Showing newest posts with label Purim. Show older posts
Showing newest posts with label Purim. Show older posts

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Give a shoulder...close your eyes - Happy Purim!!

Traditional Israeli Purim song: Ten Katef

תֵּן כָּתֵף, עֲצֹם אֶת הָעֵינַיִם,
פּוּרִים לָנוּ נִשְׁכַּח אֶת הַכֹּל.
יֵשׁ לְךָ כְּאֵב, רָמְסֶהוּ בָּרַגְלַיִם,
פְּתַח אֶת פִּיךָ וְשִׁירָה בְּקוֹל:

אָהָא! אָהָא! כֻּלָּנוּ נִשְׁתַּגֵּעַ
נִרְאֶה, נִחְיֶה, עַל אַף כָּל הַתְּלָאוֹת.
אָהָא! אָהָא! חֶפְצֵנוּ נְבַצֵּעַ
נִחְיֶה, נִרְאֶה נִסִּים וְנִפְלָאוֹת.

Give a shoulder, close your eyes
Purim is upon us, we'll forget it all
You have pain? Stomp on it with your feet
Open your mouth and sing out loud!

Hey hey! Hey hey! We'll all go crazy
We'll see, we'll live, despite all the troubles
Hey hey! Hey hey! We'll make our dreams come true
We'll live, we'll see, miracles and wonders



Happy Purim everyone!


Saturday, February 20, 2010

The sanction of the victim and the guiltiest man in the room, Part III: PERPETUATION

This post is the third part of a multi-part series on the stubborn habit of Jews to perpetuate situations where they are the victims of their own actions. If you haven't read Part I and Part II yet, I encourage you to check them out before continuing. If you're pressed for time, while highly recommended, it isn't required to go back in order to understand what we're talking about in this post.

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However, we should recognize that the policies of Hamas are more forthcoming and more conducive to a peaceful settlement than those of the United States or Israel.
--Noam Chomsky

Our main goal is to occupy all of Palestine and to push Israel to the sea or back to their countries. We are over 10 million refugees, but we will return home soon.
--Talal Nasser, Hamas PR Director

It is the complete opposite; he [Ahmedinejad] wants peace and not to destroy the Jewish nation, that’s what he explained to us.
--Rabbi Yisroel David Weiss, Neturei Karta

We have manufactured missiles that allow us, when necessary, to replace (sic) Israel in its entirety with a big holocaust.
--Mohammad Hassan Rahimian, Senior Iranian Official


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PART THREE: PERPETUATION


As we established in Part II, Israel and the Jewish nation as a whole has had a historically destructive habit of aiding the very people who seek to destroy it. However, this suicidal tendency was by no means invented by the state of Israel, assimilationist/secular Jews or godless Zionists. In fact secular Zionism - the movement that founded (and serves as a basis for) the State of Israel was arguably the first time victimized Jews refused to give their sanction to their destroyers and chose to take control of their own destiny since the Bar Kochba rebellion of nearly 2000 years earlier.

Nor was Bar Kochba the first to stand up to his oppressors of his own volition. One needs only look at the stories of Chanukah and Purim (which we will be re-telling next week) to see examples of Jewish heroes like Mordechai and Queen Esther.

So we know that at some point, the perception of the Jew shifted from being the brave warrior-scholar and constant threat to whomever dared to attempt to dominate him...





...as depicted in this painting, The Triumph of Mordechai where Haman's plans were overturned and he was forced to lead his hated enemy victoriously through the capital of Persia...




...and instead became the pathetic, docile, self-deprecating, Woody Allen nebbishes we are today. How (and why) did this happen? It if imperative that we answer these questions because if we are to ever change this suicidal docility, we must first understand the mentality that allows it to exist in the first place.

