Religion & Beliefs

A Bloody Purim Farce, at Hanukkah Time

The early-spring Jewish festival of Purim—rooted in, or given roots by, the Scroll of Esther—is an expression of the same topsy-turvy view of the world that we see in Mardi Gras and other early-spring festivals of folly. The story is … Read More

By / December 5, 2007

The early-spring Jewish festival of Purim—rooted in, or given roots by, the Scroll of Esther—is an expression of the same topsy-turvy view of the world that we see in Mardi Gras and other early-spring festivals of folly. The story is a satire on the stupidity and the violence of rulers. Even though we are still in wintertime, Purim is the only way to understand what has just happened in the topsy-turvy somersault in US National Intelligence Estimates concerning Iran. The tale of Esther is about a foolish king of Persia—Iran! But that was when he was the Emperor of the World. Now the same folly is found in another king who wants to make Persia another province in his empire. Who still wants to, even after revelations of the naked truth by the network of officials called VASHTI—Vigilant Affirmers of Security, Honor, Truth & Intelligence. The time has come to put an end to this farce—this bloody farce. In the light of the Intelligence Estimates revelation, we have revised our multireligious call to the US and Iran to make peace. But now, let us remember the Purim story, as it comes dancing into our real lives on Hanukkah. Once upon a time, a pompous, stupid, oily king was clever enough and oily enough to bamboozle his subjects to keep him in power, even when he made disastrous mistakes. He had a prime minister—they called him the President of Vice because he was so vicious—who was extremely clever, addicted to power, and hot to invent new enemies each four years. That way, he figured, he and his boss (or puppet) the king could keep the populace riled up, not noticing they were being robbed of everything they cared about: Their privacy; the value of their money; their schools; their medical care; the sweet air of their forests and their mountains; their freedoms; the former joy of their prayers, now corrupted by hatred of the prayers of others; their dignity, respect, and honor in the eyes of other peoples, who now viewed them with contempt as the home of lies and torture; even, for thousands of them, their lives, limbs, minds, and souls. So the President of Vice decided to make the majority culture of the land subservient to him (and the king his master, or maybe servant) by attacking one of the peoples just barely outside the great Empire. This people prayed a different way, and they owned precious resources that could be confiscated by the Oily Empire that the king already owned so much of. And they had one leader who was as nasty-hearted as the President of Vice. So under the table, the two nasties could cooperate by making enemies of each other. So the pompous clever/stupid king and the clever/vicious President of Vice lied. They said the foreign nation was hiding terrible weapons. When people stopped believing that lie, they lied again—and said another set of foreigners were making terrible weapons. There too there was a nasty-hearted leader, and once again the nasties collaborated by making enemies of each other. Said the President of Vice:

Any Lie To hang these people by, On a gallows high That they the quicker die! And if you ask me why, To make my Power high Higher Higher Higher

But deep inside the palace there was a truth-telling network who thought the king and the President of Vice were addicts of the drug called Power and were, in their drug-infested mania, endangering their country. This network called themselves VASHTI—Vigilant Affirmers of Security, Honor, Truth & Intelligence. In the original story, the king tried to force his queen Vashti to dance naked before a great banquet. She refused. But in our modern story, it was VASHTI who wanted to reveal the naked truth to a puzzled people, and the king who tried to stop them. So VASHTI released to an intrepid reporter (probably named Esther, or maybe Mordechai) the true intelligence about the vicious lies about the foreign peoples. And even then, the King and his President of Vice insisted they must attack the dangerous foreigners.

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The time has come to end this bloody farce. The peoples of Iran and the United States must insist their governments meet directly to take up all the issues between them, and come to a mutually respectful peace. And the people and government of Israel must learn from the ancient Jewish satire on power turned addictive – and move beyond the knee-jerk resort to threats of war that has characterized the Israeli government's policy toward Iran. Together, we must all seek instead to examine what would be decent terms of peace. See The Shalom Center website for more.