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This page has been scanned from Elizabeth Dilling's The Jewish Religion: Its Influence Today, which in turn had photocopied it from The American Hebrew (March 1, 1946); It is put here to ensure availability for future students of Come and Hear™

Dilling Exhibit 299


By Rabbi Leon Spitz


Exterminate Anti-Semitic Termites As Our Ancestors Did 2,500 Years Ago

The Purim festival offers a formula to combat anti-Semitism. And no wonder, since it was during those Purim days, just about twenty-five hundred years ago that Jews lived for the first time in their history in Galuth. And it was then that Jews met the anti-Semite face to face — and triumphed over him.

To the question, how did he do it? a rereading of the Book of Esther will afford the answer. No, there was no miracle about it at all. Fact is, the Purim festival is unique in this respect that nothing supernatural is mentioned in its connection. It is also unique in that the name of God does not occur in the entire story. It presents just this one problem, the problem of anti-Semitism and affords a realistic solution, which seems to have a substantial amount of merit.

And yet it is this holiday about which poets have composed songs and ditties beginning with the Medieval Shoahanat Yakob to “Haman was a Wicked Man” and “In Shu Shu shu shu” so popular in our American Sunday schools. It is this festival which has evoked not a few of the great masterpieces by the master-painters of Christendom which are exhibited in the finest National Museums and Galleries in many a European Capital. These Purim paintings are to be found even among the priceless objects d’art which Goering and his hoodlums have looted and hidden away, now to be rediscovered one by one by American art experts. Purim launched the Yiddish Theatre with Esther as the charming heroine, Mordecai the popular hero, and Haman the villain par excellence. In the sunny climates of Italy and Southern France Purim carnivals were in vogue while in German and Hollandish Synagogues Haman was burnt in effigy and with unrestrained glee. To this very day in a thousand Synagogues his name is hissed and mimicked on Megillah night to the accompaniment of haman klappers and every other variety of festive noisemaker.

Esther Before Ahasurus (Madrid Prado)

Dealing as it does with the most serious problem of Jewish life, the perennial curse of anti-Semitism, the festival has yet become the merriest and the gayest in the Jewish calendar. The Order of the Day includes wine drinking, the Purim Seuda or Banquet to top off the holiday which has been launched on Megillah night by the public reading of the Story of Esther. It by no means neglects the giving of charity to the poor and it stresses the practice of Shalach Mones or the Exchange of Presents among relatives and friends. Every earmark of festivity lends its bit of gaiety to make this the most glamorous of Jewish holidays. And so it goes.

But why all this?

For the very simple reason that the Purim festival spelled to Every Jew of Every Generation the call to fight the good fight with a pretty definite assurance that victory and triumph were just right around the corner. The Purim story mirrored the precariousness and the uniqueness of Jewish Life In Exile. Withal it reemphasizes the story-book formula that all’s well that ends well, and every Jew lived happily ever after.

In every way Jewish life as lived in the Purim story mirrors Jewish life outside of Palestine in every age and epoch of Jewish history. Mordecai and Esther had Persian names, they spoke the language of the country of their adoption, they participated in the life about them, they attained posts of honor and of prestige.

And simultaneously they had their own organized Jewish life and they adhered to their faith and their traditions. And then anti-Semitism struck.

The causes were the perennial causes: jealousy, race hatred, the Jews were aliens, they were — that greatest of unforgivable crimes — they were DIFFERENT. In the words of the Megillat Esther, “Their laws are diverse from those of every people; neither keep they the king’s laws.” Haman too alludes to the loot which would be poured into the Royal Treasury by confiscating Jewish property, “I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to bring it into the king’s treasuries.” There is too the genuine Hitlerian touch. Hitler resentful of certain individual Jews, determined to revenge himself upon the entire Jewish nation. Likewise Haman in his day, resented Mordecai and sought to massacre all the Jews.

The Purim formula demands the following elements: Selfrespect, Unity, Faith, Courage and Sacrifice.

  • Selfrespect — The Megillah is crystal clear on this point. Mordecai the Jew did not kneel nor did he prostrate. No matter what the price, his Jewish selfrespect permitted no compromises.
  • Unity! Esther’s counsel to Mordecai was, Go forth and assemble all the Jews of Shushan. American Jewry must present a united front in combatting its enemies. This is a first essential prerequisite before the ranks can be closed. It is a Must technique which every battle in human experience prescribes. Jews of every religious denomination and of every sort and manner of theological grouping, the maximum and the minimum Jews are dutybound to keep well in mind Ben Franklin’s revolutionary bonmot, If we don’t hang together we shall hang separately. Jews must learn to get along together and to embark on common action, to achieve their goals and to protect their rights.
  • Faith! A people must have faith both in its destiny and in its own power to achieve that destiny. “Enlargement and Deliverance will arise unto the Jews from another source”.
  • Sacrifice! Yes, there must be those who, more alive to the problems of Jewry and placed strategically where they can help their people, must be willing to render the needful service even to the point of personal sacrifice. Noblesse oblige. They who are endowed with health, or prestige or influence, or talent — with the ammunition that plays a determining role in a Democracy — must be induced to make use of their ammunition in the protection of their fellow-Jews. For in the security of the entire Family of Israel is assured the peace and the security of every individual Member of that Family.
  • And lastly, Courage. The kind of courage that Mordecai and the Jews of Shushan displayed was to meet the enemy in physical combat. It was the kind of courage which the Allied soldier displayed when he met Nazi and Jap in battle. It was the kind of courage the flower of the Jewish Youth of Palestine exhibits in its battle for free entry into Palestine. For too many thousands of years The Voice has been The Voice of Jacob and the Hand was the Hand of Esau forever raised against his brother. Perhaps the time has come when roles should be changed. Let Esau whine and wail and protest to the civilized world, and let Jacob raise his hand to fight the good fight.

For the anti-Semite has no morality, and he has no conscience. He understands but one language, and he must be dealt with on his own level. The Purim Jews stood up for their lives. American Jews too must come to grips with our contemporary anti-Semites. We must fill our jails with anti-Semitic gangsters, we must fill our insane asylums with anti-Semitic lunatics, we must combat every alien Jew-hater, we must harass and prosecute our Jew baiters to the extreme limits of the laws, we must humble and shame our anti-Semitic hoodlums to such an extent that none will wish to dare to become ‘fellow-travelers’.