A 2,400 Year Old Response to October 7

Friday, 15 March, 2024 - 10:36 am

On October 7 an enemy of the Jewish people set out to “to annihilate, murder and destroy all the Jews, young and old, children and women, on one day.” They took the lives of over 1,200 of our people that day. They have stated in no uncertain terms, that their intent is “that every day should be October 7 for the Jews” until they are all gone.

How do we respond to this unabashed declaration of intent to make the world “judenrein” (to quote another historical “friend of our people”)?

As “people of the book” we look to the Torah for the answers to life’s questions. After all, Torah means instruction, and Torah is called the Torah of life, light, and truth.

Let us examine an earlier similar instance in our history. The book of Esther relates that 2,400 years ago a sworn enemy of the Jewish people named Haman attempted to implement a “final solution” against us. What was his thinking? What made the Jews vulnerable to his hateful intent at annihilation?

Here is how Haman presented his request to King Achashverosh of Persia. “There is one nation dispersed and divided among the nations throughout the provinces of your kingdom, whose laws are unlike those of any other nation and who do not obey the laws of the King. It is not in the King's interest to tolerate them.”

On one hand they are “one nation,” a singular people who reflect the Oneness of the Al-mighty. On the other hand, they are divided, they lack unity. In addition, “they do not obey the laws of the King (Hashem).” Haman observed how many Jews gleefully participated in the King’s feast, gorging themselves with non-Kosher food and wine, just happy to gain acceptance in Persian society. He figured this would make them susceptible to his schemes.

What was the Jewish response to Haman? One would think that they would immediately mobilize the “powerful Jewish lobby” flinging “Benjamins” all over the place to thwart the evil decree. Instead, we find an entirely different set of priorities determining the Jewish response. Only after these priorities were addressed did the Jewish people access their “protektzia” in the form of Queen Esther.

These priorities were expressed in four ways.

The first was by Mordechai. “But Mordechai would not kneel or bow.” Mordechai demonstrated that a Jew does not give in to the arbitrary immoral demands of an enemy. He stood strong for his beliefs and principles.

The second was by Queen Esther. “Go and gather all the Jews who are in Shushan and fast for my sake, do not eat and do not drink for three days, night and day. My maids and I shall also fast in the same way. Then I shall go to the king, though it is unlawful, and if I perish, I perish.” If you are trying to utilize your beauty to convince the king about something, a three day fast is not the smartest beauty hack. Yet, Esther knew that the key to salvation is a spiritual one, and only then will the “powerful Jewish lobby” be successful.

The third was the by Jewish people. Although a decree of annihilation hung over them for nearly a year, not a single Jew in the Persian empire considered disassociating themselves from the Jewish people to save their own skin. They stood with a fortitude of self-sacrifice for the sake of their Jewish identities.

The fourth was by the Jewish children. The Midrash teaches that Mordechai gathered twenty-two thousand Jewish children, prayed with them and taught them Torah. Suddenly, Haman arrived and threatened to harm the children. The children declared, “We shall stay with Mordechai, no matter what!”

There is nothing new in 2024. Rinse, lather, repeat.
Principled stand.
Spiritual strengthening.
Devotion and Self-Sacrifice.
Jewish Education.
The only difference is that we hope for a salvation this time that is permanent with the coming of Mashiach and the final Redemption.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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