The festival of Purim celebrates a story full of inversions, a story that reminds me over and over of the vulnerability of minorities.
This story is not the redemption at the hand of God found in the story of Exodus. The Purim story is the grim reality of human relations, of politics and power and of the peril in which we find ourselves when ethnic identity becomes the heart of how we understand our connections to one another. In casting the story as fictional history the Bible brilliantly shows us what happens when it all goes wrong.
The story is one of minority vulnerability, of power and politics. Our mythic past is not only one of the divine redemption from Egypt, being transported out of the land of slavery, it is also the awareness of life as a minority ‘stranger’ exposed to the machinations and will of the malign politician.
“For you know the heart of the stranger.” (Exodus 23:9)
On Purim it is customary to teach Purim Torah – parodies of sacred texts, to make fun of our learning and tradition. However, this Purim I will be thinking of how ethnic vulnerability has reared its head once again and of my colleague in the Crimea waiting news of the referendum in the Crimea which takes place…the day after Purim.
He wrote to me:
Tuesday 11 March 2014
Here is the link below from Ha-Aretz: they came for the service last Friday and thanks to them we had a minyan.
They made a correct article and published what we really said.
I can also add that the situation is still dangerous: several journalists and pro-Ukrainian activists were beaten up, several people were hijacked, and everyone who comes by train is searched by unknown man. It looks that the referendum on March 16 will be the D-Day for the further escalation of the conflict. I guess something terrible might start on Monday 17th when the results are announced; hopefully I am wrong and these are just paranoiac thoughts. By terrible I mean ethnic conflicts here in the Crimea between the pro-Russians and the Crimean Tartars who are pro-Ukrainian, or even perhaps a further aggression by the Russians.
Regarding the Jews: we are always a target in hard times, although many Crimean Jews sincerely believe that it would be better under the Russians.
This Saturday eve we’ll celebrate Purim…
With hope for peace
Rabbi Misha Kapustin