The Author

We do not fight just for Israel, but also for the expression of proper Divine values universally and what Israel must mean to the world. This is also a Purim message.

As we read Parshat Zachor and are reminded of Amalek’s treacherous evil desires and actions against the Jewish People, we can think of the similar enemies which we face today. With the celebration of Purim and our victory, with God’s Divine intervention, against those who wished our destruction, we can consider our own times and a reality that there are those who today wish a similar fate for us. We are indeed thankful to God for protecting us at the time of Purim and for continuing to protect us today from these enemies.

It is important, though, that we do not just see God’s intervention on behalf of the Jewish People in solely nationalistic terms. As much as there are people who wish Israel to simply be a nation like every other nation, the reality is that we are not. God’s choice of the Jewish People was not just an arbitrary choice of one nation from a group of essentially similar nations. The Jewish nation is distinct and inherently unlike every other nation – and must continue to be so. As such, its victories cannot be seen as simply the triumph of a nation in solely nationalistic terms. Victory must always represent and be a triumph of our values, of our Divine mission to educate the world in these Divine values. We are a nation with a Divine universalistic role to bring the world to the proper perception of God and the good. Our victories are thus not just nationalistic. They have a positive universal significance – and this is something we must always recognize.

Megillat Esther

The Washington Megillah (Scroll of Esther) on Parchment, Illuminated, Italy 18th century. (jewishvirtuallibrary.org)

The Talmud informs us that the descendants of Haman studied Torah in Bnei Brak (T.B. Gittin 57b, T.B. Sanhedrin 69b). This is listed with other examples of noted enemies of the Jewish People, and/or their descendants, who eventually bonded with and integrated within our nation. What I believe this gemara is telling us is that victory over the enemies of the Jewish People is not simply achieved through their defeat. A greater victory is attained in such individuals’ recognition of the value of Torah and its importance for humanity and the world – and their eventual connection with our nation and its ideals. As such, a higher goal was actually reached in that descendants of Haman – one of the most evil enemies of our nation and values – ultimately connected with the Jewish People. This is true success. (Further on this theme, I invite you to see my article Choice in Destruction, which asks the question of whether one could fulfill the mitzvah of destroying Amalek by converting them.)

This important realization must necessarily be part of our present consciousness as well. We do not fight just for Israel. We fight for the expression of proper Divine values universally. Our goal cannot be just national victory, but the victory of these values, these universal values. The focus of our mind cannot be just on the narrow domain of the national. Our mind must be on what Israel must mean to the world. This is also a message of Purim.

Article by Benjamin Hecht

Rabbi Benjamin Hecht is the founding director of Nishma, which fosters the critical investigation of contemporary issues. For further info, see nishma.org and nishmablog.blogspot.com. You can follow Rabbi Hecht on Twitter @NishmaTorah.