Purim Is About Avenging Ourselves On Our Enemies (Est. 8:13)

 

by Geert ter Horst

This year we celebrate Purim with the Itamar massacre fresh in our memories, and with the knowledge that the Jewish people today are again surrounded by ruthless foes, hell-bent on the destruction of the Jewish State and the extermination of all the Jews. Again are we facing a deadly enemy arising from the power of Persia and Media (Est. 1:3) — today’s Iran — who’s relentless efforts to become a nuclear power are motivated by the wicked desire “to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day” (Est. 3:13).

And as in those days the Jews found themselves left to themselves, alone and without friends in the world, today’s State of Israel finds itself alone and without any real friends. The political friends which it supposedly has are often of a kind that one would exclaim: who needs enemies, with friends like these? The United States and the European Union have lost all moral courage and are since decades following a political line cynical to the core, and which is essentially based on the idea that it is advantageous to sacrifice Israel bit by bit for the sake of remaining on acceptable terms with the Arab world. With the Shoah horrors fading from the limited memorial capacities of the superficial and secular world of the modern West, antisemitism is rising its ugly head again on its road to a new fashionableness.

What is the comfort and joy we pour from the message of Purim in these perilous circumstances? When the blind forces of the world, which don’t know or care about G-d and are beyond the possibility of being moved by a religious or moral appeal, are turning against the Jews, then what can be done?

The Megillah of Esther shows us that a miracle can occur in a world which doesn’t know about G-d. In this book of the Tanach the name of HaShem never occurs, yea G-d is not mentioned at all. And yet it is clear from its pages that “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Ps. 121:4). The turning point of the story, which leads to the redemption of the Jews, is mysteriously contained in the opening sentence of the sixth chapter: “On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king” (Est. 6:1).

Lifting our attention from the wavering and unreliable Ahasverus to that trustworthty and unwavering King whose Kingdom is above all, this text tells us that He doesn’t sleep and that before Him is read “the book of records of the chronicles” of world history and that nothing is forgotten or hidden in the High Places of His Reign.

In a world that has lost all knowledge about G-d and his chosen nation, the world of the Jewish exile in the empire of the Persians and Medes with its pretentious laws which cannot be altered (Dan. 6:8), as well as the closed world of modern secularism and unchangeable natural laws, the miracle happens in a thus far unthought way. There occurs no public sign. The Hand of Heaven doesn’t become visible in any spectacular action. The miracle seems rather to be that the existence of the Jewish nation is ensured by an invisible hand and made part of the laws of world history.

The real miracle of Purim is thus that the Jews are an undeniable and necessary part of the world and that the world cannot exist without them. The immanent laws of nature and history are so designed by the Most High that the existence of the Jewish nation is part of them and that all efforts to wipe out the Jews are made futile and ultimately lead to the consequence that the evil plans of those who design them return upon their own heads (cf. Est. 9:25). When HaShem chose the Patriarch and their descendants to be a holy nation before Him, He made the solemn announcement: “I will bless them which bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee” (Gen. 12:3). The Book of Esther reveals that this blessing and this curse are not only a divine promise maintained by HaShem. They are an immanent property of the structure of this world. Whatever happens, the world is so designed by G-d that it cannot suffer the extermination of the Jews.

This means that the actions of the Jewish nation are part of this structure and that from time to time this nation is afforded the golden opportunity to smite its enemies, as it is recorded in the Megillah: “Thus the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, and slaughter, and destruction, and did what they would unto those that hated them” (Est. 9:5).

Although the full fruits of redemption will not be experienced apart from true faith and trust in HaShem, the bare existence of the Jewish nation is not dependent on these virtues. It depends solely on the divine promise pronounced in old times and sealed by its inscription in the edifice of the world. Come what may, the nation of Israel will always stay and be able, at decisive moments, to destroy its enemies.

Good Purim!

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