For if thou holdest thy peace at this time, comfort and deliverance shall appear to the Jews out of another place, but thou and thy father's house shall perish: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time? Esther 4:14National Post:
Netanyahu’s Book of Esther gift for Obama a pointed reminder of Iran ‘annihilation’ threat
By Jonah Mandel
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a pointed gift for Barack Obama after several days in Washington this week: A copy of the Book of Esther, which tells of the genocidal plot against the Jewish people devised by Haman the Agagite.
It’s a familiar-sounding story: In Persia, an oppressive and vengeful leader seeks the total annihilation of the Jewish people. It sounds like a line from an Israeli speech, but it’s also the story of the Purim holiday that Jews mark this week, beginning Wednesday at sundown.
This year, however, the holiday has additional meaning for some, providing historical parallels as Israel’s leaders weigh their response to Iran’s nuclear program.
Netanyahu and others in Israel fear the program masks a weapons drive and argue that a nuclear-armed Iran would create a new Persian threat to the existence of the Jewish people.
The gift, then, sent a clear message, said Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi: “It helps Obama understand how Jews look at the world.”
Netanyahu also reportedly explicitly told Obama that Israel faced a modern-day Haman, and drew similar parallels in a speech to a U.S. pro-Israel lobby group.
“In every generation, there are those who wish to destroy the Jewish people,” he said. “In this generation, we are blessed to live in an age when there is a Jewish state capable of defending the Jewish people.”
In the same speech, he pledged that, “as prime minister of Israel, I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation.”
In Israel, others have made the connection, with senior ultra-Orthodox rabbi Ovadia Yosef warning last month: “There is now also a Haman in Persia.”
But while Netanyahu and his confidantes are said to be considering military action against Iran, Yosef noted that the Purim story teaches that salvation came through prayer.
“We do not need to attack Iran,” he said. “God will fight for us.”
Author Halevi said Netanyahu’s more activist reading of the Purim story was understandable.
“Tradition emphasizes that [the Book of Esther] is the only sacred text in the Hebrew Bible without God’s name in it, and that’s understood as an indication that this is a story that requires human initiative, that saving oneself requires human initiative, and that God’s help is implicit rather than overt,” he said.
“In that sense, Netanyahu is reading the Purim story correctly when he advocates active Israeli self defence against a perceived existential threat.”
But Micah Goodman, who teaches Jewish philosophy at Hebrew University, cautioned against reading too much into the parallels.
“History never repeats itself, and any attempt to learn from one time to another is always misleading,” he said.
“Purim is a symbol in the hearts and minds” of Jewish people, and “tapping into it is a way of getting people to listen.”
IRAN NUCLEAR TALKS
Israel is all but convinced that sanctions and diplomacy will not get Iran to rein in its nuclear drive and is speaking more stridently of resorting to military action.
The Jewish state on Wednesday cautiously welcomed the planned resumption of talks with Iran while insisting that any agreement must ensure Tehran does not refine uranium above the 5% level suitable for power plants.
“There will be no one happier than us, and the prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] said this in his own voice, if it emerges that in these talks Iran will give up on its military nuclear capability,” the premier’s national security adviser Yaakov Amidror told Israel Radio.
Others were even less convinced.
France voiced skepticism on Wednesday that a planned revival of talks between six world powers and Iran would succeed, saying Tehran still did not seem sincerely willing to negotiate on the future of its contested nuclear program.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, who represents the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany in dealings with Iran, said on Tuesday they had accepted Iran’s offer to return to talks after a standstill of a year that has seen a drift towards conflict in the oil-rich Gulf.
The talks could dampen what U.S. President Barack Obama has called a rising drumbeat of war, alluding to talk of last-resort Israeli attacks on Iran that he and many others worry would kindle a wider Middle East war and hammer the global economy.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, however, raised doubt about what the talks could achieve. “I am a little skeptical … I think Iran continues to be two-faced,” Juppe told France’s i-Tele television.
“That’s why I think we have to continue to be extremely firm on sanctions (already imposed on Iran), which in my view are the best way to prevent a military option that would have unforeseeable consequences,” he said.
