THE AMERICAN HEBREW, March 1, 1946
By Rabbi Leon Spitz
GLAMOROUS PURIM FORMULA
Exterminate Anti-Semitic Termites As Our Ancestors Did 2,500 Years Ago
The Purim festival offers a formula to combat anti-Semitism. And no wonder, since it was during those Purim days, just about twenty-five hundred years ago that Jews lived for the first time in their history in Galuth. And it was then that Jews met the anti-Semite face to face — and triumphed over him.
To the question, how did he do it? a rereading of the Book of Esther will afford the answer. No, there was no miracle about it at all. Fact is, the Purim festival is unique in this respect that nothing supernatural is mentioned in its connection. It is also unique in that the name of God does not occur in the entire story. It presents just this one problem, the problem of anti-Semitism and affords a realistic solution, which seems to have a substantial amount of merit.
And yet it is this holiday about which poets have composed songs and ditties beginning with the Medieval Shoahanat Yakob to “Haman was a Wicked Man” and “In Shu Shu shu shu” so popular in our American Sunday schools. It is this festival which has evoked not a few of the great masterpieces by the master-painters of Christendom which are exhibited in the finest National Museums and Galleries in many a European Capital. These Purim paintings are to be found even among the priceless objects d’art which Goering and his hoodlums have looted and hidden away, now to be rediscovered one by one by American art experts. Purim launched the Yiddish Theatre with Esther as the charming heroine, Mordecai the popular hero, and Haman the villain par excellence. In the sunny climates of Italy and Southern France Purim carnivals were in vogue while in German and Hollandish Synagogues Haman was burnt in effigy and with unrestrained glee. To this very day in a thousand Synagogues his name is hissed and mimicked on Megillah night to the accompaniment of haman klappers and every other variety of festive noisemaker.
Dealing as it does with the most serious problem of Jewish life, the perennial curse of anti-Semitism, the festival has yet become the merriest and the gayest in the Jewish calendar. The Order of the Day includes wine drinking, the Purim Seuda or Banquet to top off the holiday which has been launched on Megillah night by the public reading of the Story of Esther. It by no means neglects the giving of charity to the poor and it stresses the practice of Shalach Mones or the Exchange of Presents among relatives and friends. Every earmark of festivity lends its bit of gaiety to make this the most glamorous of Jewish holidays. And so it goes.
But why all this?
For the very simple reason that the Purim festival spelled to Every Jew of Every Generation the call to fight the good fight with a pretty definite assurance that victory and triumph were just right around the corner. The Purim story mirrored the precariousness and the uniqueness of Jewish Life In Exile. Withal it reemphasizes the story-book formula that all’s well that ends well, and every Jew lived happily ever after.
In every way Jewish life as lived in the Purim story mirrors Jewish life outside of Palestine in every age and epoch of Jewish history. Mordecai and Esther had Persian names, they spoke the language of the country of their adoption, they participated in the life about them, they attained posts of honor and of prestige.
And simultaneously they had their own organized Jewish life and they adhered to their faith and their traditions. And then anti-Semitism struck.
The causes were the perennial causes: jealousy, race hatred, the Jews were aliens, they were — that greatest of unforgivable crimes — they were DIFFERENT. In the words of the Megillat Esther, “Their laws are diverse from those of every people; neither keep they the king’s laws.” Haman too alludes to the loot which would be poured into the Royal Treasury by confiscating Jewish property, “I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to bring it into the king’s treasuries.” There is too the genuine Hitlerian touch. Hitler resentful of certain individual Jews, determined to revenge himself upon the entire Jewish nation. Likewise Haman in his day, resented Mordecai and sought to massacre all the Jews.
The Purim formula demands the following elements: Selfrespect, Unity, Faith, Courage and Sacrifice.