Friday, February 26, 2010

Obama Administration and Iran--A Purimspiel

Dare we add that the civilized world, led by the United States, appears to be failing the test?

Some 2433 years ago, King Achashverosh, Ruler of the Persian Empire, comprising 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia, was persuaded by his Grand Vizier, Haman, to issue a decree of extermination against the Jews. The entire Jewish world population at the time resided under his rule. As related in Megillat Esther, the Book of Esther, neither Achashverosh, nor Haman knew that Queen Esther herself was a Jew, the niece (and according to Jewish tradition the wife) of Mordechai, the leader of Persia's Jewish community. In an incredible turnabout of events, (clearly orchestrated by divine will, although the Book of Esther is the only book of the Bible in which no mention of God occurs), Esther and Mordechai foil the plan to exterminate their people, Haman is hung on the very gallows he built for Mordechai, and the Jews take arms and destroy their enemies on the day that Haman had chosen by casting lots ("purim") for the genocide of the Jews. On Saturday night and Sunday Jews around the world will celebrate Purim by reading and hearing the Book of Esther, making gifts of money to the poor, sending gifts of food to their neighbors, and feasting.

One month later we will read the Pesach (Passover) hagadah at our seders. The hagadah tells us that Pharoah and Haman were not isolated incidents, but rather "in every generation [our enemies] have risen up to destroy us, but the Holy One, Blessed be He, has saved us from their hands." Certainly today as well the Jewish people have no dearth of enemies who wish to destroy them. Foremost of these is the Iranian Islamic regime led by the Achashverosh and Haman of our time, supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who only this week regaled his hosts in Damascus, Syria with a description of a new Middle East without Israel.

In response, as recounted in today's Jewish Daily Forward, the Obama Administration is pressuring Israel to refrain from military attacks against Iranian nuclear weapons development facilities, even while it has once again extended its deadline for implementing stronger economic sanctions against Iran.

One custom of Purim is to put on "Purimspiels," farcical plays. The feckless efforts of the Obama Administration to curb the Iranian nuclear program would be a fitting subject for a Purimspiel, except that the situation is too dire to be funny.

When Mordechai told Esther she must go to King Achashverosh and beg for her people's lives, she hesitated. The King had secluded himself in his inner court, and had not called her into his presence for 30 days. For anyone, even the Queen, to come before him in the inner court without having been summoned, "there is one law for him ... that he is put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter."

The Obama Administration would do well to heed Mordechai's response to Esther: "If you remain silent at this time, then relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from some other place, but you and your father's house will perish; and who knows whether if it was not for a time like this that you came to power?"

Happy Purim!

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