Purim Lessons for Our Support of Israel


By Saul Golubcow

Purim arrives on the evening of March 23. I anticipate being transported back to my childhood nights when, as part of structured chaos surrounding the Megillat Esther reading, I frolicked with abandon, not a shush to be heard from adults, and even encouraged to sip schnapps and wine.

As I grew older, I paid more attention to what we are celebrating. More than just a grogger-drowned mockery of and joy over the defeat of evil Haman, we gather to express gratitude for and learn from one symbolic victory in the millennia-long struggles against genocidal anti-Jewishness.

This year, the connection of Purim to Israel and modern anti-Jewishness comes easily. The threat to Jewish survival in the Purim story occurred in ancient Persia. Prior to Oct. 7, for decades, Israel has been threatened with annihilation by Iran (modern day Persia) and assailed by Iran’s proxies such as Hamas and Hezbollah. But beyond this surface connection, the Purim story teaches us lessons in both understanding relentless anti-Jewish evil and how we must oppose it in union with Israel, the current anti-Jewish focal point.

The first imperative is unequivocally identifying the evil. The Purim story makes it easy by presenting a cardboard, maniacal figure in Haman who, as an advisor to the king, has one agenda: the destruction of the Jews. We know nothing more about Haman besides his having an equally hateful wife and supportive sons. As Megillah listeners, we fear him and fear for Jewish survival. We are also determined to defeat him.

The Oct. 7 barbaric assault on Israel that killed families, the elderly and infants was not a singular evil act but a devastating representation of the genocidal intent that Israel’s enemies have openly expressed since the restoration of our homeland in 1948. Israel’s enemies are today’s Hamans in their maniacal anti-Jewish motivation. They are adamant that not only must the Jewish state not be recognized, but it also must be erased. On Oct. 7, we came face-to-face with this evil. We saw how intent became reality.

How do we react? The Megillah presents us with Jewish heroes upon whom we can model our behavior. Mordechai carries the emotional weight of the genocidal threat. He is afraid, weary, and we feel his desperation. But he realizes he must act and even places his relative, Esther, in danger by her marrying the mercurial King Ahasuerus.

We feel both the emotional tension and courage in Esther willing to take a desperate personal gambit to save the Jews when she tells Mordechai: “I know it is against the law to go to the king if he didn’t call me, but I will do it anyway. If I die, I die.”

We have taken this model to heart. We admire the courage of the young soldiers who are fighting for Israel’s survival. We admire the thousands of IDF reservists who rushed back to Israel to serve after Oct. 7.

We admire the volunteers from the Washington area and around the world who traveled to Israel to support its infrastructure. We admire the Jewish clergy and organizations who have unequivocally come out in support of Israel and against the anti-Jewish sentiments unveiled after Oct. 7.

That there is moral clarity and a clear differentiation between good and genocidal evil comprise an eternal Purim lesson. For Haman and Israel’s enemies today, their genocidal hatred and attacks are baseless and furious.

For Mordechai and Israel, their actions are defensive and desperate. Toward the end of the Megillah, we are told that even after Haman’s execution, the Jews were faced with a war in which sadly thousands were killed. Might the Purim story be asking: When faced with annihilation, is there virtue in a restrained response? Does virtue exist if genocide succeeds?

As we sit in our homes watching Israel’s response to its enemies’ assaults and depredations, should we not think of Israel’s fate the same way Mordechai thought of the threat to his Jewish people when he challenged Esther in her queenly status? “Don’t think that you will escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews.” Might the eruption in our country of anti-Jewish sentiments post Oct. 7 be indicative of this admonition?

Saul Golubcow writes from Potomac, MD. A previous version of this article appeared in the Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County Scroll.

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