By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried
What do you think about Netanyahu’s speech coming out in such close proximity to Purim? I’ve been concerned — even having a sense of foreboding — about something so confrontational happening so close to a Jewish holiday; in the past, as we sadly know, anti-Semites would use Jewish holidays as times to lash out at the Jews. Any comments?
— Margie P.
The Talmud and Jewish law state that if a Jew has litigation against a Gentile, the preferred time to schedule that litigation is during the month of Adar, the month in which Purim falls. That is based upon the verse that the miracle of Purim, in which “v’nahafoch hu,” that the evil decrees against us were transformed into positive decrees for us; this belongs specifically to the month of Adar.
The month of Adar would seem to be an ominous one for the Jews, as it was the month of the death of Moses, and for that reason the evil Haman was overjoyed that the lottery to kill the Jews fell out on this month. What he did not seem to know or be cognizant of is that it is also the month of Moses’ birth; what seems to be ominous is actually a blessing. Haman, like the radical Muslims of today that focus on the glorification of death, only noticed that Moses died during this month. The value of birth and life were lost upon him. In truth, however, our belief is that the primary focus is upon life; “choose life!” exclaims the Torah. His decree was subject to the ultimate reversal; the very same tree he prepared for the hanging of Mordechai was instead used to hang himself. The day of Purim, which was originally decreed to be a day of the annihilation of the Jews, was transformed into a day of the destruction of our enemies and a redemption for the Jews.
I am not going to comment upon the propriety or the lack thereof of Netanyahu’s speech to Congress; I will leave that to the political analysts, one of whom I am not. We do know that, on one hand, the White House has been, to say the least, not the most supportive of this speech, nor have many in the Democratic camp, potentially endangering the historical bipartisan support of Israel. That situation is not a good one. Neither is allowing a potentially disastrous vote to take place, which may leave Iran with nuclear breakout potential, without an expert in the matter like the Prime Minister of Israel voicing his warning before the Congress of the country who could make a difference. So, the jury is out for others not of my ilk to decide. I will say, however that if it needed to happen, there could not be a Jewishly better time than the days leading up to Purim!
This is not the first time our people have been in mortal danger such as that proposed by modern-day Iran. It is, indeed, fascinating that today’s Iran is actually the same country in which the Purim story took place, the country of Persia. That the first attempted “final solution” was in precisely the same place which is attempting it, by their own declaration, today. One may even say it’s quite “Iranic”!
I, with my family, merited to be of those donning gas masks and hunkering down in sealed rooms during the first Gulf War. When that war broke loose, we were made to be convinced we would face chemical warfare, and experienced the terror of placing our small children into “gas cribs” and child-masks. The war was finally over, with the defeat of Iran’s nemesis Saddam Hussein, on…the day before Purim! I wrote a column some time ago entitled “Gas Masks and Purim Masks.” It was so clear at the time that we had, again, in our times, experienced a Purim miracle. That is the meaning of the blessing we recite on Purim and Chanukah, “…Who performs miracles, in those times…and in our times.”
With our Jewish trust in G-d and joyous celebration of His miracles, we will continue to overcome our present dangers, further testimony to the timeless nature of the Jewish people. Purim Sameach!
Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.