Sign In Forgot Password

Rabbi's Blog: Cursed is Haman, Blessed is Mordechai

03/03/2023 01:27:21 PM


Dear OZ family,


On Friday, I call dozens of Israelis early in the morning. I speak with many OZ olim, bestow Shabbos blessings on children and grandchildren, hear words of Torah from students, share birthday and anniversary wishes, and more. Some of the people I spoke to today are profoundly concerned with Israel’s immediate future, but for most part, my conversations are with people who feel they are in the best place they can be.  These are precarious times. Russia is beginning to supply Iran with very highly sophisticated military equipment, and there are reports of Palestinian and Lebanese recruitments to fight against Ukraine. These are indeed disconcerting developments, but as our long history has always confirmed, not nearly as dangerous to our well-being as a people, as the internal strife that is tearing its way through Israel today.


A political pendulum is swinging in Israel between its judiciary and its legislature that is causing a great rift in the land, not to mention very noisy protests. Each side would do well to quiet the rhetoric (Israel is not Germany in 1933), and to consider some area of compromise (perhaps more popular support from the legislature, more than a simple majority, to enforce judicial restraint). But much worse than the visuals of the impassioned protests, is the thuggish reaction taken by Jews in the wake of the recent terrorist murder of three Israelis. This is not our way. This type of collective punishment is anathema to our social consciousness today, and has been for thousands of years. I say this especially on the Shabbos of Parshat Zachor, where we read a Haftara of the command to eradicate the sinful Amalekites (Shmuel Aleph 15:18). I stress the word “sinful”. The Halacha teaches that if Amalek chooses to change their sinful ways and cease their murderous hatred of us, the command to Shaul does not apply. For this reason, our sages could say with conviction that Haman’s descendants taught Torah in B’nei Brak.


Our sages also say that the descendants of Sisra, the cruel military leader of the Canaanites, and Sancheriv, who scattered our ten lost tribes, and Nevuzradan, who killed thousands of our people leading to the exile of Judah, all had descendants who joined us and saw the light of Torah and Mitzot. This is also true of the son of one of the leaders of Chamas, and many more such examples abound. The sight of vigilantes on our side, wreaking collective punishment on Arabs, eats away at the moral fabric of our people and is a stain upon us. This is the opinion of the vast majority of our people. The fact that Arab murderers are glorified in their streets, is no excuse for us to lose our moral high ground. These threats to our unity are greater than any other.


Esther understood this when she told Mordechai to gather all the Jews in fasting and prayer, to secure herself with the feeling that her efforts on behalf of her people would succeed. Let us hope that our Shabbat observance, our charitable works in preparation for Purim, the good will that we spread with our Mishloach Manot, our fasting on Ta’anit Esther, and our unified gathering for Purim will be seen by the Almighty in a good light, to inspire our people to good leadership, and an ability to compromise and cool down the heated rhetoric. Haman’s Persian threat 2,500 years ago was foiled, just as we know that the current Persian Hamans will be foiled as well. Let’s do our part to show God that we deserve it now.        


Shabbat Shalom and Happy Purim

Rabbi Allen Schwartz


Rabbi Allen Schwartz

Congregation Ohab Zedek

118 West 95th Street | New York, NY  10025-6604

Phone 212.749-5150, ext 200 | Fax 212.663-3635






Mon, March 4 2024 24 Adar I 5784