Tuesday, Jun 18, 2024

Rise Up Shushan

Last week in Congress, the seat of the world’s oldest and most powerful democracy, outright Jew-hatred led to a joke of a resolution protesting anti-Semitism. The majority party was afraid that it would tick off three or more first-year congresswomen. The Democrat party is increasingly moving left, under the leadership of progressives. Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, AOC, refers to herself as “the boss” of Congress, and the old-school party bosses run scared.

Since the time of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jews have overwhelmingly been voting Democrat. Perhaps the embarrassing watered-down resolution last week against all forms of hatred ought to have opened their eyes to the current face and direction of the party. The Jewish big-shots who run the committees, such as Nadler, Lowey and Engel, thought that they would formulate another of many meaningless congressional resolutions and everyone would vote for it and they would move on. They would offer some platitudes against anti-Semitism and everyone would vote for the statement. Instead, leading presidential contenders, such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, followed the newly-minted progressives and refused to support a simple boiler-plate resolution against anti-Semitism.

After a fierce debate, the party adulterated the statement, did not mention the offending congresswoman, and omitted the obvious – that she is not deserving of sitting on important committees. There was a statement, Congress approved it, and then they were able to go back to whatever it is that they do.

What does it say about our time that the Democrat Party cannot stand up to a freshie member of Congress who drips with Jew-hatred?

It is now over seventy years since the Holocaust, and it is again in style to mock and curse Jews in the halls of power around the democratic world. We have become accustomed to European Jew-hatred over the years, but in America? The bastion of freedom that is home to millions of Jews? The country that brought down Nazism, communism and fascism? The bulwark of democracy since its founding almost 250 years ago? That America is now becoming a place where Jews feel uncomfortable, harkens back to the days we thought would never be seen again.

Ilhan Omar, the offending congresswomen, isn’t shying away from the hubbub she created. “I am certainly not looking to be comfortable, and I don’t want everyone necessarily to feel comfortable around me,” she said with a mischievous smile tugging at her lips. “I think really the most exciting things happen when people are extremely uncomfortable.”

The Jews are feeling uncomfortable? Good. They should.

The charges against the Jews are nothing new, though thankfully what is new is that in times gone by, such scape-goating would be followed by pogroms, mass murder and pillaging. Today, so far, the calls are empty.

It is not only in Washington that this is going on. It is happening in many other places where there are large percentages of Jews. Groups of gentiles band together and claim that the Jews are kicking them out of their homes and neighborhoods. The Jews don’t obey the laws, they claim. The Jews are dirty, unpatriotic and disrespectful, they allege. “We need to stop them,” they cry. “We need to keep them out of the neighborhoods that belong to us.”

Throughout our history, we have encountered this animosity. Although there have been times when the hatred was delicately concealed, it is currently becoming more in vogue and acceptable to bash Jews. It has become acceptable for celebrities and icons to express their open hatred. While they couch their rhetoric in words of sympathy for the poor Palestinians, the truth emanates. They couldn’t care less about the Palestinians. They just hate Jews. Once again, Jews in Europe cower and seek escape routes, a chilling reminder of seventy years ago.

The Left battles Israel at every opportunity, offering nonsensical, hypocritical excuses for their anti-Semitism. Much of the modern anti-Semitism is depicted as anti-Zionism, though the folly is obvious. Jews fight for their safety and are condemned. Millions of Jews were driven to their deaths from those very countries in which anti-Semites currently flex their muscles.

Anti-Semitism morphs to fit with the times. The age-old hatred for the Jewish nation adopts different slogans and chants, but at the heart of it all is the same old hatred for Yitzchok by Yishmoel, and Yaakov by Eisov and Lavan.

Whether it’s under the guise of blaming the Jews for spreading the plague, or drinking human blood, as in the days of old, or cloaked in humanitarian vestments, hate is hate.

In Europe, a continent soaked with Jewish blood, it is in vogue to knock Jews, demonstrate against them, accuse them of the vilest crimes, and create an atmosphere reminiscent of the darkest days of Jewry that many believed we would never return to.

The eis tzorah is palpable in England, where Jews were burned alive; in Paris, where the Talmud was lit up and destroyed; in Germany, home of Kristallnacht and the Holocaust; Poland, home of the crematoria; Austria, birthplace of Hitler; and many other places.

