Blog: My Teacher the Porcupine

Why are there Jews who are ashamed of the military victory of the Jews in the story of Purim? Do porcupines issue official apologies to predators for their puncture wounds?

So I'm in Starbucks this week with a friend and the nice lady behind the counter says, "So I hear the Jewish Halloween is coming up!"

I laughed and said something to the effect that it's impressive she knows that Purim is coming but, actually, Halloween is the non-Jewish version of Purim.

Purim, the little holiday that could, is making a comeback. Between the masquerading, the gift-giving, the good spirits, the ubiquitous carnivals and much more, Purim is back. Whether the meaning of the holiday is also making a comeback remains a question.

But one thing gets my goat. I've heard say that there are Jewish men and women who are uncomfortable with the holiday for moral reason.

What moral problem do they have with Purim? You see on Purim we celebrate the downfall of an evil man named Haman (booo!) who formulated and had written into ancient Persian law a Final Solution that would have made you-know-who proud. (The difference being that Haman actually had every Jew on earth under his thumb. No need for costly world-wars and tedious alliances.)

But as things miraculously turned out, he was hanged upon the gallows he had built for his arch-enemy, Mordechai, the leader of the Jews. And then, when his followers rose up to fulfill his vision of a Judenrein Persia, the Jews, encouraged by the King Achashverosh, rose up themselves and killed a good 75,000 or so Persian anti-semites.

And that is what makes some Jews squirm. We killed? We killed 75,000 people? And we're celebrating? Not nice.

Isn't it amazing how many of these same people are often the first to opine with 20/20 hindsight on how our Eastern European brothers and sisters during the Holocaust went like pathetic sheep to the slaughter and how their religious faith prevented them from rising up against the Germans! "They should have gone with a fight! Look at the Warsaw ghetto!" Yes, look at the Warsaw ghetto. What do you see? We killed people! So why the double-standard?

The deeper question is really, why is there this exasperatingly inexplicable Jewish need to apologize for existing and for surviving when someone tries to end that existence? Why do we feel this urgent need to apologize and apologize for hurting our attackers in our attempts to defend ourselves? Especially when they obviously feel no urgent need (or any other need) to apologize for attacking us?

I am not crying the victim here. I am not bringing up historic Jewish suffering to evoke pity. Rather, to inspire more serious study and mature reflection on who we are, where we come from and what we have to teach the world.

Apologizing for enjoying life more than death is no great lesson. Squirming when we learn that our ancestors killed the Nazis of their time is not a great lesson taught.

A good lesson would be this. Torah has taught us: choose life for yourself, for everyone around you. Don't look for excuses or opportunities for martyrdom. Look for ways to live. Life is sacred, and should be treated with reverence. You don't have a right to defend yourself. You have a duty to defend yourself. It is your moral obligation to above all else, live!

Don't equivocate, or like that great Jack Benny line, don't be thinking it over. Don't wonder what the world will say, what the UN will say. It is quite unnecessary to apologize for "occupying territory" when not one apology has ever been issued by the countries who started the three wars leading to those "occupations" in the first place. Israel should never apologize for defending its borders from infiltrators by land or by sea, regardless of angry Turkey gets at her. Has Turkey ever apologized for sending a flotilla full of "innocent" people into a war-zone, provoking Israel to fulfill her duty and protect her borders? No, of course not. No one ever suggested it. Only Israel would consider apologizing for wanting to live.

What's next? Do we apologize for hanging Eichmann?

It might just be that when you see survival as a right, you feel bad that your right might supersede your enemy's. But when you learn that to live is a moral obligation, a Mitzvah, much more than a right, you have no reason to apologize for carrying out your duty. Porcupines don't fret over bleeding predators who've been foolish enough to start with them. We shouldn't either. They tried to kill us. We won. If anyone has a problem with that, there's a simple solution. Don't try to kill people.

Now let's eat.

Happy Purim! 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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