Emanuel Shilo
Emanuel Shilo Nissim Lev

Translated from the Besheva weekly Hebrew newspaper

1. Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid was a guest on a weekly Ynet program called "My Judaism" about fifteen years ago on which celebrities were asked to answer questions about their attitudes to Judaism.

At the time, Lapid was a lightweight TV personality, and no one imagined, probably least of all Lapid himself, that he was going to be a minister, let alone prime minister, one day. He expressed his opinion of the holiday that you and the rest of the Jewish people have just celebrated in his answer to the question "What would you omit from the Jewish calendar?"

This is what he answered: "I would eliminate Purim, the story in which an anti-Jewish conspiracy is thwarted because someone pushes his virgin niece into an adulterous king's bed, thereby granting the Jews authorization to commit genocide and kill some 70,000 people, then go get drunk to celebrate their joy. It does not add much to the respect the world has for us. My heart is with Vayzata [Haman's youngest son], - what good can come of our hanging a six year old? At the same time, I would make Holocaust Remembrance Day part of the Jewish calendar. The Holocaust is a much more central event in Jewish history than, let's say, Tu Bishvat."

We can only hope that current Foreign Minister and alternate Prime Minister Lapid has since managed to change his opinion on Purim. After all, he has shown a talent for jumping from one opinion to an opposing one in a matter of weeks, so what could pose a problem with changing his views on the holiday 15 years later? Still, it is worthwhile to analyze his words at the time, because they epitomize his shallowness, arrogance, ignorance, and the frivolity and lack of respect he shows for what is sacred to the Jewish people and to their historic heroes and heroines, who continue to light our path up to this very day.

2. It's unbelievable how much stupidity one can manage to insert into a text of less than 100 words. Let us start from the fact that King Ahasueros and Haman's decree was to "destroy, murder and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women in one day." This is what Lapid called by the laundered term "an anti-Jewish conspiracy." You would think it was some devious plan of his political bedfellow Avigdor Liberman to hit the haredi sector's pockets, calling it a move for the "protection of the environment".

The real name for this conspiracy is, of course, genocide. But Lapid saves this word for what the Jews did to their enemies. If he cared a bit more for the people of Israel, or even just for biblical truth, he would read the Megillah more carefully and discover that what the Jews did was not genocide, but self defense.

Mordecai and Esther, after all, did not choose to fight this terrible civil war. All they wanted to begin with was for the genocidal decree against the Jews to be cancelled. But once Ahasueros made it clear that he does not rescind any decrees that have his signature on them, there was nothing Mordecai and Esther could do besides issuing another decree allowing the Jews to defend themselves. This was not murder, as Lapid, lightly and shallowly called it, but self-defense. And it was not genocide either, it was killing the enemies of the Jews who had planned to murder them and destroy the Jewish People. That's why we rejoice and thank G-d for saving us, first of all, and then rejoice at the death of those evil people who wanted to destroy us. There is nothing here that "does not add to our respect" in the eyes of the world.

And by the way, the number of enemies of the Jewish People who were killed was not 70,000 as Lapid wrote, but 75,000. Why casually omit 5000 dead Nazis? And what definitely does add to the respect the world has for us, a fact that Lapid naturally forgot to mention, is the Jews' decision not to loot or take spoils despite their being permitted to do so – another proof that this killing of Jew-haters was just and necessary, done with pure motives and without self-interest.

3. The disgusting description of Mordecai as someone who "pushes his virgin niece into the adulterous king's bed" is a product of Lapid's mindset and not a conclusion reached from a reading of the Megillah and the commentaries on it. It says twice in the Megillah that Esther was "taken" to the king, not by choice, not hers and not Mordecai's. According to Rashi, Mordecai told Esther not to reveal her nation and birthplace "so that they will say that she is from a lowly family and will send her away." In contrast to all the other maidens in the cruel reality game to decide who would be the next queen and who would be forced to remain a forgotten concubine, Esther "asked for nothing" that might persuade the king to choose her.

Yes, there are commentaries who opine that Mordecai wanted her to be chosen, once her participation in the process had been forced upon her, and the choice was between being queen or becoming one of the hundreds (thousands?) of the king's concubines. Mordecai was a believing Jew and thought that perhaps this was G-d's plan for saving the Jews in some way, saying to Esther "who knows if this is not the reason you became queen." And in the end, that turned out to be accurate. What connection this has to Lapid's ugly depiction of the story is beyond me.

As for Vayzata's age, and the resulting pity Lapid has for him, there is absolutely no indication that he was a six-year-old rather than an adult anti-Semite like his father, as our Sages, whose period was much closer to that of the Purim story, asserted. Lapid must have become confused by the difference between what is written in the Megillah and what he was taught in pre-school where Israeli poet Natan Alterman's humorous verse "Haman was hanged on a high tree, but Vayzata was hanged on a plant" is set to a tune. (Alterman was writing in jest and may have been influenced by what he saw in the Tel Aviv Purim adloyada parade he was describing.) What did we gain by hanging a six year old, Lapid wondered. Except that he wasn't a six year old.

4. What a younger Lapid meant by his suggestion to make Holocaust Remembrance Day part of the Hebrew calendar is unclear. It has been part of the calendar for years and falls on the 27th of Nisan. The Jewish State and everyone who commemorates it know that. Those who grant the Holocaust its fitting place in Jewish history should do the same for the first attempt to commit genocide against the Jewish People, and those who understand the catastrophic dimensions of the Holocaust should certainly recognize the great joy and salvation of the Purim holiday.

When Lapid was 15 years younger than he is today, he criticized Mordecai and Esther, the Jews living at the time of the Megillah and the Jews who celebrated their deliverance year after year. These behaviors, Lapid says, do not become us. With this approach to Jewish history, it is hard to meet the challenge an Israeli foreign minister has in defending the Jewish State against its many detractors. It is no wonder that we have been accepting Ukrainian refugees in numbers way above those expected of a small and far off country like ours, but have managed to teach the world, thanks to our media and MKs, how to point an accusing finger at us for abandoning Ukraine and ignoring its people's plight.

Let's hope that between one slip of the tongue and another thoughtless remark he sets loose into the air, our future prime minister takes a minute to think seriously about his own people, their uniqueness and their mission, their great men of thought and action and on the significance of the Purim holiday. In fact, as opposed to Yair Lapid who wanted to cancel Purim, our Sages said that Purim is the holiday that will never be cancelled.

He might remember that he once wanted to cancel a holiday with a similar name - Yom Kippur (see our Sages for their explanation of the message behind the similarity) – when, during the period in which he was a columnist for Maariv he wrote that the fast is due to the rabbis who wanted us to suffer and therefore declared it a fast day, and that Yom Kippur is not even to be found in the Torah. Adding insult to ignorance (Yom Kippur is to be found in the book of Leviticus) he expressed his surprise that most Jews fast, despite it not being in the Torah. He was disabused of that idiotic assertion by rabbis and readers, but as far as I know, never apologized. (Former MK Yael Dayan, for the record, did apologize for going to the beach on Yom Kippur, citing her ignorance of the importance of the day because of the way she had been raised by her father, Moshe).

If Lapid can understand the special worth of the Jewish People that comes to the fore on Purim as well as Yom Kippur, perhaps we might be able to worry less about the day he is slated to become prime minister.

Hebrew sources:

For Purim: Yinon Magal on Twitter

For Yom Kippur: https://www.facebook.com/456088887935762/posts/1075097236034921/

Emanuel Shilois editor in chief of the weekly Hebrew newspaper Besheva.This article was the editorial this past Shabbat.

Translation by Rochel Sylvetsky.