How The Holocaust Became A Political Plaything

By some miracle, the world seemed to decide, after the holocaust, that anti-Semitism was not the Jews’ issue to be dealt with by them alone, as everyone had previously agreed, but the world’s issue to be dealt with by everyone.

This acknowledgment by the nations of the world did not immediately bring the Messiah, as we are learning this week.

On the contrary, this week we have witnessed the awful treatment of immigrant children by the United States authorities, and the fumbling, contradictory, and sometimes downright cruel statements on the matter from the Trump administration. The outcry was powerful and relatively widespread, and as of today the President seems to have reneged on the policy of family separation.

On a related but different note — and this is an important point, for I fully maintain the right to be annoyed by something else this week, no matter how utterly omnipresent some others feel their hobby-horse must be — there were a lot of people, especially online, who brought the holocaust into it.

Of course, the parallels between the dire situation of the immigrant children and Hitler’s concentration camps are very thin indeed. It goes without saying that pointing this out does not diminish the desperate need for solutions on the border at all. It is not even worth replying to the claim that one needs to be “more upset” with the “caged babies” than with the holocaust comparison.

The only part of the now-classic holocaust overreach that still interests me is: Why must the suffering of those sacred Jews be compared with whatever evil flows from your Twitter feed this evening? The people who do this are not anti-semitic. On the contrary, many of them are seeking only to raise up the cause of the immigrant children. Some of the people speaking out against it are holocaust survivors themselves. They mean no harm by their comparison, even though it essentially uses the holocaust, makes from it a tool, desacralizes it.

My question is more, how did we get here? How did one of the most uniquely evil occurrences in the history of civilization become the analogy for so many lesser evils?

My theory is that it’s explained by a historical process that has taken place since the war. As is often the case with Jewish history, it both reflects and illuminated other events taking place around us.

The profaning of the holocaust happens in three steps. To make everyone angry (it would happen anyway upon hearing the details), let’s call them liberalism, leftism, and reaction.


In the aftermath of the war, and following the miraculous “everybody’s problem”-ing of Jew hatred, there arose a new world order seeking to maintain global peace as much as possible, and raise the standard of human rights the world over. This liberal order (so-called for the way it values rights) did not view the holocaust only in its particulars, but sought to apply the lessons learned from Hitler on a broad scale.

In more cynical words, what was primarily a Jewish calamity and a Jewish story (and, for that matter, a story of the Romani, the disabled, the homosexual, etc.) was immediately abstracted into a universal cause. What was a fundamentally unique sacred (that is, incomparable) tragedy became everyone’s property.

This was inevitable, because universalism itself was the order of the day. Hitler was terribly pro-German, you see, and his chauvinism was seen as a primary cause in everything that followed. Without his inspiring belief in a country that was down and out and his populist support from patriotic Germans (and German-speaking non-Germans), his ascension to power would have been much more difficult. And of course, an endless focus on self-definition and national pride makes the “internationalist” (read: disloyal) outgroup a tempting target for scapegoating and more…

So, with the support of much of world Jewry (especially American Jews), “Never Again” came to be the slogan. It grew beyond never again in Germany, or never again in a G-d-denying techno-state, or never again for the Jews. It needed to grow beyond these things, because it was the foundational myth of a movement seeking to create a true “humankind,” a borderless global brotherhood of man, in which no genocide was possible and no one’s identity could become so powerful that the holocaust could happen again. Nationalism, populism, and a whole list of other things were deemed antithetical to this world-building, and if one objected, one could simply point to the holocaust and say, “Never Again.”

This was the beginning of how the holocaust became profane, a cheap political tool. It was a sin committed by those who truly wished to prevent another genocide.

The holocaust was a universal phenomenon, but that did not mean it could ever be used against the Jews G-d-forbid. It just meant that their story was now inclusive. What could go wrong?


Jewish fortunes turned up after the war, both in the United States and the fledgling state of Israel, whose population began to swell with refugees from the Arab world. Jews became wealthier, more successful, more accepted into the fabric of life. The long arc set in motion by the holocaust seemed to be the arc of history bending toward justice. The new status quo was defined as an anti-holocaust, and it turns out Jews thrive in anti-holocausts.

There were, however, some rumblings about Israel, rumblings that have, over the decades, grown into a roar. The very people who were the banner of broad globally applicable international human rights had settled into their own land, which they identified with their own people. They did not get along with their neighbors. They had certain populist and national views on things not shared by the nations of the world who allowed them to exist. They seemed awfully un-“Never Again” in their treatment of the Palestinians. Oh, surely they didn’t gas them by the million or what have you, but it wasn’t in the spirit of the thing.

