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    I.L. Peretz & Purim – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Why was the Yiddish writer Isaac Leib Peretz against Purim?

    A. I don’t think he was against Purim as such. His problem was whether Purim was a proper festival like Pesach or Yom Kippur.

    He said, “There is a proverb, ‘Purim is no Yom-Tov and fever is no sickness’. There’s little to envy in a man shaking in the grip of fever; there’s less to envy in a people that makes of Purim an occasion for rejoicing… It is a festival for beggars, fiddlers and masqueraders, and for a people made up of these!”

    Peretz’s words are not really a fair assessment of the attraction of Purim, but they illustrate the fragility and tragedy of Jewish life in Eastern Europe.

    What a disgrace it is that others reduced us to “beggars, fiddlers and masqueraders”. It’s not a disgrace that we could still laugh at ourselves and indeed make jokes at our oppressors’ expense. The oppressors perpetrated untold harm (and have never had the grace or courage to apologise for their sins), but the fact is that we have always outlived them, as we will outlive the antisemites and Israel-bashers of our own day.

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