was because they cared about women and their rights. Since they were carrying the baby, they have the right to suck the life out if, should it get in their way. The Supreme Court agreed and it became the law of the land.
Now, liberals are seeking to extend that right. Last week, Congress refused to declare it illegal to kill a baby who somehow lived through the procedure intended to kill it. The mother’s health is no longer at risk, nor are her rights, for the child is now outside of her body, but they still want killing that infant to be legalized, because it is not the mother’s health they care about, nor is it women’s rights. They simply have no respect for human life.
Many elder care experts believe that nursing homes extend lives of seniors. They provide a social life and levels of medical care unavailable at home. Those experts claim that over the past few years, the government has been cutting funding for homes in a bid to force seniors who need help to hire home aides and stay in their homes. This is not being done to save lives, or enhance lives, or because studies show that home aides can surpass nursing home care, but rather because the folks who set up government health funding don’t value the life of seniors in declining health who require the care only a facility can provide. They are as helpless as infants and as unproductive, so why waste money on them?
The Rubashkin saga seems to have been repeated on a different level, but Sholom Mordechai has been freed through a very public miracle and now dedicates his life to giving chizuk to those experiencing challenges and promoting increased emunah and bitachon for a better life.
At times, we feel as if we are in a hopeless position, as he was. Purim reminds us that a Jew never loses faith and never gives up. New developments are always possible. Quite often, in fact, they are taking place behind the scenes, hidden from view. Hashem looks out for His people in a variety of ways, and even when it looks as if defeat is inevitable, a Divine plan is being played out, leading to our resurrection as a nation, as a people and as individuals.
Purim represents a beacon of hope to Jews for all time, symbolizing that Hashem is orchestrating world events behind a tapestry of natural-seeming events. Nothing happens by chance. Achashveirosh didn’t just happen to win the throne at a certain time. He didn’t just happen to choose a Jewish queen. The evil Haman’s star didn’t rise because of his prowess. He didn’t just happen to hate Jews. They were deserving of the threat of annihilation he set in motion.
We don’t always appreciate that. Often times, we think that the superficial acts we perform have the ability to extricate us from our troubles. Purim reminds us all that the forces of cause-and-effect that seem to guide history under the influence of politicians and world leaders are a façade. When Jews opened their newspapers in the 127 countries of Achashveirosh’s empire, few of them connected the dire events of their period to the seudah at which they drank from the keilim of the Bais Hamikdosh.
They may have tried all sorts of various lobbying efforts on behalf of the Jewish people, but it was of no avail. No amount of shtadlanus was able to change the minds of the king and his advisors until the Jewish people did teshuvah on a sweeping level, repenting for their actions that had caused the calamity.
We forget that we are in golus for our sins, and we delude ourselves into believing that we can influence the forces of history through our efforts.
Purim reminds us of the truth.
We don’t have nevi’im as did the Jews of Shushan. We don’t have a Mordechai Hatzaddik who can point with certainty to our course of action. But we are all aware of issues that are swept under the rug and ignored. The times we live in demand that we rise above factionalism and divisiveness, superficiality and indecisiveness, and rectify our failings.
Purim tells us to rally around the truth and not bow to charlatans and allow them to dictate our behavior and attitude. There are many things that we know are being done improperly, but we are scared to voice our opinions lest people mock us. Mordechai Hatzaddik, dressed in his sackcloth in the palace of the king, tells us to ignore those who mock us and to do what the halacha dictates.
Purim tells us that when our survival is threatened, we must rededicate ourselves to the study and observance of Torah.
Nobody got into power by chance, and no mandates were formulated out of thin air by evil people who happened to be in a position to inflict anguish upon us. They are there because it was willed so to test us, improve us and return us to the right path.
Whatever challenge you are facing, that thought should bring you joy.