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the template

03/02/2023 08:52:16 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

The continuous stream of antisemitism is wearying. Attacking individual Jews after morning minyan in Los Angeles, vandalizing synagogues, and a “Day of H” just make you wonder what has become of America. Perhaps someone can explain the math to me of certain Americans who claim that they love America yet H 60% of its citizens?

Imagine the story of a powerful leader in government who wants to eliminate the Jews? We sadly know this to be true more than once, with usually horrific consequences. It is not unprecedented, yet there can be cause for hope and even celebration. I have commented before that the first recorded case of antisemitism occurred in ancient Egypt, when the new Pharaoh said, “Look, the Israelite people are much too numerous for us. Let us deal shrewdly with them, so that they may not increase; otherwise in the event of war they may join our enemies in fighting against us and rise from the ground.” [Exodus 1:9-10, JPS edition]. A comparable set of reasons were offered in 479BCE: “There is a certain people, scattered and dispersed among the other peoples in all the provinces of your realm, whose laws are different from those of any other people and who do not obey the king’s laws; and it is not in Your Majesty’s interest to tolerate them.” But it didn’t end with this statement. The speaker went on to bribe the king: “If it please Your Majesty, let an edict be drawn for their destruction, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the stewards for deposit in the royal treasury.” Thereupon the king removed his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the foe of the Jews. And the king said, “The money and the people are yours to do with as you see fit.” [Megilat Esther 3:8-11, translation from Sefaria]

Unlike 400 years of slavery, the attempt to massacre all of the Jews of Persia was ultimately prevented by the bravery of a singular young Jew, Esther. Despite the absence of God’s name in Megilat Esther, Mordechai understood God’s ways, saying to Esther: “And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis.” [Megilat Esther 4:14, ibid.] Not only do we find the template for what we might call the classic antisemite, but we also find the template for the one person who can make a difference. It is rare for someone to proclaim that they were born to do so, but people have arisen to occupy such a lofty perch from humble origins. You, my dear reader, might never think yourself worthy, and sort of scoff at the suggestion, but all of us make a difference in the lives of others in ways that we cannot comprehend. It might not be saving a nation like Esther did, but in more modest ways. You are a unique template, and you matter.


Fri, March 31 2023 9 Nisan 5783