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“Purim Spiels”

By Tzvi Fishman
3/16/2008, 12:00 AM
A great Purim gift is the wonderful new biography of Rabbi Meir Kahane which reminds us how a healthy Jew is supposed to think and act.

To get us in the mood for the holiday, here is something that Rabbi Kahane wrote about Purim:
On Purim as part of the joyful abandon, it has become customary to create a “Purim Torah Lesson,” known as a “Purim Spiel,” a humorous rendition of nonsensical “pilpul.” In recent months we have been witness to the spread of several “Purim Torahs” that we share with you below. What makes them uniquely different from other Purim Torahs is that their creators and spreaders never meant them to be Purim Torahs at all. Which only makes them funnier — and more maddening.
1) Going the rounds of certain yeshiva circles is the latest effort to affirm the positive benefits of the Galut, Exile. Thus, in the face of flat Biblical verses describing the Exile as a curse, a tragedy, and, above all, as a punishment, we find the affirmers of the Exile regaling us with the following quote from the Talmud: “The Holy One, Blessed Be He, righteously dealt with Israel by scattering them among the nations” (Pesachim 87b). As a Purim Torah it is quite good but the clear explanation is: since the Holy One Blessed Be He did punish us and made us suffer by going into Exile, at least he did us the favor of not letting us go into only one country of the Exile where it would have been simpler to kill us.
The Galut itself remains the punishment, the suffering and the curse that the Holy One, Blessed Be He, told us ten times over in the Bible and that we affirm twice a day in the second paragraph of the Shema: “Beware for yourselves, lest your heart be seduced and you turn astray, and serve gods of others, and worship them; and then the L-rd’s anger will blaze against you . . . and you will quickly perish from off the good land which the L-rd gives you” (Deuteronomy 11:16-17).
2) The concept of not giving up land to the Arabs and not being prepared to divide with the “Palestinians” goes against the basic Jewish concept of how to settle a dispute. Thus we find the great Mishna in Bava Metziah (1:1) clearly saying: “If two people hold a garment and each one says the whole thing is mine, let them divide it.”
This is one of the better Purim Torahs heard. Of course, there are some people who know that the entire law involved here is only when two people are both in actual physical possession. But if one holds it and the other merely claims it — the rule is clear: one who desires to take something from the possession of his neighbor is obligated to bring legal proof. The land of Israel that is now in our hands is Jewish possession, and the rule of division is totally irrelevant.
Furthermore, it takes a certain kind of Jew to look upon the Land of Israel as a garment. The real ones know that it is an inheritance to the Jewish people by their Father in Heaven.
3) The fact that there is a Biblical prohibition against giving up a part of the Land of Israel to gentiles is reluctantly noted by some of the more sober Purim Torahists. However, they add, pikuach nefesh docheh shtachim, the saving of lives takes precedence over the territories. Naturally, if pikuach nefesh had any relevance at all to the land, Jews would never have been allowed to fight a war, since in every war men have been known to die. Despite this, the Jew is allowed to fight, obligated to fight, and the Talmud (Shabbat 19) permits the war to continue even on the Sabbath. The clear fact is that the very concept of conquering the land is irrevocably tied to war and the necessary loss of life and thus the entire concept of pikuach nefesh has no relevance to it.
And so, a look at the Book of Judges (Chapter 11) finds the nation of Ammon demanding back its “conquered territories” on the EAST BANK of the Jordan (that which is now the counterfeit Kingdom of Jordan) and offering, in return, “peace” (as the king says: “And now return them in peace”). We are not speaking of the return of the West Bank, certainly not of Tel Aviv, emphatically not Jerusalem. All the gentiles want back are territories on the East Bank that Israel took when it went up from Egypt. The choice is clear: Return that and there will be peace or, if not, Jews will die. Surely here is pikuach nefesh with a vengeance!
But does the Jewish leader and Judge, Yiftach, agree? Hardly. His reply was: “That which Chmosh your god gives you to possess, that shall you possess. And that which the L-rd our G-d delivers to us, that will we possess” (Judges 11:24). This Jewish leader went to war rather than give up an inch of the land that G-d gave to the Jews.