Monday, September 12, 2005

Pesach, Chanuka and Purim and the Disengagement Crisis

As I’ve mentioned before, the fact that the withdrawal from Gaza took place right after Tisha B’Av was timed perfectly - at least for drashot.

I’m sure that there will be ways for even not-so-creative rabbis to work it into their speeches on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur as well.

But what about the other holidays? Don’t they deserve the right to be associated with this issue?

So let me present: Pesach, Chanuka and Purim and the Disengagement Crisis

The families that left or were forced to leave Gush Katif and the Northern Shomron are facing an existential crisis. They are dealing with finding new homes, new communities, new jobs, family challenges. This is understandable.

But what about the people who didn’t live in the destroyed communities? Many of them are also facing a crisis now, but this is a crisis of faith. They didn’t believe that something like this could happen, and they don’t know how to relate to the State, Zionism or even religion and God in its wake.

I think the antidote to this crisis can be found in one word: gratitude. It is an essential Jewish belief, and its importance can be seen in these three holidays.

Pesach: One of the highlights of the seder for me has always been the song Dayenu. As a child I enjoyed the repetition and melody, but as an adult I find great meaning in it. The message is amazing if we think about it: Even if we don’t get everything we want, everything we deserve, everything we’ve been promised by God - it’s enough! If we received the Torah, but didn’t enter the land, it would be enough. If we entered the land, but didn’t get the Beit HaMikdash, it would be enough. I believe that song is the difference between the Zionist movement and the haredim. We can sing a modern dayenu (entering the land, having a state, Jerusalem, etc), and at any point we should be able to say “Dayenu!”. On the other side, the haredim can’t seem to say that “if we entered the land, but didn’t get the Beit HaMikdash, dayenu”. And while we can always pray for more, for the most, our relationship with God must be based on dayenu. We have received so much, to deny what we have is not only not proper gratitude, but nearly blasphemous.

Chanuka: The fact that we celebrate Chanuka at all is a sign of our belief in dayenu. Although there were great miracles at the time, only a few hundred years later, the Temple was destroyed. We don’t directly benefit from any of the victories of the Macabim. But we still say Hallel over 2000 years later! Why? Because we’re thankful for what we get from God even if it doesn’t work out the way we’d like. We have plenty to say Hallel about today. (In fact, I’d personally be willing to ignore Yom HaAtzmaut as a special day, if we’d say Hallel every day of the year.)

Purim: In Pirkei Avot it is written:
"Whoever repeats a statement in the name of the one who said it brings redemption to the world. As it is said: ‘And Esther said to the king in the name of Mordechai’"

The Maharal explains the connection as follows: If Esther was able to attribute the source of the plot against the king to Mordechai, even though there was no obvious reason to do so, it shows that she had a strong ethical character. She was the kind of person who had gratitude and could recognize the good that a person had done, even when it wasn’t necessary. According to the Maharal, only that kind of person can bring redemption. Because when God brings miracles, He wants us to accredit them to Him. If we don’t do so - the miracles won’t come. So God knew that in a story like Purim, where the miracles can be hard to see, it would be important to have them come via a person like Ester, who would later make a holiday, instead of denying the divine significance.

The situation today is rather similar. First of all, we need to recognize the good that those around us do. Even when we don’t see a benefit in recognizing their goodness. The army, the police, the judicial system - all have much to their credit. So do many politicians, even the ones that we strongly disagree with. So we must be careful to credit them for the good they have done.

But additionally, we need to thank God for the miracles we do get. Not only focus on what we don’t. Otherwise, we really won’t be worthy of such miracles in the future…