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March 16, 1984 - Image 78

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-03-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH MEWS

Friday, March 16, 1984 79

Purim: The Holiday of the Hidden God

By IRVING GREENBERG

National Jewish
Resource Center

NEW YORK — The holi-
day of Purim celebrates an
occasion when Jews were
saved from catastrophe and
their enemies smashed. It
would seem logical that
such an outcome would be
occasion to thank and to
praise God's role in Jewish
history. Yet, nowhere in the
Book of Esther is the name
of God mentioned. In the
view of the rabbis of the
Talmud, this omission was a
deliberate literary device to
teach Jews how to deal with
God in an age when God is
hidden.
Said the rabbis: Purim oc-
curs in an age of hester
panim (the hiding of God's
face) (Deuteronomy 31:18)
when people feel that they
live in a world where God is
nowhere to be seen. After
the total destruction of the
first Temple and the ensu-
ing exile of the Jewish
people, Jews understood
that God had pulled back.
God did not defeat their
enemies as God had done in
the Exodus. Many Jews liv-
ing in the Diaspora won-
dered whether God was
available to them at all out-
side of Israel. Yet slowly the
community rebuilt its life in
Babylon, then in Persia.
Then, by a turn of the
political wheel, the suc-
cessful, highly-
integrated community of
Jews in the Persian Em-
pire was suddenly sin-
gled out for destruction
by a new prime minister.
The king, who had once
invited Jews to his inau-
guration and to the coro-
nation of his new queen,
now casually signed
them over for genocide.
The circle of isolation
widened around the Jews.
All their enemies closed in
for the kill. Evil reigned
supreme. Esther was in the
king's court, but she was so
alone that she feared to re-
veal her Jewish identity.
There was no one to appeal
to for justice or mercy.
Rabbinic tradition por-
trays Esther abandoned,
praying in the dark night of
her loneliness, "My God, my
God, why have You forsa-
ken me?" (Psalm 22:1).
Yet, when catastrophe
loomed, Mordecai stepped
forth to take responsibility.
His act of defiance of Ha-
man's self-idolatry — refus-
ing to bow — initiated
Jewish resistance. How

many Jews must have
blamed Mordecai then as
they blame Israel today? —
"If only you had not been so
intransigent, so aggressive
— if only you had not stood
up to Haman, we would not
be in such trouble now!"
But Mordecai refused
to counter-scapegoat be-
cause he understood that
Jewish behavior is the
excuse and not the cause
of anti-Semitism. Mor-
decai declined to save a
few Jews by distancing
from others; he correctly
saw that the murderous
anti-Semites would deal
with all Jews together as
one in fate.
His first step was to
mourn, and to protest his
people's fate publicly, as a
Jew. (Esther 4:1).
Mordecai then challenged
Esther to speak up for the
Jews. Esther hesitated: she
lacked the power; she feared
for her own life. Mordecai
was unrelenting. "Do not
imagine that you can escape
from the fate of all the Jews
into the royal court." Mor-
decai felt that the hesita-
tions were excuses, an un-
forgivable abdication of re-
sponsibility. "If you are si-
lent in this moment, salva-
tion will come from another
quarter, but you and your
father's family will perish."

Although God was silent,
the inner conviction of
being called to save the
Jews shines through Mor-
decai's words. This is the
promise of Jewish history;
God will not abandon Israel.
When God is distant, then
leaders will emerge to carry
forth the resistance. Only
later, in retrospect, will it be
seen that these leaders are
the messengers of God.

