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March 13, 1987 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-03-13

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

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2 Sides of Mordecai
And American Jewry

RABBI IRWIN GRONER

Special to The Jewish News

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COME SEE OUR RENOVATION NOW IN PROGRESS

14

Friday, March 13, 1987

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Jew must know how
to do many things.
He must know how to
cry, and how to laugh; how to
cope with poverty, and how to
live with affluence; how to
endure oppression, and how
to rejoice in freedom. On this
Sabbath, we remember
Amalek, and on Saturday
night, we shall recall the de-
feat of Haman, the descen-
dant of Amalek.
Mordecai, the Sages say,
was one of the Jewish heroes
for whom coins were minted.
The coin of Mordecai, as de-
scribed in the Talmud, had
on one side sack-cloth and
ashes, and on the other a
crown of gold.
Why these symbols? Be-
cause Mordecai, the hero of
Purim, more than any other
Jewish leader, saw both de-
feat and exaltation, despair
and triumph. The story of
Mordecai is the paradigm of
the experience of Judaism
which encompasses both sides
of the coin of life.
We find this contrast in the
reading of the Megillah itself.
One verse is chanted in a
melancholy dirge: "And Mor-
decai knew all that hap-
pened, and he tore his gar-
ments, and he dressed him-
self in sack-cloth and ashes,
and he uttered a loud and
bitter wail, and there was
great sadness for the Jews."
Yet another verse, at the end
of the story, declares, "And
Mordecai went from the King
in royal apparel, blue and
white, with a crown of gold,
and a robe of fine purple, and
the city of Shushan was glad
and joyous."
The Sages taught all the
generations that it takes
faith and wisdom to use a
two-sided coin. Most of us
would like to have one side
only—a life of joy and ful-
fillment, satisfaction and re-
joicing. But no human exist-
ence has only this aspect. If a
person wants to be successful
he must exercise intelligence
and skill, and make sac-
rifices. If he wants to be wise
he must train his mind. If he
wants to rejoice he must
know how to mourn.
In order to get to the Pr-
omised Land, you must first
traverse the desert. In order
to appreciate Eretz Yisrael, a
person should first live in
Exile. And if one wants to
feast on Purim, the tradition
requires that he fast first as
Mordecai did the day before.
To wear the crown of emi-
nence with grace one must

learn how to wear sack-cloth
and ashes with courage.
Mordecai had to point this
out to Esther. She was hesit-
ant about interceding on be-
half of her people. When the
pious maiden of Mordecai's
house became the Queen of
Persia she was overwhelmed.
Having achieved the power
and influence of royalty what
could she do for the Jews?
Mordecai reminded her: "You
may be a queen, but you are
also a Jew. The destiny that
awaits our people awaits you
as well." Finally, Esther un-
derstood, and her response

K

Tezave,
Shabbat Zachor
Exodus
27:20-30:10;
Deuteronomy
25:17-19
I Samuel 15:1-34

served as a model of how the
crown of distinction would be
worn by Jews throughout the
ages.
In every generation, Jewish
leaders recognized their place
of trust as an opportunity to
plead the justice of their pe-
ople's cause. They bore the
crown of glory with grace,
but they also wore a badge
that identified them with the
welfare of their own people.
The story of Purim issues a
challenge to us, the Jews of
the Free World. In the midst
of our comfort, prosperity and
privilege, will we be able to
fulfill both sides of the coin of
Jewish life? Will we be able
to wear, as Mordecai did, the
sack-cloth of Jewish suffering
in other parts of the world, or
will we forget our brethren?
The condition of Soviet
Jewry has not changed de- <
spite the release in recent
weeks of some prominent
Jewish prisoners of con-
science by the Soviet gov-
ernment. Jews who are de-
nied permission to emigrate
become "refuseniks." There
are approximately 11,000 re-
fuseniks in the USSR, and
over 400,000 others who have
expressed an interest in
emigrating. They need us
more than ever before, espe-
cially now, when Soviet lead-
ers have seemed more re-
sponsive to world opinions.
The harrassment of Soviet
Jews seeking to emigrate is
unabated. They are sustained
by our concern for them, by
our willingness to raise our
voice on their behalf. As Elie
Wiesel has pointed out, "In
truth they are our brothers,
but are we theirs?"

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