For the week ending 3 March 2007 / 13 Adar I 5767

Persia, Purim and Peace - A Torah View of the Iranian Threat

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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"An atomic shelter is to be constructed near the entrance to Jerusalem which can accommodate tens of thousands of the capital's residents and visitors without proper shelters."

This report in the local media brought home the threat of nuclear attack to the Israeli public perhaps more effectively than all of the ranting of the dangerous dictator in Teheran about "wiping Israel off the map".

Persia – the Iran of today – is very much on our minds these days, not only because of that country's continued development of a nuclear capacity in defiance of international pressure. Ancient Persia was the power base of the Amalekite Haman who plotted to wipe all of Jewry off the map of the 127 countries of that world-spanning empire. We recall that genocidal plot on Purim as we celebrate the Divine miracle that foiled it.

In order to learn from the Persian problem of old as to how we can solve the Persian problem of today, we must follow the lead of those Talmudic scholars who asked their teacher, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, why Jews in the time of Mordechai and Esther deserved to be faced with a threat of extinction.

The students suggested that this was retribution for the sin of the Jews in Shushan participating in the feast of King Achashverosh that trumpeted the heathen hope that the Beit Hamikdash would not be rebuilt. The teacher, however, offered a much more encompassing explanation based on the perfidious bowing of an earlier generation to a pagan statue.

The bottom line of this Talmudic dialogue is that believing Jews do not seek political explanations for the troubles that confront our nation. They try instead to analyze where they have gone wrong in their relationship with G-d.

This was the reaction in days of old to the "final solution to the Jewish problem" proposed by Haman and approved by a conspiring monarch. Queen Esther asked Mordechai to gather all the Jews for fasting, prayer and repentance, and this is what achieved the miracle we celebrate on Purim.

The encounter with Haman was not the first confrontation with the Amalekite nation. On the Shabbat before Purim we read those few sentences in the Torah known as Parshat Zachor, which call upon us to recall the treacherous attack perpetrated by Amalek on our weary ancestors on their way out of Egypt.

This attack too, say our Sages, was the result of our ancestors slipping in their faith in Divine Providence. We won that war with Amalek only because the uplifted arms of Moshe inspired his people to look upwards to Heaven and place their fate in the hands of G-d.

Amalek is the very personification of evil and G-d has commanded us to wipe that nation off the map of the world. This will only be achieved with the coming of Mashiach. The current threat from Persia must be viewed as a Heavenly reminder to analyze where we, as a nation and as individuals, have gone wrong and to return to G-d. Only then will Jews in Israel and everywhere else be truly secure and able to live in peace.

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