We recognize that we suffer persecution and discrimination because we are Jews. The world’s hatred of the Jew is not derived from their concern about human rights violations or political decisions.

Next week, we will read the Megillah and recognize, in the words of Haman, the same rhetoric we hear now. “Rise up Shushan,” he yelled (3:8). “There is a people spread among us, and they are spreading all over…” What he was saying was, “They don’t follow the laws, they aren’t productive, and there is no reason to keep them around.”

Haman spoke the language of today. He spoke the language of thousands of years of Jew-haters and race-baiters.

What we hear today is nothing new. The Megillah teaches us how to deal with the Hamans of the day.

Today, we read the news, and hear the threats, and wonder how to respond. Do we show panic? Do we act senselessly? Do we threaten in return? Do we quickly capitulate?

Since Har Sinai, we have been cast apart from other nations, despised, reviled, stomped on and murdered. Miraculously, we have endured. How have we succeeded?

Public servants who believe they can act as they please, without considering all the ramifications of their utterances, speeches, votes and threats, cause further harm to our people and further jeopardize our peaceful existence here.

Esther Hamalka occupied the second highest position in the land, but she had no agenda of her own. The queen’s every action and reaction was dictated by Mordechai. Laypeople see the world differently than people steeped in Torah. Very often, politicians, by their very nature, have a different outlook on their job and responsibilities. When the going is tough, they seek to portray strength, showing their constituents back home that they are defenders of the faith and the people, though at that time what might be necessary to ride out the storm is subtlety and intelligence. Mordechai should be the one who gets to decide the proper course. Rabbonim need to be consulted and the issues discussed with them.

In golus, it is not always prudent to flash muscle. Sometimes, we need to go along in order to survive. But it is Mordechai who gets to decide when to act this way and when to act that way. Very often, Mordechai is not popular.

Back in Shushan, all the Jews partook in the feast of Achashveirosh. Besides that it was quite a ball, they reasoned that they had to show that they were loyal citizens. As far as we know, only Mordechai was opposed to participating. Only Mordechai chastised the Jewish people for eating out of vessels of the Bais Hamikdosh. But he was mocked and nobody listened to him.

The Jews were punished for attending Achashveirosh’s feast and Haman accused them of being disloyal to the king, despite the fact that they were at the grand party. They rationalized that it was necessary to be there, but their reasoning was faulty and it backfired on them.

As we read and study the Megillah, we assume that we would have been righteous, learned and intelligent enough to go against the flow and follow Mordechai. The fact is, the vast majority of the Jewish people viewed Mordechai as a misguided negative cynic.

When Haman was appointed arch-minister and the entire nation bowed to him, Mordechai refused and forbade doing so. Once again, he was mocked and vilified by the Jewish people who accused him of putting their lives in jeopardy. He was unmoved. He wouldn’t budge. And it was the obstinacy of Mordechai that led to the salvation of the Jewish people.

We are accused of not caring about our children. The government, in numerous venues, alleges that religious Jews act in ways that jeopardize their children. To self-appointed spokesmen and to other amei ha’aretz, the response may seem simple, but it never is.

To merit a neis, we must follow the path of Torah. Quite often, that requires putting aside our own thoughts and comforts.

Of course, at all times, we should question our own conduct and ensure that when others observe Jews, they see a nation of princes. They should see people of distinction, manners, class and concern for others, people who are mekadshei sheim Hashem. That won’t change the way Ilhan Omar, or the Jersey haters, or the Rockland bigots, or the many other Hamanists out there view us, but it will help the way we look at others, bring us together, and make us more worthy of Heavenly blessings and miracles.

Purim is the Yom Tov of hester, celebrating that Hashem is looking out for us, even when we don’t see Him and the Divine is covered by the morass of golus. Instead of fixating on the negatives, let’s look at the positives in life and concentrate on them.

Purim reminds us that there is no happenstance, and even when all appears lost, triumph is just around the corner.

Purim reminds us that with proper faith and devotion, no matter how rough the trip is, the end will be bright and cheery.

Purim is the day when we consume enough wine – ad delo yoda – that we recognize that we cannot make the right calculations, figure everything out, and determine the proper course of action on our own, but must trust in Hashem and know that He will help us.

Lechaim. Stop worrying. Kein tihiyeh lonu orah vesimcha vesasson vikor.




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