Wednesday, February 22, 2012

PURIM & DEMOCRACY

Taken from a Chabad journal (הקריאה והקדושה) distributed by the Previous Rebbe, written in 1941. Though written 70 years ago, its lesson rings true and loud today too!

PURIM and DEMOCRACY

The importance of associating Purim with democracy is, unfortunately, not well enough known among Jews. If all of us realized the importance of this great association, things might have been different for us and we would not be in such difficulties as we are in today!

A well-known Jewish idiom has it, that Purim is no holiday and fever is no sickness. Wise men know that this is true. Fever by itself is no sickness, it is merely a forewarning of a disease that is about to appear. Likewise, Purim alone is no holiday, but a reminder of Jewish troubles that may come, and the riddance of which will call for a day of rejoicing!

Purim was given us, as our Purim-scroll relates, to immortalize the causes which led to the "fast-and-prayer" miserable days that the Jews had to go through, during the time of Mordechai and Esther, and to serve as a warning to avoid similar miseries in the future.

Perhaps this too, is the reason why "Hallel" is not said during prayer-time on Purim as it is upon all other holidays which commemorate miraculous escapes for us; Purim is a warning, not only the celebration of a miracle! A warning not to bring down the curse of another "Haman" and another planned massacre upon us, heaven forbid.

At this point, we come to the relationship between Purim and democracy; the cause that brought on the Haman of old was the overdone Jewish love for world democracy, overdone because it took the place of religion.

For the first time in world history, king Ahasuaerus introduced something new in the world. He realized that he had more to gain from his 127 conquered countries by permitting them to go scot free, granting them complete autonomy and demanding nothing but tribute in exchange for all this than by oppressing them, thus making it necessary for him to suppress all sorts of revolutions. Until this king's time conquerors usually laid waste to a good portion of the lands that they captured. The majority of the populations of these countries were forced to migrate to distant lands in order that they should not rise in revolt as they might have had the courage to if permitted to remain at home. Only the weak, the poor and the ignorant ones were allowed to remain, to till the soil and work in the vineyards. Later on, prisoners of other conquered nations were moved in, just as Nebuchadnezzar did in our hold land.

Ahasuaerus introduced a revolutionary idea. He called a meeting of the leaders of all the conquered lands, proclaimed the law that each country shall enjoy complete autonomy, speak its own language, worship its own idols, and revere its own customs - democracy in the full sense of the word for the entire empire with its 127 countries. All that these countries had to do to enjoy this was to contribute toward the upkeep of this empire - pay taxes to the apex of this structure, Persia.

In those days this was a sensational event, a most unusual, revolutionary idea. It meant an end to all wars, to all destruction; a united mankind, a united states of Asia without wars, destruction and the necessity for each country to arm itself. People would pay taxes and be assured of a happy life. Even paying to their idols for national protection would no longer be necessary.

To all outer appearances, the other countries rejoiced with this. Inwardly, however, they cherished the hope that at some future, opportune time, they would cast off the Persian yoke. Only the Jews rejoiced more than anyone else. They were convinced that the world was progressing and that it was becoming so highly civilized that there was no longer any need for their religion; it was time to forget about the Torah entirely and become like all other nations, for under a democratic system there is no longer any need for the Godly protection. In all events, Jews would benefit from all the freedoms and would have no reason to fear anyone.

The appearance of Haman upon the scene has demonstrated, however, that what was good for all the 127 countries was no good for Jews. In spite of all the democracy a pogrom was quickly prepared, to massacre all Jews, men women and children and all the 127 countries agreed to it wholeheartedly.

In order to avoid in the future a repetition of any great love on the part of the Jews for any world-salvation, which might even be good for all others, the festival of Purim was proclaimed. It simply means, that Jews must not rejoice too much with any new orders which might be introduced as the other nations do, with any new economic systems, or with any new political innovations. These may be good for all others, but not for Jews without Torah. You may be sure that somewhere a Haman will arise who will see to it that the Jews don't benefit from these new world-gains, and the end will be that conditions for them will become even worse under this system for world-betterment. They will eventually realize that without the Torah, without their own Jewish salvation, and without their own kosher Jewish foods, everything must go against them. They may defile their souls by eating forbidden foods at strangers' tables without any benefit for their bodies and the only end possible is - new Jewish delicacies with which to celebrate the miracle by which they escaped a new, bloody massacre!

