Purim – then and now – by Michael J. Granoff

It is impossible to sit here on Purim day and not reflect on the urgent irony that now, as in the time of Megilat Esther, an evil man sits in the capital of Persia threatening to annihilate the Jewish people.

The Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has said in recent months that “The annihilation of the Zionist regime will come… Israel must be wiped off the map.”  And he has backed those words up with continued development of a nuclear weapon.

In the Purim story it took the intervention of the First Lady of Persia to save the Jewish people.  In our day, make no mistake, it will take our own intervention to prevent a catastrophe.  As AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr recently observed, “All of us have asked ourselves the question: Why wasn’t more done to stop the Axis powers [in the 1930s]?  Why weren’t the warnings heeded?…   We pledge that we will not be part of a generation that will wish it could call back yesterday.”

AIPAC activist Yossi Siegel put the connection between the Purim story and the contemporary threat this way:

When Queen Esther is asked by her uncle Mordechai to approach the king in order to save her people, she is fearful and tries to find a way not to do it.  Not only is it prohibited for anyone to approach the king without an invitation, but also Esther will have to reveal her Jewish heritage, and will have to ask him to reverse a royal decree.  She hesitates. And then Mordechai challenges Esther with words that change history.  “Who knows,” he says to her, “whether it was just for such a moment that you attained this royal position.”  Esther is emboldened and acts; she – like Mordechai – goes from being a mere person to a person who shifts history.  And, the Jewish people – on the verge of total annihilation – are saved.  A key lesson of Purim is that each and every one of us needs to be like Mordechai.  When alerted to danger, we can’t ever just close our eyes and hope for the best.  Every one of us has the power to change even a royal decree.  But, if each of us needs to be like Mordechai, we also all need to be like Esther, to overcome our shyness, our fear, even our love of comfort and to call out to those in power who can be our partners in saving us – and them, too – from an awful result.  When we reach out to others in our own communities and urge them to join this essential work, we are like Mordechai.  And when we raise our voices to our elected officials and educate them to see how our fight is their fight, then we are all like Esther.


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