Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Purim - A Religious Zionism Renaissance

R. Chaim Jachter (link):

Mordechai observed this appalling lack of Jewish nationalism and set Am Yisrael on a course to correct the situation. The first was refusing to bow to Haman, despite the protests of other Jewish leaders (see the Midrash cited in the Torah Sh’leimah 17:21). Apparently, Mordechai was the only Jew who refused to bow to Haman. Other Jews acted as loyal and happy citizens of Shushan and obeyed the King’s edict to bow to Achashveirosh.

Subsequently, when Mordechai rose to power he secured four major nationalistic achievements for the Jews in the Persian Empire. First, was that Hebrew became a recognized language of the Persian Empire. Note that when Haman issued his decrees (Esther 3:12) he did not issue his decree in Hebrew even though he had the decree translated into all of the languages of the many lands controlled by the Persian Empire. On the other hand, when Mordechai issued his decree the Megillah emphasizes (8:9) that the Jews were sent their version of the decree in Hebrew.

Mordechai’s second achievement was the creation of a Jewish army whose legitimacy was recognized by the Persian Empire. Moreover, the Persian Empire granted the Jewish army the right to launch preemptive actions against its enemies (see Esther 8:11 and the Da’at Mikra commentary). Individuals enjoy the right to defend themselves but do not enjoy the right to attack preemptively. Only nations have the right to attack preemptively. Thus, the Persian Empire authorized us to act as a nation in their battle against their enemies, with the imprimatur of the Persian Empire...

Mordechai’s third achievement to advance Jewish nationalism was obtaining the right to punish war criminals, namely the ten sons of Haman. Rav Meidan suggested that the ten sons of Haman were hung because they were commanders of the bands of Jew haters who sought to kill defenseless women and children (see Da’at Mikra to Esther 9:9 for a similar approach). Thus, it was of singular importance to hang these ten sons to serve as a warning to potential leaders of Jewish persecution.

Mordechai’s fourth achievement was the establishment of a new holiday in part to celebrate the renaissance of Jewish nationalism that arose in the wake of Haman’s decrees. Interestingly, we find in the ninth chapter of Megillat Esther some resistance among Jews to the establishment of Purim as a permanent holiday. Indeed, Mordechai and Esther had to send a second set of letters to the Jews to secure universal acceptance of Purim among Jews. It is possible that the resistance stemmed from concern that the establishment of a new holiday violates the prohibition of Bal Tosif, adding to the Torah’s commandments (see Megillah 14a for support for this suggestion). Nevertheless, in the end the proponents of establishing Purim as a permanent holiday “won the day”.

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