Rabbi Oury Cherki
Purim and the Jewish Influence in the World
A happy Purim to all.
Purim is a holiday that is part of the series of victories in the war that has continued for thousands of years between Israel and its greatest enemy – Amalek. Haman, who wanted to destroy all the Jews in the days of Ahasuerus in Persia, was a descendent of Amalek.
What is this war against Amalek? It is a war against a demand for the absolute, a feeling that everything must be perfect, and that if it is not perfect than nothing is worthwhile at all. That is the essence of what is written in the Book of Esther, when Haman went to tell his advisors and his wife all about how the King raised him above all the other ministers and the King's slaves. "And Haman said, Queen Esther did not even invite anybody else but me to the banquet that she prepared... and tomorrow I am also invited to her together with the King" [Esther 5:12-13]. This is the highest pinnacle of success, nobody else in the entire Persian empire has achieved such an exalted status. And then Haman adds, "But all of this is not worth anything to me" [5:13]. Nothing is worth it. Why not? Because there remains one man in the empire who refuses to bow down! Haman cannot tolerate the fact that his world in not perfect, that there remains one person who does not bow down, a person who does not surrender to the dictatorial organization that Haman established.
That is the very essence of Amalek. The nation of Israel has always fought, throughout the generations, to show that there is something higher than an orderly arrangement, there will always be someone who does not bow down together with all the others. The victory of this concept is what we celebrate on Purim.
As a result of this victory, the Tanach tells us that "Many of the nations of land approached Judaism'" [8:17]. What is the exact meaning of this word, "mityahdim" – to get close to Judaism? If it means that they converted, why doesn't the text use the more usual expression, that they "joined together with G-d" – the normal description of converts in the Tanach? The answer is that this new expression refers to people who move close to Judaism and adopt some of the Jewish customs.
There is historic evidence that in the era of Mordecai and Esther the influence of the Jews became very widespread in the Persian Empire, which was the main superpower in the world. These people might be compared loosely to the position of "Bnei Noach" today.
However, the Talmud teaches us that this phenomenon was a one-time event that only lasted for a short time. We may well ask why this is so. The answer is that these events occurred while the people of Israel were in exile. When Israel does not have a national center of its own from which its light can shine on the entire world, it can only have a temporary influence, it is nothing more than an dying flame.
Thank G-d, today, now that we have established the State of Israel, we have a spiritual center that shines out to the entire world, and therefore more and more of humanity are becoming "Bnei Noach" and accepting blessed guidance from the Jews. They do this without converting but by listening to the word of G-d, which emanates from Zion and Jerusalem.
The central theme of this holiday is wine. On a superficial level, this does not seem to be very nice, and it is even a bit distasteful. The explanation of this at a deep level can be seen in the words of the Talmud, that "for a drunkard, the world seems to be on a level plain." One who is intoxicated is not able to differentiate between what is important and what is not, between something that is high and something that is low. Perhaps he also cannot tell the difference between good and evil. Wine is the medium through which a great discovery is revealed – everybody is the same when standing before the Creator, and the Holy One, Blessed be He, gives life to everybody, no matter whether he or she belongs to one nation or another.
In view of the above, it is quite reasonable that the salvation of Israel on Purim was brought about by the efforts of a Jewish princess, Esther, when she was active among the other nations of the world, all as a way of improving the world itself. This situation, which occurred against our will in a state of exile, initiated a great process of hidden influence by the nation of Israel during the long exile that lasted for thousands of years. Today we have returned from the exile, and our influence, which until now was hidden and under cover, has begun to reveal itself to the world.
I wish a happy Purim to all my readers and to the entire world.
Rabbi Oury Cherki, Jerusalem