Today is Purim, that day of turnabout and the hidden, protective hand of Divine Providence. How remarkable that the Pope is visiting Jerusalem this week and arriving in Israel today. Is this mere coincidenceis there ever such a thing? And is it a coincidence that today, on Purim, the Israel Defense Forces plans to withdraw from 6.1% of Judea and Samaria, in the framework of the last stage of the second Oslo withdrawal?
Sometimes it seems that the news coming from Israel must be an elaborate, year-long Purim play it simply cant be real. What sane people would willfully bring about the circumstances that guarantee its own destruction, in return for nothing? Are we dreaming? Or could it be that we are all insane?
The great Chassidic master Rabbi Nachman told a story called The Tainted Grain. It is short enough to repeat here in its entirety:
A king once told his prime minister, who was also his good friend, I see in the stars that whoever eats any grain that grows this year will go mad. What is your advice? The prime minister replied, We must put aside enough grain so that we will not have to eat from this years harvest. The king objected, But then we will be the only ones who will be sane. Everyone else will be mad. Therefore, they will think that we are the mad ones. It is impossible for us to put aside enough grain for everyone. Therefore, we too must eat this years grain. But let us make a mark on our foreheads, so that at least we will know that we are mad. I will look at your forehead, and you will look at mine, and when we see this sign, we will know that we are both mad.
Here in Israel, some of us have the feeling that we must surely be living out some absurd parody of Jewish existence.
The country is aflutter with excitement over the Papal visit; the Vaticans flag adorns the streets that will be used by the motorcade, banners declare Jerusalem welcomes His Holiness the Pope; Israel Television broadcasts non-stop live coverage of every move the Pontiff makes. The papers are full of commentaries, interpretations and editorials that ring praises for the new relations between the Church and Israel.
Israels leaders, the perennial emperor with no clothes and the paradigm of see no evil, hear no evil, insist that this is strictly a religious visit and carries no political connotation. In a frenzied orgy of neurotic self-flagellation, overjoyed to simply have the opportunity to be used by the partnership of Arafat and the Pope for the goals of Palestinian statehood, this morally bankrupt and spiritually bereft leadership has honestly convinced itself that the Pope is coming strictly as a spiritual pilgrim. They are overjoyed that last week, the Pope found it expedient to apologize to the people of the Covenant while at the same time, refusing on his visit to utilize the humanitarian power of his office by meeting with the families of Israeli soldiers missing since the 1982 Battle of Sultan Yaqub due to his tight schedule. And just as our leaders ignore the fact that he could not bring himself to so much as mention the Jewish people by name, so too, they find it convenient to overlook the Pontiffs insistence that the Jewish star be removed from the ambulance that will accompany his motorcade throughout the visit.
However, the Palestinian Authority sees it differently. As we reported yesterday, the Palestinians have signed a petition calling on Pope John Paul II to intervene to lift the siege of Jerusalem the petition will be officially presented to the pope when he visits the Temple Mount next Sunday. In addition, a photo exhibit entitled Our Story, which depicts Israeli aggression in the Palestinian Authority and in Lebanon, will run at Orient House the entire week of the popes visit.
Yesterday, Israeli news reported that Local Arabs removed Israeli flags that had been placed in eastern Jerusalem in honor of the visit, and replaced them with Palestinian flags. Similarly, a Palestinian flag was unfurled over Orient House today. When the Pope ascends to the Temple Mount this Sunday, there to be welcomed by NO Israeli official, but by representatives of the Palestinian Authority, the entire complex will be bedecked in Palestinian flags
but let us make a mark on our foreheads, so that at least we will know that we are mad.
Last month, in the very midst of Israels fever-pitch preparations for the Popes visit this week, Israel was shocked to find that the Vatican announced the signing of a special agreement with the PLO. What a remarkable alliance! But truthfully, it is understandable if the peace-loving, godly Pope has apparently forgotten that the nobel-prize winning Arafat is the most accomplished terrorist and murderer of our generation, single- handedly responsible for the deaths of scores of innocent men, women and children. After all, this is the man who proved to the entire world that murder really does pay off, for he has received recognition, and is accepted internationally as a head of state. Besides, Americas leader has embraced Arafat and put good faith in him, and more importantly, in utter madness beyond all sane reasoning, in their self-imposed death march, so have the Israelisso, who could blame the Pope?
