From The Other Side Of The Bench
By David J. Seidemann, Esq.
So here is my idea. We all know that the Arabs want a “Palestinian state” in what they call “occupied territory.” I have a perfect solution. The Crimean Peninsula is presently occupied by Russia, and Ukraine has plenty of room in other parts of the country to absorb those Ukrainians presently living in Crimea. So we move the Ukrainians out of Crimea, move the “Palestinians” in, and presto! We have solved the problem of placing refugees in occupied territory.
On second thought, it won’t work. Russia would be the evildoers instead of Israel and it would confuse the United Nations. Israel must continue to be the villain, or the Security Council would be in danger of becoming extinct. Only in the United Nations, where it is Purim every day, is Israel the evil Haman, and Haman a saint.
When we read the Megillah in a little over a week, one verse will jump out at me as it does every year. It is my all-time favorite verse because it can be interpreted in so many ways. I will share with you three such interpretations, each different, each with a powerful contemporary message.
Haman addresses King Achashverosh and says, “There is one nation, spread out across the provinces, and the rules of life that control the world are different for them, and there is no value in the king keeping them alive.” Each one of those four statements is an independent argument advanced by Haman and, while independent, builds on the previous statement and is meant to convince the king that now is the appropriate time to attack. So let’s examine each phrase independently, then together and in three different ways.
Version one. There is one nation, the Jews, but they are dispersed across the globe so their ability to coalesce and form one army is impossible. But more than that, they are different in their rules of life from all of the societies that they live within, so no one is going to come to their aid. Therefore they can be attacked. They are vulnerable. Why? Simply because they are different. Pure unadulterated anti-Semitism, seen on college campuses, in the media, and played out on the world stage in every conceivable venue.
Version two. There is one nation, the Jews—that is, they are supposed to be one nation. But they are not. They are dispersed within the nations and countries they inhabit. They are fractured. They fight, quarrel, and quibble. This one won’t eat at this one’s house, this one won’t pray at this one’s shul, and this one won’t steal from a non-Jew but will stab his fellow Jew in the back in a heartbeat. This one won’t learn that one’s Torah; this one won’t fight in the other one’s army.
And the rules of nature that apply to the rest of the world don’t apply to them. Meaning, that every other nation or people or religion can have intrafamily disputes, but those intrafamily disputes don’t impact their ability to defend themselves from intercontinental attacks. Their existential future is not linked to their internal unity. But with the Jews, if they are not internally strong and united, if they are dispersed within the nations, among the nations, they are vulnerable. Now, says Haman, is the propitious time to attack.
Version three. There is one nation, the Jews. And they are spread across the globe. And the rules of nature that apply to the rest of the world do not apply to them. They live by a different set of rules. They are so united that if a Jew in Shushan has a baby they are all happy worldwide. If a Jew in Shushan bows to Haman and eats from the heathen feast of Achashverosh, they will all be punished. That’s how connected the Jews are. Unlike the rest of the world that can exist independently, when one Jew rises, they all rise; when one Jew falls or fails, they all fall and fail.
Now is the time to attack, Haman tells the King. Now is the time to attack the Jews in all of your 127 provinces even though only the Jews in one province, where the capital, Shushan, is located, sinned. Because that’s how connected the Jewish people are.
Version one is ominous and only has a bad ending. The same is true with version number two. Anti-Semitism will always dominate the landscape, and when we are divided as a people we will always be vulnerable.
The only scenario with the possibility of a happy ending is version number three, where we are so connected and so unified that we pick each other up and give pause to those that wish us harm.
The only scenario that will ensure the continued presence of Jews in this world is one where we learn each other’s Torah and fight in each other’s army. Then and only then will Haman be abolished and his venom gone for eternity. v
David Seidemann is a partner with the law firm of Seidemann and Mermelstein and serves as a professor of business law at Touro College. He can be reached at 718-692-1013 or firstname.lastname@example.org.