Esther responded to
Mordecai's pressure.
First, she asked the Jews
to fast and pray for her.
She and Mordecai were
not fully in accord on
strategy. In an age when
there were no simple,
easy-to-read directions
from God, humans had to
take responsibility and

nomic, political and name in the Book of Esther
moral problems. But the but to see the hidden Divine
overriding validity of the hand in its action. By their
Purim and Israel events acceptance of Purim, say
lies in the fact that they the rabbis, the Jews re-
occur when the world accepted the covenant of
needs such redemptions Exodus. Purim is on a par
to offset the triumph of with Sinai. Purim confirms
evil. In an imperfect that the road to redemption
world, we must be continues in a world where
grateful for partial rede- the mighty, manifest acts of
mption. Celebrating God are not available.
these limited triumphs
A millenium from now,
will inspire us to perfect people will recognize that in
the world even further.
accepting responsibility for
It was an act of great reli- Jewish fate, in creating Is-
gious maturation that led rael again, contemporary
Jews not to broadcast God's Jews revalidated the an-

WASHINGTON — The
United States Holocaust
Memorial Council will
stage a two-day memorial
here to coincide with the na-
tional observance of the
days of remembrance of the
victims of the Holocaust
April 29-30.

The Jewish News is .. .

Dr. Yair Reisner, work-
ing at the Weizmann Insti-
tute of Science in Rehovot,
developed a method of
transplanting bone marrow
with the help of a fellowship
from the American-based
Israel Cancer Research
Fund.

An evening of commem-
oration through the per-
forming arts will be held
April 29 at the Kennedy
Center featuring Israeli
pianist Ilana Vered, actress
Helen Hayes, actors Lorne
Green and Rod Steiger and
others. The national civic
commemoration will be
held April 30 in the Capitol
Rotunda. President and
Mrs. Reagan will attend
both events.

Mengele Victims
Plan Reunion

BEN FINGEROOT

RAMAT GAN (JNI) —
Forty of the 150 sets of twins
Josef Mengele used as
human guinea pigs in the
Auschwitz camp during
world War II gathered at
Kfar Hamaccabia last
month. The meeting was
called to prepare a reunion
scheduled for next year.

cient covenant. In describ-
ing Israel as the handiwork
of God's messengers, people
will neither flaunt God's
name as biblical fundamen-
talists or Gush Emunim fol-
lowers do; nor will they
claim that Israel is a purely
secular phenomenon.
In the midst of Six-Day
Wars and failed Lebanon
incursions, in the midst of
ingathering of exiles and 20
percent inflation, in the
midst of poverty and Project
Renewal, the hidden God
and the Jews were weaving
the fabric of redemption.

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order a subscription or
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Days of Remembrance April 29-30

Detroiter Decorated by Israel

Detroiter Ben Fingeroot
has been honored by the
state of Israel with its spe-
cial Decoration of Fighters
for the State Award.
Fingeroot, of Oak Park,
was appraised of the honor
by Israel Consul General
Shaul Ramati.
Fingeroot fought on be-
half of Israel during the
Jewish state's war for inde-
pendence in 1948. He was
one of the first American air
mechanics to volunteer for
the fledgling Israel Air
Force.

people of good will could
disagree on tactics.
Esther finally hit upon
the idea of using feminine
wiles, sexual jealousy and
indirection to win over the
king. Then she and Mor-
decai won the right of self-
defense for the Jews. In a
bloody showdown, the Jews'
genocidal enemies were de-
stroyed.
Bedroom politics, re-
venge, murder. Some 20
centuries later, Martin
Luther wanted to drop the
Book of Esther from the
Bible as lacking in piety and
"spirituality." Yet these ac-
tions — fallible, open to
question, morally ambigu-
ous — were the acts of re-
sponsiblity which in-
teracted with the forces of
history and brought forth
salvation.
The lesson of Purim is
that in an age of the "eclipse
of God" look for divine re-
demption in the triumph of
good, even if that victory
does not meet our notions of
purity and perfection. If we
insist on miraculous rede-
mption and unambiguous
answers then we will per-
ceive ourselves as living in a
world abandoned by God. In
fact, God is the Divine re-
deeming presence found in
the partial, flawed, but re-
sponsibile actions of hu-
mans.
Purim is the model for
God's presence in our
time: in the redemption of
the rebirth of Israel.
Again our redemption is
flawed: by the great loss
of life to uphold it, by the
"irreligious" nature of
Zionist leadership and
the mixed motives of
politicians, by the less-
than-perfect society of
Israel with its many eco-

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