Purim and the Bomb; Livni or Lau and Begin?

Whom to believe: Livni, a failed politician who was one of Israel’s weakest, wimpiest FM's; her weak policies landed us in the pickle we are in today, or two Holocaust survivors, PM Begin and Rabbi Lau, who held the highest positions in this land.

Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Hirsch

Judaism הרב ישראל מאיר לאו
הרב ישראל מאיר לאו

Opposition leader Tzippi Livni this week criticized  Prime Minister Netanyahu’s use of ‘hysterical’ Holocaust imagery in discussing Iran, saying, ‘ there is no place for hysterical Holocaust comparisons. We don’t need to create an atmosphere of Holocaust threats and annihilation to scare Israel’s citizens’”

In May, 1981, on the eve of meeting with the Chancellor of West Germany, PM Menachem Begin addressed a group of American Jewish leaders thus: ‘You must remember that we Jews have a certain collective national experience that goes back many centuries. In light of that experience, I believe the lessons of the Holocaust are these: First, if an enemy of our people says that he is out to destroy us, believe him.  Don’t doubt him for a moment. Don’t make light of it. Do all in your power to deny him the means of carrying out his satanic intent.  Second, when a Jew anywhere is threatened, do all in your power to come to his aid. Never pause to wonder what the world will think or say. The world will never pity slaughtered Jews. ( Yehuda Avner, The Prime Ministers, page 545).

“Not long ago we heard wild hyperbole from such leaders as Yasser Arafat …and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with his genocidal threats against Israel and his denial of the Holocaust. After the Holocaust, we cannot allow ourselves to ignore or belittle the significance of those who make such violent proclamations. Every fanatic has genuine intentions, and these intentions can become reality if we do not do everything in our power to stop them. It happened here, in Buchenwald, and it can happen again, anywhere”. (Rav Yisrael Meir Lau, Chief Rabbi of Israel, in his autobiographical, Out of the Depths, pages 232-233)

It all boils down to whom to believe:  on the one hand, Livni, a failed politician who was one of Israel’s worst, weakest, wimpiest Foreign Ministers; her weak policies landed us in the pickle we are in today, setting the precedent for Israel’s giving the world a veto on our right to defend ourselves, and to build in our historic homeland.

On the other hand are two Holocaust survivors, who held the highest positions in this land: PM Begin was true to his convictions and bombed the Soviet-backed nuclear reactor in Osirak, Iraq, despite worldwide condemnation; this despite the opposition of Minister Yosef Burg, whose wisdom Begin respected, and who argued against the strike, fearing that the Soviets would surely retaliate by bombing Israel ( Burg, humbly, later said to this author: “ I was wrong”).

It is worthwhile to examine, this Purim, as we face threats to Israel’s existence and to our homeland in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, what the message is for Jews on this holiday.  I refer the reader to my recent summary of Rav Chaim Drukman’s shiurim of Anti-Semitism (Feb. 13, 2012), and to the thoughts below from Rav Matis Weinberg:

Every year, Purim falls in the week after the Torah reading of Tetzaveh. In this portion, we read about the holy garments of the Priests, the Kohanim. The list starts off not with a description of the Tzitz, the head-plate, which is intimately connected to the sacrifices. Instead, the Lord starts off with the ephod, the apron-like garment that clothed Aharon, covering his trunk, and connected by straps to his neck above.  The Rabbis note this physical connection between heart and voicebox; Aharon had a heart and voice that were one, with no trace of hypocrisy or treacherousness.

Indeed, Aharon merited to make this garment (which covered his heart) his because of the story related in Exodus 4;14: “ and Aharon will see you and be happy in his HEART”. Moses had just refused G-d’s offer to be the man to go to Pharoah and say: “Let my people go!” .  Moses thought that since Aharon had up to now be the leader of the Jews, if Moses were to replace Aharon, Aharon would become jealous. But the Almighty said: it’s not at all like you think, Moses. Aharon will not only be not jealous, he’ll be genuinely happy at your appointment.

The usual understanding of Aharon being beloved by the people, a “ohev Shalom”, is that Aharon had a sunny disposition. But this goes way beyond that: this story shows that Aharon’s happiness lay in other people’s actuating their potential. When someone else achieved, Aharon rejoiced, truly and genuinely, with no jealousy, no sinat chinam, no miserly hate and desire to destroy the other guy’s accomplishments. Aharon was happy to offer any help he could give. In short, Aharon genuinely cared: for others, for their potential and their achievements, and for the nation and its fruition.

Contrast that with our historical adversaries, the Amalekites. Jealous over Israel’s success in leaving Egypt, Amalek sought to destroy Israel’s national prestige, and with it, as many Jews as possible. Thus, the Torah commentators note “asher karcha( Deutoronomy 25;18)” , Amalek sought to “cool you off”: the Jews and their relationship with G-d were hot stuff, world-renowned and seemingly invincible. But Amalek attacked, just like terrorists today, to leave the message: “They aren’t such hot stuff. Does anybody really care about the Jews and their achievements? We spit on their ‘achievements’”. 

Thus we have the Aharon- Amalek dichotomy. Throughout the month of Adar, in which Purim falls, we Jews are urged to emulate Aharon: Be Happy! Feel real joy at the accomplishments of another, and help him out. Send the poor gifts on Purim (matanot l’evyonim), and join fellow Jews in a festive meal of rejoicing. Be happy for the victory over the jealous, cynical Amalekites, and, if necessary, defend fellow Jews who are threatened by Amalek. Above all, remember that by uniting around Esther, fasting  for her , and  defending  each other, the Jews merited a return to all of their holy Land,  and ultimately to Redemption, with  sovereignty in the Second Commonwealth, and Temple and service by the sons of Aharon.

So there it is, dear Reader: Livni, or PM Begin and Rav Lau. The momentous, courageous choice is up to you.