You see, once liberalism universalized the holocaust, leftism (so-called for its side of the room) took the next logical step and took the universal principles without favoring any particular group. Fair is fair, these free-thinkers (many of them Jewish, of course) reasoned. If the world without genocide is what’s really important, we cannot give special dispensations to groups who were victims of our founding calamity. We must apply principle indiscriminately.

Of course, it is very rare within a courtroom and vanishingly unlikely outside of one to see the indiscriminate application of principle, and so this “soft leftism” soon hardened into “hard leftism.” What I am calling hard leftism loves both to eat and to have cakes. You see, the next step after abstraction and universalization of the principle is to apply it, and no one thinks everyone is equally deserving of its application. If we are to create a world of true equality and freedom, where no one need ever worry about even the potential of genocide again, we must knock down thousands of years of differences in power between various groups. We must knock them down with our own assertion of power.

“Soft leftism” says that Jews are no exception to the rules of the new order because the rules are the ultimate good. “Hard leftism,” the next step, says that because the international liberal order was created in part to negate the holocaust, and Jewish fortunes indeed improved under that order, Jews are especially obligated to help those who are now at a disadvantage. “How can you sit by and do nothing,” the Jew is asked, “when you were the primary victim of the holocaust?”

What is important about the calamity perpetrated by the Nazis is not the story of what happened to the Jews per se, nor even the general lessons learned from the tragedy, but the new world free of oppression that must be created, and the old world of imbalance that must be destroyed. And it is from this perspective that even alleging the holocaust may have some uniquely Jewish or sacred quality can itself be seen as a perpetuation of the holocaust. The transformation of the definition is complete. The true holocaust is the system of oppression that must be destroyed. The false holocaust is the historical event.

Sadly, there is a third stage to the holocaust’s transformation.


The reaction (so-called for being the third step) is the logical outcome of hard leftism. Once power is asserted to demolish the world of imbalance and oppression, those who are being knocked down a few pegs will come to question the worthiness of the wrecking crew.

Where liberalism was mere universal principle and everyone theoretically had a seat at the table, leftism is more proactive and exclusionary. “Good people” under the liberal order have no inherent moral standing under the leftist order if they do not actively contribute to the demolition process. Many, indeed, benefit from or are privileged by historical imbalances that cannot be fixed by a personal adherence to principle.

The newly evil question their status, and see an assertion of power against them in service of an ideology. They decide to fight fire with fire. If they are going to be told to sit down, shut up, and let others rule, for that will bring balance to the world, they will stand up, make noise, and throw off the definitions that seek to bracket them.

Underlying this world order which seeks to bind them with rules beyond their control and definitions that do not depend on their actions, they find the holocaust and the reaction to it. The Jews, they see, are the original victim group, the original protected class from whom the order drew inspiration. And they fill with resentment. The Jews are not a people who have suffered. They are a people who make others suffer. The holocaust is now the name for a reviled system of power and control, invented in the name of the Jews.

The perspective of the reaction is, of course, similar (in some ideological respects) to the philosophy of those who perpetrated the actual holocaust.


The reaction is not the end of this process, but rather a step in a vicious cycle, as we can see from a lot of the animus surrounding the holocaust analogy this week.

Those holding by a leftist view of the holocaust are angry with Jews who object to comparing the Nazis to the Trump administration’s immigration policy. They see all the objection as a distraction from the mission of ending oppression now, a mission ironically inspired in part by the holocaust. The actual event of the holocaust is, in their eyes, a distraction from the essence of the holocaust, the world of imbalance. And to allege that the holocaust is in some way sacred and incomparable is to forfeit one’s true Judaism rather than to defend it.

The reaction, in turn, is sick of being told that everything is the holocaust, and view it as an excuse for control. Judaism is, in their eyes, merely a facet of the imposed world order. They double down on rejecting all holocaust language, and anything that language is used to castigate.

The left, in turn, doubles down even further. They insist that this rejection of the holocaust comparison is, in face, a rejection of their entire world-view, which is tantamount to the rejection of goodness itself, which is, of course, to perpetrate a small holocaust.

And so on it goes with every political issue in the age of Trump, who more than any other single figure has signalled the beginning of the end for the liberal order of individual moral responsibility. With the decay of the liberal order, the power struggle intensifies daily. Holocaust-as-any-and-all-oppression and holocaust-as-method-of-control war constantly. And those Jews who see the holocaust as simply the holocaust are lost.


