FROM THE RABBI’S DESK – TETZAVEH-
The proliferation of bomb threats against JCCs and other Jewish institutions across North America serves as a reminder that the descendants of Amalek are alive and well. As we enter the period of Purim celebration, we take note of the followers of Haman who have been unleashed in the last couple of months continuing their hateful actions against our people, ironically at a time when a recent American poll identified the Jewish people as the most admired community in the United States.
One key word we read from Parshat Zachor that really reflects accurately the actions of modern day anti-Semites is the term used to describe the method used by Amalek in attacking the Jews. The word, Vayezanev, indicating that the Amalekites ambush the Israelites, is derived from the Hebrew root, zanav, referring to the tail of an animal. The Amalekites attack from behind rather than frontally. The bomb threat emailer or caller attacks the Jewish community from behind through the commission of these hoaxes with the intent of terrorizing the Jews.
At a time that the Jewish people are enjoying the pleasures and gifts of North American society, the anti-Semite arises to remind them that all is not as it seems. Rashi comments on this attack by the Amalekites that until the attack of Amalek, nations were reluctant to confront the Hebrews. The anti-Semites’ actions demonstrate the vulnerability of the Jewish people. We must therefore remain vigilant.
The book of Esther declares that the Jews of the Persian Empire at first lived in the la-la land of Persia where wine was plentiful and good times were had by all. The Jews were comfortable in Shushan and elsewhere. However, it takes a Haman to expose the weakness of the comfortable Jewish community.
As we know, Haman meets his downfall at the hands of Esther and Mordechai. The Jews celebrate but must remain vigilant in meeting and defeating Haman’s cohorts across the Persian Empire who wish to carry out his plan to exterminate the Jews. It is interesting to note that many commentaries indicate that the Jews fast prior going to battle against their enemies, as an indication that the upcoming battle is not only of the body, but of the spirit as well. The Jews have to return to their spiritual roots, engage in a process of teshuvah, or repentance. They must finally accept their mission of being a holy people.
Indeed, the rabbis of the Talmud commenting on the phrase that the Jews accepted and fulfilled what was expected of them, actually refers to a recommitment to obey the word of G-d. The anti-Semites of the time revealed that the Jews were a unique people with its own laws and ways. They are reminding us again today. We fervently hope, that as Haman was defeated, so too will those who wish us harm today.
Chag Purim Sameach.