Friday, March 21, 2008

What Changed?

Cross posted on JoeSettler.

As I’m reading the Megillah, something in the story really began to bother me.

Something quite scary.

What actually changed in the end?

Mordechai did nothing more than send out an official letter to the Jews that they should defend themselves against the oncoming onslaught.


Does this mean the Jews were not going to defend themselves?

Were they were going to be good, quiet citizens and go like sheep to the slaughter?
Were they were going to let Amalek kassams arrows rain down on their heads?
Were they so afraid to go against the goyim, the authorities or the establishment?

I think the answer is yes, they were not going to defend themselves.

I think the Jews of Purim were going to passively participate in their own destruction.

Perhaps no different than when we waited on the shores of Yam Suf (millions of people, armed to the teeth) while a mere few hundred Egyptian chariots chased after them (or other historical events of more recent vintage).

Perhaps that is an important message of Purim (and Chanukah too for that matter, though Purim really shows how far it goes).

The message here is that the Jews as a group always have the ability to defend ourselves. What we lack is the will .

Nothing changed in Mordechai’s message, except they suddenly got permission from the authorities to not die passively.

Why did they need that “permission”?

They didn’t, but they thought they did, just like we thought we did in so many other recent and historical attacks against our people. Just like we think today.

Perhaps we need a “leader” to rally around as a group. But perhaps not, as we saw Esther was willing to play her role as an individual (with the spiritual backup of the nation).

Mordechai certainly wasn’t leading the revolt directly (so it seems), but he did stand up (literally) for what was right.

We as individuals have to do the right thing when it comes to protecting our nation, and we as a group can not be afraid to fully and completely defend ourselves against our enemies.

Only after the Jews absolutely defend themselves, do we suddenly we see Bush Achashverosh and his empire giving our nation the healthy respect (and fear) we deserve.

In short, nothing changed before or after Mordechai’s letter, only our internal perception of the events and our ability to change our environment and future.

That is my lesson to you this Purim.

Chag Sameach.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד


Anonymous said...

Or perhaps, Achashverosh' letter gave the Jews "international legitimacy" for their self-defense. They had always had enemies - "oyveihem" and "soneihem". But now, through negotiations with the king, they received permission to defeat their enemies without having the international power(s) intervene to help the other side. Beforehand, resorting to armed defense would have been truly suicidal. Now, as Mordechai was clear-headed enough to understand, the conditions were right for self-defence.

So you see, the megillah actually supports the peace camp.

Gila said...

Hmmmm....both of you have really interesting points. I will be mulling over this all day.

All I can think about when I read the Megillah is that a young girl (maybe 13 or 14?) was stripped of her identity and sent off to what was a very dangerous place (them harems were hotbeds of intrigue) with instructions to seduce the king. And we praise Mordechai for this.

One of these days, I would love to write a novel about this.... The story through Esther's eyes.

Ben Bayit said...

Read Ruth Wisse's "Jews and Power" and her earlier essay on the same topic in Azure.

Commenter Abbi said...

I have a vague memory of hearing somewhere that it was forbidden for the Jews in the kingdom to defend themselves. It was also forbidden for Ach. to reneg on his decree to kill the Jews, which is why put out the decree for the Jews to defend themselves, rather than just canceling the decree to attack them altogether.

Why is it so shocking to you that Jews weren't going to defend themselves? Do you ask the same questions of the European Jews when the Nazis came for them? The chances that the Jews had their own militias and even had the arms to defend themselves were slim to none. They were living in EXILE. They had some governing autonomy, but it's unlikely they had an extensively trained underground army waiting right there.

Commenter Abbi said...

Seriously, instead of projecting your own politics on the story, I think you'd be better off doing a bit of study of Jewish communities at that time to make a coherent comment on the story. At the very least, talk to someone who is studying or has studied this time period.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Abbi: I agree! Joe - Abbi's thrown a serious challenge in your direction.

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