This covenant, entitled Agreement of Principles Between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Holy See, and marked by Arafat kissing the Popes ring, calls for a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli dispute to be achieved through negotiation and agreement to establish the national, legitimate, and inalienable rights and the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to ensure peace and security for all peoples of the region on the basis of international law and UN resolutions, including the relevant Security Council resolutions, on the basis of justice and equality.
Thus, while dealing with the peace process and Jerusalem, the document did not once mention Israel, nor did it mention Israels security, or the need for normalized relations between Israel and the Palestinians.
It also states that an equitable solution for the issue of Jerusalem, based on international resolutions, is fundamental for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, and that any unilateral decisions and actions altering the special character and legal status of Jerusalem are morally and legally unacceptable. This historic agreement calls for a special status for Jerusalem, internationally guaranteed.
Thus, the Vatican considers Israels declaration of Jerusalem as it capital to be an example of unilateral decisions and actions altering the special character and legal status of Jerusalem which is morally and legally unacceptable.
Is the Vatican fit to teach the world what is morally and legally unacceptable? As it did during the Crusades, the Inquisition and the Holocaust? Where is it written in Israels Bible (does anyone remember that Israel brought the Bible to the world) that Jerusalem has a special character and legal status, other than its relationship with the Jewish people? Where is it written that anyone has a say in Jerusalems status, or that it requires international guarantees? Do London, Paris or Rome require international guarantees?
Is the Pope coming to visit Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people, having never been an Arab capitol, nor ever the capitol of any other people in the world? He will be met at Orient House under Palestinian flags, by Palestinian children wearing t- shirts that bear the logo Welcome His Holiness to Jerusalem, eternal capital of Palestine.
What interest has the Pope in visiting the Temple Mount, seeing that the site as well as the concept of the Temple has no place in Catholic theology or doctrine? We are not fooled. Political support for the Palestinians - and not religious reasons - is the main purpose of the Popes trip to Israel. It is a clear follow-up of last months PLO-Papal Jerusalem declaration.
Yesterday was Taanit Esther, the Fast Day of Esther. It was on this day that Queen Esther, faced with the reality of the wicked Hamans plan and the realization that she alone could intercede with the king, declared that all the Jews in Shushan should join together in fast, repentance and prayer. Traditionally, repentance and prayer offered on this day is regarded as having singular merit, and the power of prayer on the Fast of Esther, as well as its ability to be accepted and to nullify evil, is very great. With blasts from the silver trumpets created by the Temple Institute for use in the Holy Temple, a special prayer gathering was held at the Western Wall to cry out to G-d to nullify these decrees, and to bring about a new manifestation of the miracle of Purim.
We have learned that the Purim story all began when the evil King Ahashverosh of Persia decided that the Temple was not going to be rebuilt. To celebrate this, he held a lavish pagan banquet...and as an act of total profanity, he donned the Priestly garments, and served the feast using the sacred vessels that had been plundered by the Babylonians, and taken from Jerusalem at the time of the destruction of the First Temple. Despite the fact that this banquet was calculated and designed for the sole purpose of humiliating and degrading the Jews, all the Jewish people of Shushan attended anyway even the great leaders of the generation. The sole exception was Mordechai, who donned sackcloth and ashes.
Today all of Israel celebrates Purim; those in Jerusalem and other ancient walled cities will celebrate Shushan Purim on Wednesday.
These things should be remembered and kept throughout every generation (Esther 9:28).
The sages expound upon the meaning of this verse: an aspect of Purim is revisited, and reemerges, every year. What is the aspect of Purim remembered and kept today?
We can find it in the incredulous expression of the King (as we taught, whenever the words the King alone are mentioned in the Scroll of Esther, it refers not to Ahashverosh, but to the Holy One, blessed be He, the King of Kings): Will he even assault the Queen in my own presence, in the house? (Esther 7:8)
These are the words of the One G-d of Israel to Pope John Paul II. The Holy One declares:
I came back to My house, My palace, Jerusalem, together with my Queen, my people Israel. You dare to come here, to cast doubts about the status of Jerusalem, to interfere with its sanctity, and to try to cast doubts on Israels sovereignty? You have the audacity to come to My house, and assault My people in My own presence?
With blessings of the Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honor (Esther 8:16)
Rabbi Chaim Richman THE TEMPLE INSTITUTE JERUSALEM