Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Be Happy. It’s Adar!

Purim - 2008

The ways of G-d are mysterious.

I write various short letters; thoughts; and I post on various forums on the internet discussing this and that throughout the year.

Since 2003, I have revisited “my” Purim story, finally updating it again in 2007 as I discovered new “coincidences” that I found amazing.

This year is different.

This year…

I feel like I am peering at the dark clouds on the horizon. I can see the black lines of rain coming down far away. I can see the awesome cracks of lightning that illuminate everything and I can hear the distant thunder. I know that a powerful storm is headed my way. But I am standing there transfixed by the incredible display of weather, trying to figure out what it all means. And, I can’t. All I know is that this powerful storm exists and, it is headed our way.

But…. During the Hebrew month of Adar, this month, we are commanded to be happy.

How do I reconcile the miracles that G-d has performed on the Jewish holiday of Purim and the astonishing events that have continued to happen, in our times, which continue to happen on Purim, with the tragedies of this year?

I don’t know.

The boys murdered in Yerushalayim in Eretz Yisroel on Rosh Chodesh Adar adds a new and terrible level of complexity the Purim Torah as it relates to modern times.

This is the first time that I know of, since the Arabs massacred yeshiva students in Chevron, in 1929, where Jews had lived for hundreds of years, that religious Jewish yeshiva students have been deliberately targeted for murder by the Arabs.

I don’t know what it means.

But this is Purim. This is Adar. And it means something. I can see the storm coming. I can feel it.

Every year I learn something new. Every year the Purim Torah grows and every year the Hand of Hashem is ever more evident on Purim, the holiday that means “chance” or “coincidence.”

My timeline thus far:

1991 – In a tent outside Basra, Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s generals surrendered to the Coalition Forces under the aegis of President George Herbert Walker Bush on Purim, the 14th of the Jewish month of Adar.

2003 – On the evening of March 17th, on worldwide television, President George Walker Bush formally declared: “Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing.” This was the eve of Purim, the 14th of the Jewish month of Adar. President Bush ordered the bombing of Iraq to begin on March 18th, the day of Purim.

2004 - Grand Ayatollah Sistani, the leading Muslim Shia authority in Iraq, postponed the signing of this new Iraqi constitution for one day. The new Iraqi constitution was signed on the 8th of March, in the Walled City of Baghdad, on the 15th of the Jewish month of Adar, Shushan Purim, the Purim of Walled Cities.

2006- The time when the Jews are allowed to rebuild the Temple; Saddam is hanged.

This year however…

Why should I discover this particular new Purim “chance event” this year?


- The Megillah begins in the third year of King Achashverosh’s reign, when he decides to throw a great big party celebrating the failure of G-d to redeem the Jews from the bondage of exile and of G-d’s failure to rebuild His Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

At this banquet, Achashverosh serves food and wine using the Holy Vessels stolen from the First Temple.

The Talmud, in Megillah, 12a, says:

The students asked Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai: "Why did the Jews of that generation deserve annihilation?" He told them, "What do you think?" They said, "Because they enjoyed partaking in the great party of Achashverosh [an event that took place roughly nine years before Haman issued his edict]. He objected, "In that case, the Jews of Shushan, the capital, [the Jews who attended this party] would deserve such a punishment, but why would all the Jews in the world who did not participate be included in the edict of destruction?" They said, "You're right, so you tell us." He said, "They bowed to the idol of Nebuchadnezzar [an event that took place roughly seventy years earlier]." They objected, "If so why indeed were they not wiped out? Does God show favoritism?" He said, "They didn't mean it in their hearts and only did it out of respect to the king, so the edict against them was also not issued by God with finality and therefore could be revoked."

According to our Rabbis, the Jews of Persia were condemned to be killed by Haman’s evil decree because they sinned against G-d by worshipping idols and by taking pleasure in the blasphemous party of King Achashverosh.

If the timeline in my Purim Torah begins in 1991 and corresponds to the first year of the reign of King Achashverosh, which began three years before the banquet party where the Jews of Persia sinned before G-d, then the banquet would have been in the equivalent year of 1994.

On February 25th, 1994, Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Arabs worshipping at the Mearas ha Machpelah; the Cave of the Patriarchs, in Chevron, in the Land of Israel. The date was the 14th of Adar, 5754, Purim.

The most hideous mass murder ever committed by a Jew in the name of his religion was perpetrated on the Purim that matches the year that Hashem decreed that the Jews of Persia should be annihilated for their unforgivable sins.

The Purim Story is a story of redemption. G-d allowed the evil enemy of the Jews, Haman, to persuade King Achashverosh that the Jews should be annihilated.

Mordechai and Esther inspired the entire Jewish nation to do teshuva – to sincerely repent for their sins. And they did! All of Israel repented; Haman, the Enemy of the Jews was destroyed; Mordechai became Achashverosh’s Prime Minister in place of Haman and, And “the Jews had light and gladness, joy and honor.”

And, the Second Temple was rebuilt.

In the timeline of my Purim Torah, these years; today – 2007; 2008; 2009, would be the days when the Second Temple was rebuilt.

It occurs to me that nowhere in my timeline do I have any kind of event that relates to the Fast of Esther; that corresponds to the Jewish world doing teshuva.

And, every single Orthodox Jew, bar none, including my own family, with whom I have shared this particular realization regarding a possible correlation between Purim 1994 and the banquet of King Achashverosh, has shared the same degree of incomprehension as to why I think the two events might be related.

I have received responses from every point of the spectrum –

"There is no correlation..

I don't understand what you are saying...

Goldstein was doing what the Jews were supposed to do in the story of Purim...

There was a plot by the Arabs to attack and wipe out all the Jews in Chevron...

It's not the same thing – Avraham Avinu purchased Chevron and the Arabs have no right to be there...

What's one attack compared to the multitude of atrocities committed by the Arabs…?"

I have heard a phrase that those who are kind to the cruel will be cruel to the kind. It strikes me that Hashem allowed the Jews to defend themselves and annihilate their enemies at the End of the Purim Story, after the entire Jewish nation had done teshuva. He did not allow them to strike at their enemies whilst they were at the banquet sinning against G-d.

It would appear that now, today, in 2008, when we are supposed to be annihilating our enemies and rebuilding the Temple, we are not doing so. We have not taken up the sword when it would seem that G-d has allowed us to do so.

We have not done teshuva. And, one obstacle to this might just be not recognizing the "sin" that we participated in at "the banquet" in 1994.