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Lessons from Iraq
Lessons from Iraq

Volume 4 , Issue 3

Lessons from Iraq

Megalgellin zechul leyom zakkai, says the Talmud (Taanit 29a) ? good things happen on a meritorious day. On the 14th of Adar some 2500 years ago, the Book of Esther tells us, the Jews rested after killing 75,000 of their would-be murderers in the empire of Iraq-Iran. On the 14th of Adar, 5751, now the feast of Purim, the coalition forces declared a cease-fire, and a banner headline in the New York Times proclaimed that the Iraqi army had been "crushed." The foolish and evil King Achashverosh fancied himself the heir to Nevuchadnezzar, and at a feast celebrating what he thought was the 70th anniversary of the destruction of the Temple displayed and ate from the holy Temple vessels which his predecessor had captured; Haman, his assistant and scion of Amalek, wished simply to annihilate the Jews. Saddam Hussein, seemingly Haman and Achashverosh rolled into one, declared himself the heir to Nevuchadnezzar who would "liberate" Jerusalem and announced that he would turn Tel Aviv into a crematorium.

In some ways, the victory over Hussein is even greater than the one over Haman. The Rabbis tells us that because of God's anger at the Jews - perhaps for their eating treif at Achashverosh's feast, perhaps for their attending the feast at all - the miraculousness of the victory and the Divine presence itself were hidden from the Jews. To symbolize this, the name of God is not mentioned explicitly in the Book of Esther. By contrast, the miracles of the modern day victory were apparent, if not obvious. Thirty-eight Scud attacks on Israel killed just two Jews, and most injuries were minor, while one Scud attack alone in Saudi Arabia killed twenty-eight Americans and seriously wounded scores more. Some Scud missiles aimed at Tel Aviv seemed to seek out the only empty lot for blocks, and another hit an abandoned air-raid shelter while sparing an occupied shelter across the street. Moreover, the Jews had to fight the war against Haman by themselves, but the victory over Hussein occurred without thc Jews' firing a single shot. Recall the Jews' greatest military victory ever, the drowning of Pharaoh's army in the Red Sea on the seventh day of Pesach: Before they entered the Red Sea, Moshe told the Israelites, "The Lord will battle for you, and you shall be silent." (Exodus 14:14).

Too, the victory over Haman was a victory for Jewish unity: Haman sought to kill all the Jews, and all Jews rose up to fight him. So today, Scud missiles landed among both religious and secular Jews, and diaspora Jewry, both religious and secular, responded as one, with their money and their prayers.

Yet the victory over Haman's minions was both incomplete and temporary. The Temple remained in ruins, and Achashverosh was still the king. We do not say hallel on Purim because, the Rabbis tell us, we are to this day slaves of Achashverosh. Saddam Hussein, though defeated and largely defanged, remains in power, but moreover, so do Assad and Arafat. The Saudi monarchy, which has, like the Third Reich, made their country officially Judenrein and whose anti-Zionist police reportedly blotted out kosher symbols on canned food intended for American soldiers, is ascendant, and the Kuwaiti emirate, which bankrolled the Iraqi war machine and whose U.N. delegate was famous for crudely anti-Jewish remarks, has been restored.

But, all in all, Jews may celebrate the victory over Hussein just as they celebrate their victory over Haman. For, as we say at the seder, "Not merely one person has risen against us to destroy us, but rather in every generation people rise against us to destroy us. But the Holy one, Blessed be He, saves us from their hand."



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