Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Purim: Jumping In

This can be compared to a boiling hot bath into which no person could descend, one scoundrel came, and he jumped and went down into it.  Although he was scalded, he cooled it off for others [Rashi Devarim 25:18]

Rabbi Judah says: "When the Israelites stood at the sea one said 'I don't want to go down to the sea first', another said 'I don't want to go down first either'; while they were standing there and while Moses was praying to G-d to save them, Nachson ben Aminadav jumped up went down and fell into the waves. [TB Sotah 36a, Mechilta Beshalach]

An analog has been making the rounds of social media recently comparing Iran to Haman, Obama to Achashverosh, and Bibi to Esther/Mordechai, finding the Ta’anis Esther timing of today’s speech to Congress particularly propitious.  Personally, I find Prof. Manfred Lehmann’s 1972 Tradition essay “A Reconstruction of the Purim Story” more compelling: he makes Haman out to have been Cannanite, and therefore more a character analogous to an Arafat or other Palestinian actor [which, to carry the analogy one step further, would make Bill Clinton Achashverosh]. 

In any case, I came up with a different meme.

The juxtaposition of the two mekoros up top is not accidental.  The two pieces are there to illustrate mirror-image paradigms of “firsts” and water.  Each actor was the first one to “take a plunge”, as it were, and each respective “plunge” was influential in getting others to follow: Nachshon kickstarted the march through the Yam Suf; Amalek kickstarted genocidal Jew-hatred.

Today Bibi represented the Nachshon meme: the sole world leader with the gumption to call Iran out for its theofascist genocidal tendencies and declared nuclear ambitions.  [Umm…you want 190,000 centrifuges…to fight cancer?]  He took a plunge no one else seems to be willing to, and we only hope that some influential people follow.

While Iran fits the Amalek meme for all sorts of obvious reasons, if one would hesitate to begin to apply it to elements of this current administration, particularly the Executive branch and the State Department, it might not be that far a stretch to say that the disingenuous manner in which they’ve conducted the negotiations and their ostensible attempt to give themselves political cover for what they see as the “inevitability” of a nuclearized Iran might give one reason to believe that they, too, are “jumping in the water”. 

Heavy water. 

To cool it off for everyone else when the inevitable nuclearization of the rest of the Middle East follows.

In any case, even if the Amalek designation can’t really be applied to this admin, the Achashverosh one—like with Clinton—might not be that far off.  As TB Megillah 13b-14a delineates, Achashverosh would have loved to get rid of the Jews himself [having proven with his “no more redemption” party what he really thought of them] but needed someone else to do the dirty work.

The Biblical narratives point to two possible parallels which might indicate as to what we can anticipate from this administration.

The incident at Refidim which we read on Purim which occurred subsequent to krias yam suf parallels the possibility that this administration will now double down and cave further to “Teheran’s talking points”, because, like the Amalekites who attacked at Refidim, they were enraged by the Nachshonian actions and wanted to show the rest of the latent anti-Semites in the world there was nothing to be afraid of in attacking the Jews.  Bibi’s warning may have the opposite effect in the short term owing to Obamanian hissyfits.

The other possibility is that, like a chastened and humiliated while not attitudinally transformed Achashverosh, this administration is forced to see the genocidal ambitions of its erstwhile new BFF’s and at the very least give the Jews carte blanche to defend itself by any means necessary with no clamoring for ceasefires like this summer, even to the point of codifying the response de jure as well as de facto in international law, as we see happened throughout Esther 8 and 9.  Even if through clenched teeth.  But as Bibi said, there ARE some things Israel CAN live with.

ONLY THEN will this admin have jumped in like Nachshon, and not like Amalek.

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