What causes Richard Goldstone to devote so much time to destroying Israel's legitimacy? What causes the Jewish lesbian to go out and protest in FAVOR of a regime that would have her beheaded, shot or stoned to death? Why do Jews all over the world like Adam Shapiro and Peter Trainor advocate for the destruction of Israel, the only hope Jews have had since Biblical times of ever protecting and defending their own interests, whether within Israel or without? What drives people like Jon Stewart and Sarah Silverman to embarrass and attack themselves, their culture and their legitimacy? How can Jewish parents be "happy" when their child grows up to become a Muslim fundamentalist and terrorist sympathizer? Why are Jews SO COMPELLED to always prove to the world that they aren't just looking out for other Jews, or Americans or Israelis, that rather they are citizens of the entire world?

Often these people are labeled as being "self-hating" Jews...an allegation they vigorously deny. After all, how can you be self-hating when Fiddler on the Roof is your favorite movie?

Oh and don't be fooled into thinking that this suicidal tendency is prevalent only in the Jewish Left. Perhaps the worst offenders are the DECIDEDLY RIGHT WING Neturei Karta group.





Basing their hatred for Israel on the Talmudic commandment not to re-establish the State of Israel without a God-sent messiah as found in the tractate Ketuvot, page 111a, the Neturei Karta site states the following:

Jews shall not use human force to bring about the establishment of a Jewish state before the coming of the universally accepted Moshiach (Messiah from the House of David). Furthermore it states that we are forbidden to rebel against the nations and that we should remain loyal citizens and we shall not attempt to leave the exile which G-d sent us into, ahead of time.

Nor is this approach to foreign policy limited to fringe lunatics like the Neturei Karta. Indeed several extremely conservative (but much more mainstream) Jewish groups are also extremely anti-self-determination. While the Neturei Karta are the most visible and most active (in several cases actually CONSPIRING with Arab terrorists against other Jews) other anti-Zionist/Israel or non-Zionist groups exist that take a more passive view. The hasidic Satmar group for example, along with many other long-peyos-sporting Jews, still to this day prefer the shtetl (be it in Williamsburg, Lodz or Me'ah She'arim) to the kibbutz.

While they do not actively work against the state of Israel they absolutely reject its legitimacy. Few things in life are as paradoxical as the shtreimel-wearing haredi residents of some Jerusalem neighborhoods who refuse to vote or participate in Israeli society (often conducting massive protests against it) but still rely on the police and military to protect and defend them. It should be noted that not ALL haredim are anti-Zionist/Israel and that in recent years that there have even been signs of integration between these groups and the State.

Now, most secular Jews (especially those who voted for Obama) would never be caught dead hanging out with religious fanatics like the Neturei Karta. In fact, if she was caught being "queer" under a Neturei Karta regime, our Jewish lesbian friend from earlier would likely find herself in the same predicament as under a Hamas or al-Qaeda regime. That is, stoned to death.

And yet, it is this VERY POLICY - as quoted by the Neturei Karta and enacted by the post-2nd Temple rabbinic authority - that was based on a desire to appease the Romans and whoever the conqueror-du-jour of Judea was, that has been an accepted Jewish way of life for almost TWO THOUSAND years. All through the centuries of persecution, pogroms, Inquisitions, crusades and Holocausts there was NEVER an organized movement to re-establish a Jewish homeland in Israel or anywhere else for that matter. Since the Bar-Kochba revolt there were almost no examples of Jews even so much as FIGHTING BACK against persecution until the very height of it, the Holocaust. And even then it was far too late by the time we took up arms.

For thousands of years we were taught to be docile, to be pacifists, not to upset the balance and to be good citizens of the world wherever we went. This pragmatic, "man-without-a-country" mentality has allowed Jews to succeed in ways few other minorities have been able to in the United States and Europe but it also created a victim-mentality that still pervades Jewish culture to this day.

It really isn't about an emotional feeling of self-hatred...it's that this self-PRESERVING, pacifist behavior is so completely ingrained in our collective psyche that we don't even realize it's there anymore. And up until fairly recently in historical terms, this behavior was necessary - how else were we to survive in a world where we were always at the mercy of our host countries?