Purim serves to remind us, therefore, of the bad aftertaste left in our mouths as a result of the first democratic order introduced into the world, an aftertaste from which our modern, present-day Jews refuse to learn the necessary lesson. The American democracy just like the one of old, has caused many a Jewish soul to become defiled by the eating of non-kosher foods; Jews have permitted themselves to be led astray by the same foolish idea that in a democratic country there is no longer any need for fearing God, heaven forbid, and that it is time to regard the Torah as something which has outlived its usefulness. The result of this is already visible. Here, too, there are 127 nations, immigrants from countries all over the globe and here too, hatred is preached against no group except the Jewish one. Anti-semitism in America is on the upgrade. The government has already realized this and is continually warning the population against the spreading of race-hatred, which all know means anti-semitism, the modern form of "Hamanism". Only the Jews who possess the thousands year old warning not to bring upon themselves a new Haman by defiling their souls with forbidden edibles and the adoption of foreign ideologies, refuse to face the truth, and stop to think what results such actions can bring, heaven forbid!

No one can deny that democracy in any land is a good blessed thing. It is also good for the Jews because under it they are freer to practice their own religion than in any of the cruel totalitarian countries. Democracy in all countries of the world, as the free allied countries are trying to establish by the sacrifice of so much blood, certainly is a step in the right direction for all mankind in general, but it will avail the Jews nothing if they will regard this as a substitute for their Godly Torah and religion! This was the great mistake which the Jews made during the reign of Ahasuaerus. They were overjoyed with the new democracy and stopped thinking seriously about their Torah and religion. Later, they paid dearly for the forbidden food that they ate by living through a terrifying period, waiting for the massacre which was prepared for them. This is why we were given the Purim festival, to serve as a warning to us, never to repeat the same mistake, and if it fails in its purpose, then the reason for celebrating that past miracle becomes a hollow one instead of a holy one, and only proves that we remained the same frivolous fools as then.

Still more tragic and painful is the light-heartedness with which the Torah is regarded today, when the champions of world-democracy have just begun their fight to establish that system in the world and while they themselves are still not sure whether they will win that war or not, and because just now the worst "Haman" of all is raging against us, and for the very reason that we have celebrated so many Purims by rejoicing too frivolously with world democracy!

Let the Purim sober us up from our "democracy versus religion idea", let's remember that democracy without Judaism is even worse than Judaism without democracy because the former brings new "fast and prayer" days, for life, heaven forbid! One day after the triumph for world-democracy, some newly freed countries will not be ashamed to proclaim openly that democracy was not meant for the Jews any more than they were ashamed to announce it in the time of Ahasuaerus.

Without strict adherence to the Torah and commandments the fate of the Jews is a lamentable one even in time of democracy, and this is what the Purim teaches us.

If the struggle for democracy all over should be won, it would mean that each nation could remain as it formerly was, speak its own language, and live its own life. Surely it can not mean just the reverse for the Jewish nation, that they should be led to assimilate and to become that which they are not and must not be!

Democracy or no democracy, here or everywhere Jews must primarily remain Jews and never abandon their Torah. On the contrary, those who have strayed from the camp must return at once, unless they want to celebrate a new Purim, which means that the anticipated new democracy will first have brought them a new miracle to get rid of a newly planned massacre for them, heaven forbid!

The connection between Purim and democracy is, therefore, very strong and it is imperative that every Jew fully realize it before it becomes too late!

Democracy must be fought for by the Jews, as by all freedom-loving peoples, but it must not take the place of our loyalty to God, to the Torah and to our ancestral tradition!

2 comments:

  1. This is very strange: I was just having a conversation about this very thing with someone on facebook, and I did not understand what he meant. Now I do. Thank you for this.

    PS, I don't think I will be able to eat hamman taschen now after seeing that picture: yuck!! LOL!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I just stole that photo of Ahmad. Thanks. :)

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