How do we break this cycle?

Undo liberalism? The reaction is working hard at that already, and it’s hard to see how it’s good for the Jews. Many of them wish, ultimately, to reverse what we’ve called liberalism itself, to try to go back to some older world order, to break the bonds of internationalism, in short, to reverse time. And it is an unavoidable fact that the times under the new order have been the best times for Jews to be Jews in history.

I think the key may lie in keeping liberalism, but avoiding its more radical universalizing qualities. Adherence to principle and personal moral action should remain important, so as to avoid the old tribalism, but on the other hand, they must not come at the expense of individual and irreducible stories and souls. In short, the key is to see the holocaust as a lesson for all mankind, but a lesson grounded in a particular story that happened to particular people that cannot be taken away from them or melted down into analogical applications.

This blend of irreducible identity and universal morality is itself a classic hallmark of the Jewish mission. It parallels the blend of ineffable soul and grounded body. It is the unity of qualifying and universalizing reason with the self-contained soul that precedes the era of the Moshiach, when there will be an end to darkness and evil will be swallowed up forever.

What A Jew Wants (Doesn’t Matter)

In a sense, an anti-Semite might be forgiven for attributing all evil to the Jews, as there is no evil we will not learn, argue about, contemplate during Shmoneh Esrei, dream about on Shabbos, and master. The anti-Semite thinks the Jews want to conquer the world. Like all good ideas, he stole this from the Jews and got all the details wrong.

A Jew, after millennia of breeding and education on his chosen role in G-d’s creation, is a hungry sieve. He does not turn the blood of gentiles into pastries or the money of rural farms into globalist skyscrapers in Sweden. These are the limited visions of pallid yokels. A Jew turns neutral things in to Jewish things.

What is a Jewish thing? No, not controlling the weather, nor whatever Louis Farrakhan thinks we do in the flickering Walgreens he calls a brain. The only thing that’s distinctly Jewish is our pact with G-d; we’re a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, and in return he destroys the Roman Empire and shoots Hitler though Hitler his messenger. So: A Jew is a sieve. Neutral things go in, things in an eternal pact with G-d come out.

Take the Marxists (please, take them). Karl had Jewish roots but was also a rabid anti-Semite, equating the Jews with capitalism and capitalism with, you know. This has not stopped Jews from snooping around Karl’s books, curious what everyone was so excited about. A Jew is a hungry sieve, you see, and if the world is putting something new on the table, our stomachs start rumbling. Is he really saying that economics contains the key to human suffering? Let us see, let us see. Humans once lived in a society without division, and one day we will again. You have nothing to lose but your chains! Moses calls to an enslaved people with a lost G-d. He tells them to believe, and it is our story, and what was a mundane tale of class exploitation now slips free from the bonds of time and approaches Sinai…

Butbutbut isn’t Marx an atheist materialist? The Jews who follow him agree! How can their participation suddenly make Marxism as Jewish as stepping out when the Rabbi picks the Iraqi chazzan for Mussaf?

First, who said “suddenly”? A small sieve takes a long time to chew through a world-historical buffet. Second, nu nu. You think the Jews are participating in atheism. Perhaps atheism is participating in Judaism. The non-belief in the Creator while yearning for a future of true equality is a non-belief opening the door to some wild G-dliness heretofore off the table. Limiting G-d to existing is so pedestrian, worse than complaining the Left Bank smelled like sewerage.

Besides, the sieve doesn’t believe in anything per se. The sieve does not prefer rice to water. It sorts them with a perfect lack of cognition (as far as I know. Perhaps I can here annoy a panpsychist). It sorts at a mechanical level, because at some base undeniable substrate these things don’t go through those holes and other things do. The sieve may worship rice, may offer sacrifices in the sacred paddy and eat it on Pesach (Sephardi), or rebel against it and deny it ever was and eat it on Pesach (Ashkenazi); the sieve will sort it from water all the same.

To see it’s not intellectual at all, take the Marxists, as in, Groucho. Jews want comedy. Many have written about this. A defense mechanism against oppression, sure, maybe, but why does the tradition continue in Brooklyn where the only suffering is rust and gentrification? And Manhattan? Seinfeld is not suffering (from Airline food?) the way the Jews joking about Stalin were. He is drawn, like so many of his fellow tribesmen and -women, to incongruity, the illogical. He does not see a covenant with G-d in this, though a comedian is a Jewish thing to be, and there’s a reason for that.

A Jew famously wants cheeseburgers on Yom Kippur morning. But a Jew remembers it’s Yom Kippur and in violating the fast with treif food he recalls the covenant.