Why else do we constantly hear from Jews that they don't vote for "Israel's interests" but rather for the good of whatever country they live in? Why is there this need to constantly demonstrate our loyalty to our host countries even though (with the exception of the United States) they have committed unspeakable atrocities against us in basically 100% of them? Whereas at one time this was the only way for our people to survive, today it is something akin to national suicide.

Why is there such an aversion to demonstrate real Jewish pride and support for ZIONISM - which is essentially nothing more than a Jewish self-protection movement? Why does every other minority in the United States claim "minority" status, while Jews are listed simply as Caucasians? The Jewish experience has absolutely NOT been the same as the Spanish, French, English, German or other European nationalities. Why do we allow ourselves to be lumped in with them?

You Jews who are reading this...ask yourself these questions. Can you answer them? Does it bother you that you are thought of as a pushover by the rest of the world? Do Jewish stereotypes bother you? What have you done to break them down? Why do you behave the way you do? Do you like the fact that the most well-known Jews are self-hating, embarrassments like Woody Allen, Sarah Silverman, Noam Chomsky and the rest of the bagels-and-lox brigade who thrive on the image that you're just a kvetching, oy-vey spewing, no-tipping cheapskate whose cousins steal land from Arabs? Does that define you? If not, then WHY do you tolerate it?

I'll tell you why - it's because you've been indoctrinated to accept and perpetuate it by 2,000 years of self-deprecation in the face of anti-Semitism. Whether you're Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Humanist or completely secular you all share a common foundation and that is page 111a in Ketuvot - the part where your ancestors decided on your behalf that it was best to grin and bear it and wait for God to forgive us and bring us out of exile.

Then when your great-great-grandfather crawled to America in search of streets paved with gold, he found a place where he could cross the street without being trampled to death by some angry Cossack and wow, was it nice. So what if they wanted him to work on Saturdays, as long as they didn't send him back to Lodz or Oddessa or Kiev and burn down his synagogue he would grin, bear it and provide for his family.

This is what he taught your great-grandfather, who taught your grandfather, who taught your father who tried to teach your mother - who was born an Italian Catholic and got a Reform conversion to make your grandmother happy - but she didn't quite understand what all the fuss was about. Hey at least she likes corned beef from Katz's deli just like your father does, so she's like 99% Jewish anyway, right?

Right?

And so today, you think the the main purpose of Judaism is tikun olam (fixing or improving the world) which in your mind means voting for social justice programs that benefit the "real" minorities who didn't have the benefits of your father's NYU law-degree-inspired salary. All those rules and regulations are just outdated mysticism that doesn't apply in the 21st century and besides, you're never giving up your grandmother's delicious chicken parm that she makes every year for Christmas/Hanukkah.

Certainly no JEWS need any help anywhere in the world because their fathers are also all accountants or lawyers or doctors or investment bankers like you and your friends are. And if you look at the Middle East, you see a bunch of white Israelis (and they MUST be white because there was no "Jewish" or "Israeli" option on your FAFSA form) living in beautiful apartments and working in huge skyscrapers surrounded by a bunch of starving Arabs who live in mud huts.

Obviously the Israelis must be the oppressors and the Arabs must be the oppressed because the Jews have it all and the Arabs have nothing. Therefore the Arabs need our help and besides weren't they there before the Zionists came and stole their lands? After all, you DID learn in your Arab-Israeli conflict class (that you only took to impress that cute Egyptian girl that you met at the interfaith mixer the weekend you moved into your dorm) that there weren't any Jews in Israel before the 1800's, right?

Right?

