The Invitation of Our Destruction
The Invitation of Our Destruction
Picture this: A fancy letter, in curvy font. An exclusive privilege. An invitation to the Royal Ball! The King himself signs his name, and he wants YOU to attend.
To go or not to go, that is the question.
Of course it sounds like a Purim shpeil about the famous party of Achashverosh. The party we attended, despite the great sage’s strong warning. The party for which the decree of our annihilation was sealed and signed. But is this what it’s soley about?
It was no secret that the great 7 day Shushan feast flaunted the impurities of foreign gods, with the trophies from our holy Temple so gallantly displayed. The king dressed in garb of the our holy Head Priest flamboyantly reminded everyone of his rulership over Judea.
I wonder; in modern times, would big green trees with pretty bright lights bare any parallel to the ancient, tactfully-decorated-molten images which represented foreign religions and gods?
Of course kosher food was provided. The religious Jews in Shushan would never dream of eating treif, just as they would never dream of attending on Shabbat Kodesh. Yet what about the laws of Shulchan Aruch about mixing with Gentiles, and breaking bread with them in order to forge relationships? What about the passages in pirkei avot that warn us not to get too cozy with policians? How was that justified? As a simple Jew of the 21st century, I’ve always wondered what exactly compelled the Jews in Shushan to attend such an event.
This past year I finally understood:
It had been nearly 70 years since the destruction of Judea. The land was under different rule. Babylon had been taken over by Persia, and that meant a new era for the Jews.
Now all were equal. Achashverosh did not discriminate. In order to show our gratitude for this we NEEDED to attend! How would it look if we rejected the King’s personal invitation?
Bumping into a Supreme Court Justice at the “spread” afforded Jewish leaders to advocate in an informal setting… Members of Congress and a myriad of prominent officials were mingling around allowing for relationships to be formed.
Because, for those that know, the value of these encounters, as fleeting as they are, often create the conditions for concrete conversations at a mutually convenient time.
The askanim in Shushan were there for OUR sake! Imagine if they had such a privileged invitation to the Egyptian royal banquet 80 years prior. It’s documented all over Tanach that the closest country we had to an ally prior to the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar was Egypt. What a great shame we could not consolidate such a fine personal connection with Pharoh.
An askan in Shushan probably said the following to his friend and the rest of the people regarding Mordechai’s strong warning not to attend:
I am actually amazed at the level of chutzpah of anyone who can spurn the sacred duty of anyone who professes a prominent role in [our country’s] Jewish life.
The Persian Jewish askanim explained:
It is precisely our duty as responsible Jewish leaders to be able to set aside (as difficult as that can be) our profound differences so that we can break bread with those very officials that can impact the quality of life our collective constituents.
The Persians rule the world now, the Jewish people figured.
Jewish leaders felt compelled to strengthen their relationship with the king. It was no secret that the king held the Jewish wisdom and opinions in high esteem. After all, it was the Jews from whom he first sought advise when the Queen disobeyed him.
The Jews of Shushan believed that if they attended, and showed solidarity with the king, he would protect them when villains like Hitler, oops I mean Haman, stood up against us.
But hindsight is 20/20. If only the Jews of Shushan would have placed their trust in the Tzadik…
Since they didn’t, however, we now have the joyous holiday of Purim. Better yet, we have been left with a rich history and lessons of life to learn from it. Megilat Esther was included in the 24 books of Tanach not because it makes a nice bed time story for kids, nor because it has all the criteria for an exciting theatrical performance.
It’s there lidorei doros-for all generations. It’s there for all Jews.
Even the ones not important enough to merit a personal invitation to the White House.
Ps. All the text in bold italics are the direct quotes of a Washington DC based American Jewish politician in an article titled “Chanuka at the White House A Sacred Duty to Attend” from an online news outlet which features photos of well known Rabbic figures mingled among high profile American politicians with many green and red seasonal holiday decorations in the background.
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