A really devoted Jew forgets it’s Yom Kippur. This is almost impossible in Israel, which is why this particular form of devotion had been left by G-d to the Americans. The Jew does not think to violate Yom Kippur, because the Jew does not remember there is anything to break. Yet he is a hungry sieve, working at apathy. A Jew puts apathy in a Jewish context; even water run through a sieve is water run through a sieve.

A Jew flees across the sea and puts mountains between him and the city. He marries a non-Jew and spends his life drinking cheap beer and hunting. The sieve is moved to locations and modes it has rarely seen before.

A Jew is a sieve, by heritage and millennia of education. His very being says, “It must be this way, not that way.” Azoi, un nit anderesh.

The redemption is coming. The first time, when we were taken from bondage, you may have been left behind, because you would not strain yourself, would not let go of the illusion that you are like everyone else.

This time, no one will be left behind.

The only question: Will you become a partner in it? Will you let your mind and heart be sieved as well? Will you, in the last moments of illusion, consent to what you are?

 

Originally posted on Hevria.

Why Antisemitism Is A Historical Constant

All that varies in Jew hatred, over continents and millennia, is in the details. Every group has their own claim. The Jews killed Jesus (all of us; I was there!), the Jews did not accept Mohammed, the Jews drink the blood of small children. Jews have horns, their men menstruate part of the year. Jews are pathetic parasitic cockroaches. Jews rule the global order. They’re communists! They’re capitalists! They’re Zionists!

As a somewhat religious fellow, my question on all these persistent, bizarre, and contradictory claims is not just “Why?” but “Why, G-d?” It is clearly part of our mission to be distrusted and oppressed; we tell prospective converts that they join their fate with that of a beleaguered people. Why is this the way it must be, in a world where G-d expects the Jew to accomplish things?

Anyone familiar with the sources realizes prophecy and sagacity are two different qualities, though both prophet and sage receive word from G-d in some way. However, one of Judaism’s great sages must, in our case, be charged with uncanny prescience. Rashi, most famous of all Torah commentators, answers our question in his first words on Genesis.

That the explanation is on the words “In the beginning” indicates just how deep the roots of antisemitism might go. Rashi asks: The Torah ought not (as the book of teachings for the Jewish people) have begun with the world’s creation (which in many ways is none of our business) but with G-d’s first commandment to the Jews, recorded later in the book of Exodus. Rashi answers: The book of Genesis exists to answer the future claims of the non-Jew, who will come and say, “You are robbers; the land [of Israel] belongs to us!” The Jew can respond, “G-d created the world and gives it to whom He will; He willfully gave it to the Seven Nations and willfully took it from them and gave it to us.”

Here is an answer, on a simple level, to those who wish to take the land from the Jewish people, to those who call us thieves, oppressors, insufficiently progressive, etc. It is not, however, an explanation for all antisemitism in history. In fact, it has only sounded relevant since 1948 for the first time in almost two thousand years.

But that is not all that’s contained in Rashi’s words, which demand deeper consideration. After all, does Rashi truly mean to tell us that an entire book was added to the beginning of the Torah, God’s books, just to answer some mistaken future claims? This seems to lend their accusations of theft far more credence than they deserve

Really, the case Rashi raises is not a particular accusation of land theft but rather the eternal claim of the world against the Jew. “You come from the desert, inspired, claiming to have met the Creator and therefore transcended the bounds of this reality. It is surely a spiritual people whose entire nation is founded on the deliverance of, and covenant with, G-d. Surely any claim to a physical land is, on your part, out of place, a ‘theft’ from those who do not claim to have spoken with God.” In other words, the Jew is alien, not because of custom, appearance, or even religious practice (we have “controlled” for these and were still hated) but because their story sets them apart. To be a Jew who does nothing is, by a simple act of history, to stake a claim. And the claim of the Jew (not the claim the Jew makes, it must be reemphasized, but the claim made by history (and G-d) through the Jew) is that there exists a reality before whom the world is nothing. To put it in vulgar modern terms, antisemitism is in some sense the world rejecting a question on its stake to ultimate reality, like a body rejecting an organ transplant.

This, it should be noted, does not excuse the antisemite’s actions in the slightest; no one is compelled to be the messenger for this rejection. However, this does explain why antisemitism refuses to die, as an impulse — because the Jews refuse to die, and with the world as it is now, before any sort of radical messianic transformation, there is a fundamental resentment toward the people whose story negates the world. And since the world includes all man-made ideologies and all of man’s animal impulses, it is never very hard to find an excuse for Jew hatred.