And your grandfather always told you that the only way to survive was to fit in...you wouldn't want anyone to think you support ISRAELI interests over AMERICAN interests. That's what makes everyone hate us. Our job isn't to fight it's to stay quiet and go with the flow. Who even needs a Jewish state anyway? It just makes people hate us even more with their crazy wars and apartheid. And besides, we have America! We have baseball! We have matza balls and gefilte fish! Who needs Israel?? Gilad who? Forgotten Refugees what? End the occupation! End the seige! Free Palestine!





Congratulations you're a Neturei Karta.

You may THINK you're bravely choosing to fight for the oppressed or Tom Joad or whatever other nonsense Zach De La Rocha told you you're doing but really you're just acting the way you've been trained to act by 2,000 years of oppression, massacres and beat-downs. You've perpetuated the most right-wing, conservative interpretation possible of the culture your liberal father always told you was silly mysticism. Grow out your sideburns and put on a black hat. And then stone yourself for having pre-marital sex.

You idiot.

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In the final installment: ANTHEM, we lay out the antidote for this poison that has been infecting Jews for thousands of years.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Purimfest!

This week was one of my favorite Jewish holidays of the year -- and not just because of the rabbinic decree to dress up in costumes and drink yourself into oblivion (although that is a consideration). That's right boys and girls I'm talking about Purim, one of the few great post-King Solomon stories of Jewish triumph. Without going into too many details of Esther's Megillah, I'll give a brief summary of the story:

The Jews are exiled all across the world. A new Persian king, Achashverosh (you may know him better as Xerxes, of 300 fame) comes to power and throws a big party during which he wants to show off his gorgeous wife Vashti by having her dance naked in front of his disgusting princes and ministers. She refuses in one of the first acts of feminism in recorded history. Naturally her drunk, Iranian husband has her killed...and immediately regrets it. He ends up choosing a new wife, Esther - who's cousin Mordechai orders her not to tell her new husband that she's in fact Jewish, lest he divorce her at the thought of having the entire Persian treasury spent on nosejobs and Sak's Fifth Avenue. Mordechai then spends his days sitting at the entrance to the king's palace waiting for word from his cousin. One day he overhears a plot to kill Mr. Xerxes and in one of the first acts of Jewish assistance to their gentile rulers, warns and saves the king so he can go on to kill the Spartans and overrun Greece. Naturally, this act goes unrewarded and instead the Jews are targeted for stereotyping and oppression.

Enter the villain, Haman. The king's new hotshot prime minister is so full of himself that he has everyone bowing down to him on penalty of death. The only man who doesn't do it is Mordechai, in one of the first (and last) acts of Jewish resistance in recorded history. Naturally his arrogant, Iranian persecutor decrees that all Jews must die on the same day as a result. He decides to leave it up to the gods for when this day will occur so he spins a wheel with all the dates of the year on it and picks whichever date it lands on. After being miserable for a few days, Mordechai realizes that destiny has handed him the ultimate trump card. The king's new wife is not only Jewish but she's Mordechai's cousin! Mordechai now has a direct link to the throne - he convinces Esther that she was placed into her position as queen by fate specifically for this reason and she must fulfill her destiny of saving the Jews.

Esther invites the king and Haman to a party just for a three of them and tells Xerxes that Haman plans to kill her. Xerxes storms out of the room to compose himself and Haman begs and pleads with Esther not to have him killed. He throws himself at her feet - just as Xerxes walks back into the room and in a rare (for the Bible) and hilarious misunderstanding assumes he is trying to put the moves on his wife while he is in the house! The ultimate in disrespect!





Xerxes is not amused


Haman is executed - hanged on the same gallows he had built for Mordechai. The Jews are allowed to defend themselves from their Persian attackers and have parties of their own to celebrate. Mordechai is named prime minister instead of Haman (and in true gangster fashion moves into the deposed man's house), Haman's 10 sons are hanged from the same gallows as their father and Xerxes goes to the Greek isle of Ahnus to launch his war against Sparta. All live happily ever after. Except for Leonidus of course.

The holiday is named named "Purim" because it is the ancient Hebrew word for "lotteries" which is how Haman decided which day to exterminate the Jews.

