This month, Jews will celebrate the holiday of Purim. As Chabad explains, Purim “commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from Haman’s plot ‘to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day,’ as recorded in the Megillah (book of Esther).”
In essence, the story of Purim, in part, revolves around Haman’s blatant anti-Semitism. While the story took place many years ago, Jews must always remain vigilant to the warning signs of anti-Semitism or anti-Jewish/Israel sentiment, take appropriate action to defeat it when necessary and avoid taking steps to enable it.
The story of Purim reads like a fairytale. King Ahasuerus arranged for a beauty pageant to find a new queen. Eventually, Esther became his wife, although she did not inform him that she was Jewish. At that time, the king appointed Haman as prime minister. Haman wanted Mordechai, who was the leader of the Jews, to bow down to him. Mordechai, who was also Esther’s cousin, refused to bow down to Haman, who subsequently convinced the king to enter a decree ordering the extermination of all of the Jews.
Mordechai learned of Haman’s decree and sent a message to Esther asking her to intercede for the Jewish people. This was risky because the king had not summoned Esther and she would be risking her life to approach the king in this manner. Esther demanded that Mordechai and all of the Jews repent, fast and pray before she spoke with the king. She eventually had several feasts with the king and Haman. At the second feast, she advised the king of the fact that she was Jewish and disclosed Haman’s plan to exterminate the Jewish people. As a result, and in an ironic twist, Haman was hanged using the gallows that he intended to use on the Jewish people. The king also issued a new decree permitting the Jews to defend themselves against their enemies.
While the events of Purim occurred many years ago, Jews must do their best to stop and prevent such hatred. According to an article in Reform Judaism, when Mordechai urged Esther to speak with the king despite the obvious risks, he posed the following question: “Who knows if you have not come to your position for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).”
In other words: “Mordecai really asks us all: Are we on this earth just to avoid trouble and enjoy life? Is our own comfort the primary purpose of our existence? Jewish tradition and the Book of Esther say, ‘No.'”
Esther could have lived out her life in luxury by ignoring the plight of our people. But Mordecai’s question pricked her conscience enough that she risked everything in an effort to save the Jews.
Like Esther, we all have moments when our action or inaction will make a vital difference. We can seize these moments or turn away from them. By swallowing her fear and seizing her moment, Esther inspires us all.
Mordechai’s message is equally applicable in today’s political climate, which calls on Jews and to make important, yet critical, decisions. It is no secret that Jews tend to support Democratic candidates. Moreover, Jews tend to focus their attention on social issues, which is one reason that they tend to support Democrats, whom they feel more closely align with the idea of derech eretz.
Sadly, while this might have been the foundation of the old-school and traditional Democratic party, the party has morphed and has shifted dramatically to the left. Tangentially, recent political events have raised red flags that should convince Democratic Jews to pay close attention, to seriously reconsider their political alliances and to walk away. Like Esther, the right choice is obvious, yet difficult, given their long-lasting allegiance to the Democratic party. They have a choice to seize the moment and walk away or to stay put and do nothing.
According to The Hill, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar recently suggested that U.S. supporters of Israel have an “allegiance to a foreign country.” Omar’s comments were blasted by many as being anti-Semitic because they alluded to the belief that anyone supportive of Israel harbors dual loyalty. Rather than signaling out Omar, some Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team, decided to draft a resolution that would condemn hate speech in general. Pelosi did not feel that Omar should be singled out for her comment, although Omar made comments earlier this year where she suggested that pro-Israel lobbying groups were buying lawmaker support for Israel.
Pelosi was not alone in defending Omar. According to an article in The Federalist, Democratic Whip Rep. James Clyburn, the third highest ranking Democrat in the House, defended Omar by reasoning that she is higher than Jews on the pyramid of intersectionality.
According to Clyburn: “Her experience is much more empirical — and powerful — than that of people who are generations removed from the Holocaust, Japanese internment camps during World War II and the other violent episodes that have marked history.
“I’m serious about that. There are people who tell me, ‘Well, my parents are Holocaust survivors.’ ‘My parents did this.’ It’s more personal with her. I’ve talked to her, and I can tell you she is living through a lot of pain.”
Sadly, this statement appears to insinuate that it is fine to dislike Jews based on when your “victimization” occurred. As set forth in The Federalist, “according to Clyburn’s logic, it’s OK to hate Jews if you rank higher than them on the hierarchy of victimhood.” Omar’s comments and Clyburn’s remarks are not sporadic or isolated, as discussed here, and should be concerning to Jews around the country.
The Democratic Party has changed. Many in the party have moved much further to the left and, sadly, Jews and the State of Israel are once again in the crosshairs. Should Jews who traditionally vote Democrat continue to do so despite the anti-Israel sentiment expressed by some in the party or should they reconsider their loyalty for the sake of the State of Israel and/or the Jewish people? Rabbi Michael Berk pointedly stated, “Purim teaches us: never forget that evil exists and that there are people who will, out of hatred, seek your destruction. Or, as Yossi Klein Halevy has taught: Don’t be naïve.”
The risks are simply too great!
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