Sunday, March 04, 2007


The Book of Esther, today’s Required Reading.
[Click to embiggen.]

Last night marked the arrival of the Jewish holiday of Purim. Like so many of our holidays, the fundamental theme of Purim boils down to, “They tried to kill us off. They failed. Let’s eat.”

On Purim, though, the emphasis is less on eating than it is on Drinking and Other Forms of Merriment. After the evening service last night, the central feature of which is the ceremonial Reading of the Megillah - the entire Book of Esther, in the form of a hand-inscribed parchment scroll - we all had a chance to get (partially) tanked on He’Brew Messiah Bold (The Beer You’ve Been Waiting For™). Nice.

Ya gotta love a holiday on which getting shicker is not only permitted, it’s essential.

Did I mention costumes? There were costumes, too. Here, She Who Must Be Obeyed does her impression of Vashti, the Harlo-Queen.

And who better to help read the story of the evil Haman than Dr. Evil hizzownself?

A guy who loves kitties can’t be all bad, can he? Even if his cat is the repulsive, hairless Mr. Bigglesworth...

“We don’t gnaw on our kitty!”

For all its fun and silliness, however, there is a serious undercurrent to Purim. One of the recurring motifs of the holiday is the need to remember your enemies, even as you blot them from the earth. The model enemy is the Amalekites, from whom, traditionally, Haman is considered to be descended. In Deuteronomy 25:17-19, we are told to
Remember what Amalek did to you, on the way when you were leaving Egypt; that he happened upon you on the way, and he struck those of you who were hindmost, all the weaklings at your rear, when you were faint and exhausted, and he did not fear God. It shall be when the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance to possess it, you shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven - you shall not forget!
The thing that made Amalek stink in the nostrils of Heaven was not that they made war with the Israelites: plenty of nations did that. But it was how they made war that distinguished them, that made them untouchable, beyond redemption. And putting aside the seeming paradox of being told to remember an enemy whose selfsame memory must be wiped out (“Wake up! It’s time for your sleeping pill!”), what is striking about this passage is its relevance today.

For today, the Amalekites are still out there. They’re the ones strapping explosive vests to their children, that they may murder Jews in pizza parlors, in buses, at discothèques, at shopping malls. The hindmost, the weaklings at the rear - civilians - these are the targets of the modern Amalekites. The terrorists. And on this day, though we may drink ourselves silly and clothe ourselves in ridiculous getups to celebrate an earlier deliverance, we shall not forget!

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