So great story - but is there any real relevance for us today? Well aside from the fact that here we are thousands of years later being threatened by yet another Persian loudmouth there are a few passages which are brought up in this story that speak volumes about Jewish history and culture. For example when Haman is expressing to the king his desire to destroy the Jews he describes them as follows:

יֶשְׁנוֹ עַם-אֶחָד מְפֻזָּר וּמְפֹרָד בֵּין הָעַמִּים, בְּכֹל מְדִינוֹת מַלְכוּתֶךָ; וְדָתֵיהֶם שֹׁנוֹת מִכָּל-עָם, וְאֶת-דָּתֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֵינָם עֹשִׂים, וְלַמֶּלֶךְ אֵין-שֹׁוֶה, לְהַנִּיחָם

There is one nation, which is scattered and spread amongst all others, in all the lands you rule. And their views/religious beliefs are different from all others. They refuse to do the will of the king and there is no reason for you to tolerate their existence.

Wow.

Could there be a better description for the way the rest of the world has viewed the Jews for thousands of years? Could there be a better description for the way we Jews have viewed OURSELVES for thousands of years?! And furthermore, later in the story when the Jews come out on top, the narrator describes it in the following way:

בַּיּוֹם, אֲשֶׁר שִׂבְּרוּ אֹיְבֵי הַיְּהוּדִים לִשְׁלוֹט בָּהֶם, וְנַהֲפוֹךְ הוּא, אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁלְטוּ הַיְּהוּדִים הֵמָּה בְּשֹׂנְאֵיהֶם.


On the day in which the enemies of the Jews had chosen to rule over them...it was the opposite as the Jews ruled over those who hated them.

Even then it was considered "opposite day" when the downtrodden, exiled Jews exacted vengeance over their would-be murderers. It is no surprise then that when 10 of the worst perpetrators of the Holocaust were hanged in Nuremberg after the war was over, the subject of Purim came up. The last man to be brought up to the gallows, Julius Streicher made quite a spectacle by screaming "PurimFest 1946!" to the room. What makes it even more interesting (aside from the coincidence of 10 Nazi executions to go with Haman's 10 children) is that the Nuremberg hangings occurred about six months before Purim and there was no reason for Streicher to declare that day as "Purimfest."

Or was there?

Many rabbinic interpreters have pointed to the similarities between the 10 literal sons of Haman and the 10 ideological sons of Hitler. All sought to destroy the Jews. And what makes it even creepier was that there were supposed to be 11 Nazis executed on that day but Hermann Goring (who often dressed as a woman) killed himself by swallowing a cyanide capsule earlier in the day. While it's not in the megillah itself, there is a rabbinic tradition that Haman had a daughter...who committed suicide. Could it be that these 11 murderers were in fact somehow connected to Haman's children? Maybe reincarnations of them? It sounds like something more suited for Halloween than Purim (both holidays also involve costumes by the way).

I have a different interpretation than the rabbis - although I have to admit that's a lot of coincidences and if nothing else, does make a pretty excellent ghost story. Streicher was a master propagandist and expert on Jewish history and culture. It is also extremely likely he was also an admirer of Haman and knew the story of Purim well. So it is only natural that a man who sought the destruction of a people who had historically almost never come out on top of their enemies would think of the Jewish story whose theme was "opposites" on the biggest opposite day of his entire life.

In reality - the only other "opposite days" the Jewish people have had since that Purim were the story of Chanuka (when the Jews defeated the Greeks) and the foundation of the state of Israel (when the Jews defeated an seven Arab nations at the same time). Although one could argue that everyday that Israel exists is another miraculous opposite day that without a doubt drives our current oppressors insane in much the same way that Mordechai's lack of respect for Haman drove him insane.

Here's hoping that we will again soon see a victorious nation of Israel and another Persian oppressor put to the gallows.



Here's to Purimfest 2009...