Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Purim

As a child (or even as 28 year old), whenever I was sitting next to my mother and bored to hell in temple she would say to me, “Read the in English.” She would tell me it’s full of interesting stories, and I’d read about how G-d did this and that and how he’s great, but bad things happened and he tests us b/c he’s a jerk even though he controls us, etc. etc. etc.

Fast forward to Purim on Monday night. I’m sitting at a Megillah reading, bored out of my mind and decide to read the English version of the Megillah / Book of Esther. The first 7 chapters are of the story I knew before: Esther (the prostitute) is made a Queen for winning a beauty contest. Haman hates the Jews because Mordecai (Esther’s pimp) wouldn’t bow to him. Mordecai saves the King’s life. Esther saves the Jews by revealing her identity. Haman is impaled on a stake 50 cubits high. We all celebrate now... or so I thought.

Little did I know, there were 3 more chapters…

In Chapter 8, Jews are told of the plot to exterminate them, and are given the power to defend themselves, kill their enemies, exterminate their armed forces including women and children and plunder their possessions. At hearing of this news that they were allowed to fight back and what day to fight back, the Jews celebrated. During that time, many people pretend to be Jews because they had become scared of the Jews, and what they would do on the 13th of Adar.

In Chapter 9, the 13th of Adar came, and Jews struck their enemies, slaying and destroying. They wreaked their will upon their enemies. They killed 500 men, and all 10 sons of Haman. When the King and Esther heard about the 500 people who were killed, Esther asked for the Jews to be allowed to continue tomorrow what they did today, and of course, to impale all of Haman’s sons on stakes. And thus, on the 14th day of Adar, 300 more men were slain. In the rest of the kingdom, Jews apparently killed 75,000 people that day. Of course, when all of this killing was over, there were big parties. Mordecai was so happy with all this killing, he sent dispatches to all the Jews to celebrate these days of every year on the 13th and 14th of Adar.

Chapter 10 we learn of how the King promoted Mordecai and told everyone in the land about it. Apparently this was very popular among the Jews and Mordecai was revered. This sounds like Idolatry to me.

Maybe the translation in my Megillah was a little off, but when I read all of this, I was floored. I understand that we were going to be killed, but we weren’t killed, we weren’t even attacked, we actually killed all of them. I’m ok with celebrating the first 7 chapters, but I don’t understand why we celebrate the other 3. In those chapters, we commit genocide and we commit idolatry. I’m pretty sure those are 2 of the 10 commandments that we break. I don’t think the commandment is “thou shall not kill, unless they are malachite.”

Esther must have been pretty pissed off. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but isn’t it time we got over this one and let it go? Is it healthy to hold a grudge against a guy for 2,000 years after we’ve already killed him and his 10 sons? I know plenty of girls that hold grudges, and I keep telling them to get over that pain because I don’t know if any of them are happy.

Not to say we should forget Haman, but shouldn’t we give the guy a break… We did win after all. We don’t call Iran Hamania and people don’t wear three pointed hats. Haman must be in Hell laughing with Stalin about how 2,000 years from now, the Jewish people will still be yelling at the mention of his name, while Stalin may be forgotten by then. He probably watches the services from above/below and chuckles to himself about this whole thing. I can picture us Jews 1,000 years from now, totally forgetting about Hitler, but still remembering the evil Haman. We are Jews, we are supposed to be righteous and forgiving, when is it time?

Jewish holidays are comically simplified into, "They tried to kill us, they failed, lets eat/drink." In my mind, Purim is now forever different. Instead, it will be known as, "They tried to kill us, they failed, we killed them all, including their woman and children, lets celebrate our hatred of the guy who tried to do this and our neverending grudge against him, and lets eat/drink." I'm not sure I can celebrate Purim anymore.

1 comment:

your BIL said...

Three objections to the post:

1. Your idolatry argument is very weak. Revering someone and worshipping them is totally different. But because you call it idolatry it is idolatry?

2. If you read the language carefully, it says they killed their foes, "Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey" They were allowed to kill all those who assaulted them. Should they be held responsible for the fact that 500 people assaulted them in Shushan and 75,000 in the rest of the kingdom. I mean, there was literally a decree from the king commanding people to kill Jews. I hardly call defending yourself genocide. You may claim that there is not strong evidence that they were attacked. I would argue that the evidence that they were attacked is stronger than any evidence that they killed innocent people.

3. You are wrong about the murder thing of malachites. There is actually a rule that you can kill them: "17 “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, 18 how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God. 19 Therefore when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget."
However, "Maimonides explains, however, that the commandment of killing out the nation of Amalek requires the Jewish people to peacefully request of them to accept upon themselves the Noachide laws and pay a tax to the Jewish kingdom. Only if they refuse is the commandment applicable."