Bibi in DC: Purim All Over Again

Yesterday on my trip back from the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington DC, I was thinking back on the events of the past few days, and on the upcoming holiday of Purim. I had just heard (on TV, not in Congress) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deliver his historic speech before the US Congress. This speech was controversial because some felt –Jews and non-Jews that he went to congress without the approval of the President of the United States. Some felt it was controversial because he openly spoke out against the current policies of the President of the United States in his negotiations with Iran over their nuclear weapons program. And yet Bibi pushed forward and delivered his speech despite these objections because he believes that Israel is in mortal danger, and that if the deal being proposed by President Obama with Iran goes through that the very existence of Israel will be in jeopardy because this bad deal will allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. The religious leader of Persia, Ayatolla Khamenei has vowed the destruction of Israel, and is actively trying to achieve the means to follow through on his threat by pursuing the development of nuclear weapons.

Our Jewish tradition reminds us that this is not the first time that the rulers of Persia have vowed to destroy the Jewish people. Over two thousand five hundred years ago the viceroy of Persia, Haman devised a plot to destroy the Jewish people with the sanction of King Ahashverus. And to prevent this genocide from occurring, Mordechai, one of the Jewish leaders had to take a stand. He had to go against popular opinion. He would not bow down to Haman, inciting his ire. Then he had to implore Ester, the Queen of Persia who had hidden her Jewish identity to seek an audience with the King even though she was not invited. Then Ester would have to openly speak out against the newly adopted policy of the King to prevent a massive attack against the Jewish people.

The genocidal danger against the Jewish people coming out of Persia, Jewish leaders having to take a stand and act in a way which might get people upset, to speak out in a way which is unpopular and would have detractors, and to take a stand with the non-Jewish leaders to get them to change their policy, does any of this sound familiar? This is the story of Purim in the Book of Ester, and it is the story of Purim 2015. Our Torah tells us that the confluence of events in our lives and in the world is not coincidence. We learn from the Megilat Ester that the Almighty directs the events in the unfolding of the destiny of the Jewish people and in the world to help bring about the salvation of the Jewish people and of righteousness. The fact that Netanyahu’s speech to Congress came the day before Purim is no coincidence –it was planned to coincide with his appearance at AIPAC policy conference. But it perhaps there is deeper plan, a plan by the Almighty to send us a powerful message. There are moments when we need to speak out and to take a stand even when it might be unpopular or even dangerous –to stand up to evil and call on others to do so as well, as Mordechai and Ester did in ancient Persia, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did yesterday in the United States Congress, and as each of us need to do with our elected representatives and those will hear our message. And we also need to turn to the Almighty to ask for His help to continue to direct the unfolding of events to help us be victorious over our enemies like when Ester asked the Jews to fast and pray. Today is the fast of Ester, which commemorates Ester’s call to the Jewish people to fast and pray for G-d’s help in the success of her plan to save the Jewish people. It is a wake-up call for us on this Purim to realize the danger facing Israel and the world, and to remember that our celebration and prayers on this Purim and our prayers and the vehicle through which we merit the salvation of the Jews of Israel against our evil Persian enemies. Happy Purim!

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