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    A stiff-necked people

    Purim revellers in costume, Philologus Hebræo-Mixtus, 1657

    Purim has never failed to evoke a spirit of gaiety and joy.

    It was only the early Reform movement who opposed it, and history overruled them. Not only did the Jewish street deem them spoilsports for taking away the great fun occasion in the Jewish calendar, but Jewish experience recognised that Purim tells a story that continues to happen.

    Our own generation has its own good reasons for Purim. We were almost annihilated by a latter-day Haman during the Holocaust. There is still a Haman or two around who would like to destroy every Israeli and every Jew. But the Hamans never win. Every generation produces its Haman, but the Hamans cannot quench the Jewish spirit of optimism, faith and determination.

    Jews are a stiff-necked people, and the more that anyone tries to destroy us, the more intransigent we are in staying alive. When we read Esther’s words, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16), we add under our breath, “But we’re not going to perish!”

    Like Mordechai, Jewish intransigence will not bow down to a man, any man. Or to a representative of idolatry. Or to the personification of evil and injustice.

    Naturally, we would much prefer a quiet life without the constant need to stick our necks out for the sake of our principles. But we dare not pretend that we are not there or that we have no principles. We have no choice but to say to the Hamans and the sometimes unfriendly world, “Despite you, we are Jews… and Jews we will remain!”

    No wonder the sages said that even when Mashiach comes, Purim will never be abolished (Resh Lakish, Jer. Megillah 1:5).

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