9 Adar 5778 – Tetzaveh

An interesting Purim perspective

The Talmud asks: “Why was annihilation decreed on the Persian Jews of that generation?” It answers: “Because they enjoyed the feast of that wicked man (Achashveirosh, the Persian king).” As the Megillah relates in its opening chapter, the Persian monarch threw a major feast, and the Jews of Shushan (capital of the Persian Empire) attended and enjoyed the feast.

Let’s look at the Talmud’s choice of words. It does not state that the Jews were guilty of eating non-kosher food at the party. In fact, the Talmud relates that there was a designated kosher section at the king’s feast! The issue was that “they enjoyed the feast of that wicked man.” You see, their dignity and sense of inner worth did not stem from their own soul and identity; it came from being invited to the Persian “Government House”, from rubbing shoulders with the Iranian celebrities and from having their photos appearing on the front pages of “The Shushan Times.” As they took their places among the Persians, Medians, Babylonians, Chaldeans and the other nationalities at the feast, they finally felt that they had “made it”. After seventy years of exile, they had finally set themselves free from the “Jewish stereotype” and were now considered as equals to those around Achashveirosh’s table. 

The Lesson

As history has proven, the anti-Semites of the world never loved secular, modern and assimilated Jews any more than religious and observant Jews. We must never be ashamed or shy away from our Jewishness. To the contrary, we must take pride in it! We will gain the greatest respect from those around us, when we learn to respect ourselves. If we can learn this we will succeed in overcoming all adversity and building for ourselves a strong future.

Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom and Purim Sameach!

Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman

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