by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
Bibi’s Breach of ProtocolEchoes of Queen Esther who broke protocol in the face of an Iranian threat to destroy her people.
Controversy surrounds the Prime Minister of Israel’s forthcoming appearance on Capitol Hill.
Invited by Republican House Speaker John Boehner to address Congress about the threat of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed this opportunity to share his country’s existential concern as the Iranian regime comes ever closer to achieving the capability of fulfilling its avowed goal of the total annihilation of Israel. But the White House has made known its displeasure. A growing number of Democratic lawmakers said they would boycott his talk. Vice President Joe Biden, who as president of the Senate would normally oversee Netanyahu’s address, said he would be out of town. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she hoped the speech “doesn’t take place.”
Why all this animosity toward the leader of a long-standing ally, the only democracy in the middle east, to whom President Obama has long pledged his unswerving loyalty? Because the administration has made clear its fury at a supposed breach of protocol. The White House insists it was not consulted before the invitation was given. That breach of etiquette, it stoutly maintains, trumps any benefit Congress might gain from the insights of the Prime Minister of the country to be most immediately and severely affected by the present negotiations being concluded with Iran.
Remarkably, this is not the first time the issue of protocol lies at the heart of an Iranian threat to destroy the Jewish people. There is biblical precedent. Eerily echoing today’s story, the Book of Esther recounts the first recorded instance of attempted genocide against Jews in the ancient empire of Persia, today known as Iran. When, more than two millennia ago, Mordecai learns of Haman’s plot “to destroy, to slay and to exterminate all Jews, young and old, children and women, in a single day” (Esther 3:13), he prevails upon his adopted daughter Esther, now Queen, to intercede.
But Esther is afraid. If she were to approach her husband to appeal Haman’s decree, she would be breaking royal protocol. “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces are well aware,” Esther responds to Mordecai, “that if anyone, man or woman, approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned, there is but one law for him: that he be put to death, except for the person to whom the king shall extend the gold scepter so that he may live. Now I have not been summoned to come to the king for the past thirty days” (Esther 4:11).
Nonetheless, the Book of Esther tells us that after begging the Jews to pray and fast on her behalf, Esther chose to disregard protocol in the face of possible extermination of her people. Esther succeeded in averting the evil decree. As a result, Jews to this day around the world celebrate the Festival of Purim.
In Jewish tradition, the Purim story marks the commemoration of a different kind of miracle. In its unfolding, it is a miracle of coincidences so statistically improbable that they together speak to us of the hidden hand of the divine in human events. For that reason the book of Esther is the only one in the entire Bible in which God’s name is not to be found even once. Here God hides His face - but is as much involved as when He split the sea before the Jews fleeing the Egyptians. For Jewish commentators it is the message of the famous – and ironically anonymous – adage that “Coincidence is merely God’s way of choosing to remain anonymous.”
And so perhaps the most remarkable serendipitous aspect of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech is that it is scheduled for the very day before Jews will be observing the Fast of Esther and Purim this year, to recall a time when a heroic Queen decided that the survival of her people took precedence over protocol.
This article can be read online at: http://www.aish.com/jw/s/
Once there was a King in Shushan, the most powerful ruler in the world, who had a strong disdain, dislike or perhaps even hatred of Jews.
> Today there is a President in Washington, the most powerful ruler in the world, who has a strong disdain, dislike or perhaps even hatred of Jews.
Once there was a Persian who wanted to kill all the Jews, but needed the King's authorization to proceed with his plan.
> Today there are Persians who want to kill all the Jews, but needs the President's authorization to proceed with their plan.
The King didn't really care, as long as there was something in it for him - lots of money.
> The President doesn't really care, as long as there is something in it for him - a deal with the Persians.
The Jewish Queen wanted to tell the King what was really happening, but going in to talk to the King was dangerous.
> The Jewish Prime Minister wants to tell the President and his Congress what is really happening, but going to talk to them is dangerous.
Some people thought she shouldn't go, it would just anger the King and make things worse.
> Some people think he shouldn't go, it will just anger the President and make things worse.
She asked the Jews to fast and pray for the success of her mission. They did so, the King accepted her words and the plot to destroy them was thwarted.
> Will we fast and pray for the success of his mission? Will the President and Congress accept his words? Will the plot to destroy us be thwarted?
We commemorate the fasting prior to the Queen's plea to the King on Taanis Esther.
> The Prime Minister of Israel has been invited to address the United States Congress on March 3. This year Taanis Esther begins on March 3.
Thank you Chana Idels for sending and translating!
Activist emails sent to my list are L'Ilui Nishmat Yisrael ben David Aryeh ob"m (Izzy - Kaplan) and Howard Chaim Grief great activists and lovers of Eretz Yisroel, Am Yisroel and the Torah. Yehi Zichronum Baruch. May their memories serve as a blessing.
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