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Torah Attitude: Purim - Parashas Ki Sisa: Iran, the land of the Aryans

Summary

There are six public fast days in the Jewish calendar. Purim is a time for happiness and celebration, so it seems odd that we fast the day before. If G'd sees the Jewish people constantly transgress the laws of the Torah and do not repent, He will bring a wicked king, who issues harsh decrees, like Haman. Who can imagine how immense G'd's pain was during the Holocaust? We again hear the horrible rhetoric from Iran, just like Haman spoke at the time of Purim and Hitler in Nazi Germany. It is rather chilling to remember that in the 1930s, Persia changed its name to Iran, which means "Land of the Aryans" in Persian. "Advocating the common Aryan ancestry of 'the two Nations' the Reich Cabinet issued a special decree [in 1936] exempting Iranians from the restrictions of the Nuremberg Racial Laws on the grounds that they were 'pure blooded Aryans'". We may not ignore the lessons of our past and just let things go ahead as if nothing is going on. As we gather in the synagogues to hear the Megillah, let us internalize its message and apply it here and now.

Six public fast days

There are six public fast days in the Jewish calendar. Only Yom Kippur is mentioned in the Torah, as it says (Vayikra 23:37): "But on the tenth day of this seventh month [counting from Nissan, Tishrei is the seventh month] it is Yom Hakippurim [the Day of Atonement] and you shall afflict yourselves [by not eating]." Another four of the fast days originate from the time of the destruction of the First Temple. They are mentioned in the Prophet Zechariah (8:9) who prophesizes that these days of mourning will turn into days of celebration when Mashiach comes, as it says: "The fast of the fourth month [the seventh of Tammuz], and the fast of the fifth month [ninth of Av], and the fast of the seventh month [Zom Gedaliah, the third of Tishrei], and the fast of the tenth month (the tenth of Teves), shall be for the House of Yehudah days of jubilations and happiness and times of festivals." On Yom Kippur, the Torah instructs us to fast as part of our repentance in order to achieve atonement for our sins. On the other four fast days, we fast to commemorate different stages of the destruction of the Temple and our subsequent exile. The Rambam (Laws of Fastdays 5:1) explains that we fast on the days of these calamities to arouse us to do teshuvah and return to G'd.

Fast of Ta'anis Esther

But why do we fast on Ta'anis Esther, the thirteenth of Adar? Purim is a time for happiness and celebration, so it seems odd that we fast the day before. In his commentary on Shulchan Aruch, the Mishnah Berurah, the Chofetz Chaim explains that this fast day was instituted in the time of Mordechai and Esther, when the Jews gathered on the thirteenth of Adar to protect themselves and fight for their lives (see Book of Esther 9:1-2). Whenever the Jewish people went into battle, they would fast and say extra prayers to ask for G'd's assistance and mercy to win over their enemies. This, our sages explain, was why Moses ascended on top of a hill and raised his hands in prayer the first time that Amalek attacked the Jewish people, shortly after the splitting of the Sea (see Shemos 17:10-11). In this way, concludes the Chofetz Chaim, the Fast of Esther serves as a reminder that G'd sees and listens to every person in his time of distress, when he fasts and returns to G'd in sincerity, as the Jewish people did in the story of Purim.

Wicked king like Haman

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 97b) teaches that if G'd sees the Jewish people constantly transgress the laws of the Torah and do not repent, He will bring a wicked king, who issues harsh decrees, like Haman. One of the great rabbis of Jerusalem once asked why would G'd choose to bring a wicked king like Haman rather than any of the other anti-Semitic rulers that arose against the Jewish people in ancient times? Unfortunately, there is no shortage of examples. He answered that there is a significant difference between Haman and everyone else. Pharaoh, the King of Egypt, made decrees against the Jewish people and afflicted them with hard labour and many cruelties. Many other nations stood up and attacked the Jewish people, both during their sojourn in the wilderness and later when they settled in the land of Israel. When Haman rose to might, he also issued decrees against the Jewish people. However, these decrees never came into fruition. Under the leadership of the great sage Mordechai, the Jewish people repented and were saved, whereas Haman was killed together with many of his followers. This is what the Talmud says. If the Jewish people do not repent, G'd will bring a wicked king like Haman against them hoping that, just like at the time of Haman the Jewish people repented and nothing happened to them, so the threat itself will be sufficient to bring the Jewish people to return to the ways of the Torah.

Holocaust

When Nazi Germany rose in all its ugliness, they made one decree after another against the Jewish populations in the countries they controlled. No doubt G'd had hoped that these decrees would bring His beloved children to return to their Father in Heaven. Alas, this did not happen and the Accuser in the Heavenly Court got permission to do his job. The Mishnah (Sanhedrin 46a) relates how much pain it causes G'd when only one Jew, who has sinned, is being punished. Who can imagine how immense G'd's pain was during the Holocaust?

Horrible rhetoric from Iran

As we mentioned last week, we again hear the horrible rhetoric from Iran, just like Haman spoke at the time of Purim and Hitler in Nazi Germany. It is up to us to emulate our ancestors who gathered in unity under the leadership of Mordechai and returned to G'd and accepted the Torah, as it was transmitted from Moses. We simply cannot afford to repeat our communal mistake from the time of the Holocaust.

Persia renamed Iran, the land of the Aryans

It is rather chilling to remember that in the 1930s, Persia changed its name to Iran. "The suggestion for the change is said to have come from the Persian ambassador to Germany, who came under the influence of the Nazis ... some German friends of the ambassador persuaded him that, as Persia had turned a new leaf in its history and had freed itself from the influences of Britain and Russia it was only fitting that the country be called by its own name, Iran [which in Persian translates to Land of the Aryans]. This would not only signal a new beginning and bring home to the world the new era in Persian history, but would also signify the Aryan race of its population, as Iran is a cognate of Aryan and derived from it" [http://www.iran-heritage.org/interestgroups/language-article5.htm].

Iranians exempt from Nuremberg Racial Laws

"Advocating the common Aryan ancestry of 'the two Nations' the Reich Cabinet issued a special decree [in 1936] exempting Iranians from the restrictions of the Nuremberg Racial Laws on the grounds that they were 'pure blooded Aryans' (Lenczowski. 1944, p. 160) Hitler became a national hero of Iranians and all so-called 'oppressed Aryan peoples. Germany was [described as an] age-old and natural ally. Love [for] Germany was synonymous with love for Iran Germany [was referred to as] the representative of [the chosen] race in Europe and Iran its representative in Asia.

[http://www.militaryphotos.net/forums/showthread.php?132745-Axis-of-Evil-Iran-Germany-and-World-War-two].

Lessons of our past

This insight brings current events into a totally new light. We may not ignore the lessons of our past and just let things go ahead as if nothing is going on.

Rejoice in the spirit of Purim

As we gather in the synagogues to hear the Megillah, let us internalize its message and apply it here and now. Then truly we will have reason to rejoice and be merry in the spirit of Purim.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

Shalom. Michael Deverett

P.S. If you have any questions or enjoyed reading this e-mail, we would appreciate hearing from you. If you know of others who may be interested in receiving e-mails similar to this please let us know at michael@deverettlaw.com .


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