What, according to Rashi, is the Jewish response to this resentment? “G-d is the creator the world and gives it to whom He wills.” Even though a G-dly people may seem to contradict the world, it is, on the contrary, G-d’s will that they enter it, settle a land, and repair the world from within. It is our whole aim to know, and then to teach, that though we may have different stories, we and the non-Jew are made by the same Creator and the “secular” world is as G-dly as the event at Sinai, if not more so. The “solution” to antisemitism can only be found in dissolving the seeming difference between the physical and the spiritual, the mundane and the holy.

The world is an estranged child who has forgotten her roots in G-d, and the Jews are here to guide her back. She must be taught that in her very weakness, in her acknowledgment that she is not just a mother but a child, an offspring of a higher reality, she discovers not death and limitation but true eternal life in service of the One G-d. Just like the Jews.

How The Jew Haters Desperately Need Our Help

It’s 2016, and we Jews have a lot to answer for.

A political battle wages in the United States. On one side, a group powerfully desirous of government-enforced universal human love, understanding, and prosperity. On the other, a group that campaigns for the preservation of tribe and nation in a world ever more violent and insane.

Both groups hate the Jews.

Let’s put aside the fact that Jew hatred really needs no reason, and look instead at its manifestation on each side.

The universalists hate the Jews ostensibly because they are committing genocide but really because the Jews are irredeemably tribal, a group separate from other nations, whose duties to one another come before their duties to the swift march of progress, as demonstrated by their unfortunate allegiance to their own dynamic state, Jewish, Western, and wealthy. Damn Jewish fascists.

The nationalists hate the Jews ostensibly because the Jews are simply not of their tribe but really because the Jewish tribe, rather than minding its own business out near Arabia or the like, says that there are rules bigger than any one tribe, that might does not make right, and that tribes are universally obligated to act in a way that’s Good and not Evil, capital letters intended. Damn Jewish commies.

I, personally, find it strange that Jews should be enamored of either of these groups. I survey the situation: Bernie supporters would love me if I, like Bernie, were more about Bernie than I am about my allegiance to other Jews. Trump supporters would love me if I would just admit my moral judgement holds no sway over what are essentially white, Christian, European affairs. My conclusion: With friends like these, who needs friends?

The irony is that the model this country was founded upon, with its covenantal Constitution and its moral grounding (including the Declaration of Independence), directly parallels the Jewish model of a closed, limited tribe with universal ideals. In other words, the United States as an objective reality to which its citizens belong and should be loyal is coupled with the moral nature of the country, famously unique as a nation founded on principle rather than mere historical happenstance, which allows for castigating the country’s actions while still remaining utterly devoted to it. In a word, traditional American patriotism (unlike its special 2016 variants) follows the Jewish notion of family coming first, even though family can sometimes be evil.

Look at how public opinion in Israel works on the whole. There is daily partisan sniping, each side convinced that the other is a reprehensible evil. But when it comes to defense, to war, to surviving the onslaught of our endless enemies, Israel is Israel, and the enemy is, as a rule, the enemy. If Jews were not tribal, if every act of evil or incompetence was part of the definition of the relationship between Jew and Jew, eventually all confidence in one another would be lost and the state would fall apart; certainly the support of American Jews for Israel would disintegrate. On the other hand, if Jews were only tribal, criticism or moral evaluation of evil or incompetence would be not only forbidden but actually absurd, because the survival and strength of the tribe is the only good. Instead, we Jews have been finding a balance for millennia (where the balance lies exactly is, of course, a matter of debate), a united tribe with a sense of universal morality.

So, too, could be the American way, a blend of nationalism and universalism, a sense of loyalty to one another combined with a sense of our own fallibility and moral shortcomings. The two are not a contradiction, any more than the love and contract of a marriage are a contradiction. Nationalists want the contract independent of love with no opportunity for divorce that is the foundation of abusive marriages; universalists want love independent of a contract which is not, in fact, a lasting, objective marriage at all but merely a fling that melts away at the first sign of trouble.

We, as Jews, have been living under the weight of these paradoxes for millenia, but we have not yet managed to teach the world the ultimate lesson: that there is no easy way out of this tension, no option to simply pick a side, because G-d made this world to see how the contradiction plays out, how the object can be a vessel for the subject, and eventually merge into one.

 

 

Originally posted on Hevria.

Purim In A Time Of Jew Hatred

Consider: Jews. Ruin. Everything.

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.