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Study and Theory/

Menachem Halevi

How Could I Have Been So Blind! 

Degania B, 1965

The Book of Esther -

In the days of my youth I knew – so I was taught – that our people, the Worm of Jacob, turns the other cheek to its oppressors. Take, for example, the Book of Esther, says the teacher, such helplessness: Weeping, fasting and eulogy; how contemptible: A dubious miracle that occurred thanks to a woman of doubtful character... And other related matters that lit in a few of us a fire of zealousness and in most of us – the fire of assimilation.

Since then I hated the Book (Megillah), hated the Book and... hated myself.

Eventually, when I grew up, was freed from my teachers and became educated, I realized that they were, with all due respect, merely parrots repeating all the things that the antisemites from among the Great Rabbis of Europe put in their mouths.

I saw the contemptibility and the banality.

Then I saw Mordechai, the “despised” Jew; and behold, he was the only one who “would not kneel and bow down to him”. And, as opposed to him I saw Haman, chief minister who swayed the king’s heart; and behold, Haman “falls on the bed” and begs for his life.
Yet all of this is written unambiguously; so, how could I have been so blind! I saw Esther, the delicate, modest woman among her highly adorned, dandified peers seeking to find favor, the only one who “asked for nothing” and kept her uncle’s command (Mitzvah) even in the king’s court. This too I overlooked – by my teachers’ orders; I saw mainly “one people scattered and separated among the nations in all states” of the Persian Empire, while maintaining its national character and “not performing the king’s religious practices”.

I saw racial, Amalekite hatred, and the foolishness of a capricious king. Under such conditions, and in such a state of affairs, how can you take the sword and defend yourself?

Would that not be tantamount to suicide? Over time, I found an excellent formula for this situation: Who would dare determine that to exist for so many generations under such terrible conditions required less strength than to return for full revival and be redeemed at the present time? (A.D. Gordon)

[Amudim, 1966]

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