Consider: Jews. Ruin. Everything.
I don’t mean our chosen actions or behavior ruin things. That, too, is possible. But we often seem to ruin things just by sort of being around.
Take monarchy, for example. For a long time we were kind of cool with it. “Hey, man, if you wanna rule over everything that’s fine; I’ll just be over here reading my book.” Then: (unexpectedly!) the Spanish Inquisition, Crusades, Pogroms, etc. “Hey, man, that’s not cool…”
Turns out a lot of non-Jews thought it wasn’t cool either so they made a lot of revolutions and made these things called secular democratic republics. We were kind of cool with it. Anything that stopped the pogroms was Coolsville, honestly. “Hey, man, if you want me to be a citizen and vote, that’s fine, I’ll just be over here reading my book.” Then: the holocaust. “Really, really not cool, man. What the hell?”
A lot of non-Jews agreed and decided democracy was not enough and began to focus on tolerance and justice for the oppressed. Some of us were like, “Hey, that’s cool and all, but we don’t really trust you, so we’ll be over there reading our book,” and over there was on the beach in Hertzelia. Others stuck around to advocate for tolerance and good will. And now, utterly, utterly unexpectedly, that tolerance and good will is being extended to people who wish to destroy it, and the Jews, forever.
So, monarchy, by the mere temptation of the Jews’ presence, was shown to be problematic. Pure secular democracy was shown to be a dangerous populist sham. And the modern assault on intolerance has somehow sided itself with a radical religious movement that seeks to eradicate all the Jews. Not bad for standing on the side and reading our book.
We live in dark times. The heretofore quiescent remnants of all these past horrors are stirring. In the Middle East and Europe, Islamists seek to establish a totalitarian theocracy with Jew hatred as a founding principle. In the United States, a democratic process threatens to elect a candidate adored by Jew haters and unbound from any principle. And throughout the free world, the forces of open-minded tolerance police themselves for Islamophobia while devoting themselves to the destruction of the free state of Israel which embodies their values as much or more than any state on the face of the earth.
It is not an accident that every horse we back in the geopolitical race seems to violently murder itself in self-contradiction. Indeed, the Jews are a spanner in the works of the world and our very existence is enough to eventually break apart any worldly system, no matter what we do.
In a sense, we Jews are like friction. We somehow, without intention, prevent perpetual motion. We are a historical force that brings both great prosperity and great destruction with us, and neither fully intentionally. Perhaps we love to argue because our very existence is a counterexample to all of man’s plans. We are the loose thread that, once pulled, unravels nation-states and ideologies. There has never been a team in history we could back that did not eventually come to despise us, and, in contradiction to all their noble virtues we had come to love, try to destroy us. This was the case with the Egyptians and the Greeks, with Christians, Communists, and Caliphates.
No one explains Jew hatred better than Haman. He says: “There is a certain people scattered and separate among the peoples throughout all the provinces of your kingdom, and their laws differ from [those of] every people, and they do not keep the king’s laws; it is [therefore] of no use for the king to let them be. If it pleases the king, let it be written to destroy them.”
It is not an ethical argument. It is not even a strictly nationalistic argument. It is an ontological argument. “Let us destroy them because they exist,” says Haman, and he was right, for to exist as a Jew by definition is to exist separate.
Haman was the wisest Jew hater who ever lived. Perhaps he saw the fate that awaited Persia — the Jews would unwittingly transform it into a place of light, peace, prosperity, and righteousness. He saw this bright future, and, as is the wont of Amalek, preferred to die fighting it than to live with it.
He realized he could not win. Egypt had broken themselves upon the Jews; a host of chariots lay rusting on the seabed. The kings of Canaan were scattered to the wind and the walls of Jericho tumbled. To fight the Jews, in the long run, is to fight gravity, even though we Jews don’t feel that way. And, as was discovered much later, there is no fighting gravity. There is only making the air into a support.
Haman surveyed the situation and saw that the Jews were not weak enough. Certainly they had chosen obeisance and the king’s honor over reading their book for a change, and relied on the boorish king to remain boorish but kind. Nevertheless, thought Haman. Nevertheless…
So he rolled the dice. Just as things come together and things slow down and it is just nature and there is no fighting it, just as the Jews prevail, so, too, things can happen that are against the rules, that no one can predict.
Then the dice, unbeknownst to him, came up in our favor.
Their queen taught them to rely not on worldly kings but on G-d alone.
And Haman was hung from his own gallows.
That was the best the Jew haters ever had to offer.
And this is what we celebrate today, as Europe darkens once more, Jews are stabbed in the holy land, and Persia sharpens her blade. We celebrate not anything we have done or anything we are going to do. It is not a day for practical planning or for analysis.
Today we celebrate inevitability.
We celebrate the recurring story we cannot change, and our good fortune to have already won before the battle is joined.
We drink not just to G-d and to each other. We drink not only to our holy forebears, or to our heroes Esther and Mordechai.
We drink on Purim to nature, to the world, and to our enemies.
To nature, for our part in her unchanging machinery, as a system-breaking eternal constant.
To the world, for being that other thing we have come to know and love over these millennia.
And to our enemies, l’chaim. You scare us. You muddle our minds and freeze our hearts. But you don’t have to answer to our minds and hearts. You must answer to G-d and his universe.
And on the 14th of Adar we are not afraid to say it:
It’s a Jewish universe.
It is our side, with goodness and righteousness, or it is oblivion.
The story of history is our proof. It is a story we are not writing but whose ending we know.
And so we drink, and sing, and are not afraid.
Originally posted on Hevria.