Purim : Whose Side Am I On?

An interesting thought occurred to me this morning.

The Jewish calendar consists of holidays that are all mentioned in the Torah, which the exception of two: Chanukah and Purim. Both of these were instituted by the Rabbis.

Interestingly enough, when you think about it, most people don’t understand what they are celebrating. Let’s take Chanukah for example. The scene is set in Eretz Yisroel, currently under Greek occupation. Most Jews at this time believe that Judaism is stale, needs to be modernized, needs contact with the “real” world, etc… they were the Reform Movement of the time, and they were in the majority. On the other side, you have a group of religious fanatics that declared a jihad against the Greeks and Reform Jews, and literally, went to war and killed such people that didn’t agree with them. In the end, the fanatics won, and today we celebrate that victory. Honestly… if you were living back then, would you have supported the Maccabees? Honestly? Probably not. Yet, at the same time, we celebrate their victory… even the Reform Jews.

Let’s take a look at Purim. There were two ‘reasons’ that the Jewish people were set for annihilation. The real reason is when Achashverosh held his party, the Jewish people went and enjoyed themselves. When the announcement for the party came out, Mordecai publically declared that nobody should attend the feast. Instead of listening, they public came out and said, “He didn’t know what he was talking about, the food was going to be kosher and obviously he didn’t know that, and if he did, he would “for sure” say to go, if we don’t go, Achashverosh will get mad at us, etc….”

That was the real reason. What was the reason Haman used? Simple. When Haman walked by, everybody was supposed to bow to him. However, Mordecai did not. Instead, he stood firm. In his anger, Haman declared war, not only on Mordecai, but also the entire Jewish nation. What did the bloggers, I’m sorry… I meant, people, say then? “Mordecai is responsible for us being in this situation! Why did he have to be so stringent on other people’s accounts? This is the “leadership” of the Jewish nation? Look! How can you argue any other way that HE is not responsible for our situation?” Again, let’s be honest. Today, if some of the greatest Torah scholars made a statement that you in your wisdom did not understand, what would you do? Submit yourself to their authority or blog about it? Honestly? We would probably blog about it. Yet, at the same time, we’ll celebrate Mordecai and call him a Tzaddik.

Right now in Israel, one of the big questions concerning the Israeli public, especially the religious (including Ultra-Orthodox and Religious Zionists), is what to do with the army. Everybody here knows that it’s a political question more than a practical question. On one hand, you have politicians, calling for “sharing the burden”, and calling for the end of deferrals for yeshiva students from the army. Again, this is including Ultra-Orthodox and Religious Zionists (i.e. Hesder yeshivos). On the other hand, you have the rabbeim from both camps taking a firm stance against it.

Can you imagine if some of the religious leaders of Israel, such as Rav Aurbach (Ultra-Orthodox, Ashkanzi), Rav Avodyah Yosef (Ultra-Orthodox, Sfardi), Rav Dov Lior (Religious Zionist) all came out tomorrow and said that any yeshiva student who is drafted must refuse and even go to prison before joining the army. What would your thoughts be on this? What happens if they called for violence, if needed? Would you listen or would you speak your ‘opinion’ on this matter? Let’s reword that question: Would you follow the Mordecai’s of our generation or would you blame Mordecai for the trouble that “they” are causing?

Before we celebrate Chanukah and Purim, it’s good to review what causes, affects, and the conclusions of each holiday, and ask ourselves, “Who’s side AM I ON?” Do I support the Ultra-Orthodox and their bloody war against those that they disagree with? Or do I side the Greeks? Do I listen to Mordecai, even though I don’t personally understand his logic, or do I follow my own limited knowledge of the Torah? Are we REALLY happy that the Maccabees did what they did? Will we REALLY listen to the Mordecai of our generation when they speak to us? The Torah wants both answers to be ‘yes’. It’s up to us to learn and listen from those greater than we are, to line our views with that of the Torah.

Have a great Shabbos and a wonderful Purim!