Iranian officials in Tehran were unavailable for comment.
Iran has pledged to float “new initiatives” at the talks, whose venue and date must be decided, but has not committed itself explicitly to discussing ways of guaranteeing that its nuclear advances will be solely peaceful, as the West demands.
Previous talks have foundered over Iran’s refusal to discuss what it deems its “inalienable” right to develop nuclear energy, and recent Iranian comments have not diverged from that line.
“With God’s help Iran’s nuclear course should continue firmly and seriously. No obstacles can stop our nuclear work,” clerical Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last month.
The 1560 Geneva Old Testament With The Spelling ModernizedEsther Chapter 1
1 In the days of Ahasuerus [Xerxes] (this is Ahasuerus [Xerxes] that reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred, and seven and twenty provinces)
2 In those days when the king Ahasuerus [Xerxes] sat on his throne, which was in the palace of Shushan,
3 In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants, even the power of Persia and Media, and to the captains and governors of the provinces which were before him,
4 That he might show the riches and glory of his kingdom, and the honor of his great majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days.
5 And when these days were expired, the king made a feast to all the people that were found in the palace of Shushan, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king's palace,
6 Under an hanging of white, green, and blue clothes, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple, in silver rings, and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold, and of silver upon a pavement of porphyry, and marble and alabaster, and blue color.
7 And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, and changed vessel after vessel, and royal wine in abundance according to the power of the king.
8 And the drinking was by an order, none might compel: for so the king had appointed unto all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man's pleasure.
9 The queen Vashti made a feast also for the women in the royal house of king Ahasuerus [Xerxes].
10 Upon the seventh day when the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven eunuchs, (that served in the presence of king Ahasuerus [Xerxes])
11 To bring queen Vashti before the king with the crown royal, that he might show the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look upon.
12 But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king's word, which he had given in charge to the eunuchs: therefore the king was very angry, and his wrath kindled in him.
13 Then the king said to the wise men, that knew the times (for so was the king's manner towards all that knew the law and the judgment:
14 And the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king's face, and sat the first in the kingdom)
15 What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to the law, because she did not according to the word of the king Ahasuerus [Xerxes] by the commission of the eunuchs?
16 Then Memucan answered before the king and the princes, The queen Vashti hath not only done evil against the king, but against all the princes, and against all the people that are in all the provinces of king Ahasuerus [Xerxes].
17 For the act of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their own eyes, and shall say, The king Ahasuerus [Xerxes] commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not.
18 So shall the princesses of Persia and Media this day say unto all the king's princes, when they hear of the act of the queen: thus shall there be much despitefulness and wrath.
19 If it please the king, let a royal decree proceed from him, and let it be written among the statutes of Persia, and Media, (and let it not be transgressed) that Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus [Xerxes]: and let the king give her royal estate unto her companion that is better than she.
20 And when the decree of the king which shall be made, shall be published throughout all his kingdom (though it be great) all the women shall give their husband's honor, both great and small.
21 And this saying pleased the king and the princes, and the king did according to the word of Memucan.
22 For he sent letters into all the provinces of the king, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that he should publish it in the language of that same people.
1 After these things, when the wrath of King Ahasuerus [Xerxes] was appeased, he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her.
2 And the king’s servants that ministered unto him, said, Let them seek for the king beautiful young virgins,
3 And let the king appoint officers through all the provinces of his kingdom, and let them gather all the beautiful young virgins unto the palace of Shushan, into the house of the women, under the hand of Hegai the king’s eunuch, keeper of the women, to give them their things for purification.
4 And the maid that shall please the king, let her reign in the stead of Vashti. And this pleased the king, and he did so.
5 In the city of Shushan, there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish a man of Benjamin,
6 Which had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity that was carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah (whom Nebuchad-nezzar king of Babylon had carried away)
7 And he nourished Hadassah, that is Esther, his uncle’s daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair, and beautiful to look on: and after the death of her father, and her mother, Mordecai took her for his own daughter
8 And when the king’s commandment, and his decree was published, and many maids were brought together to the palace of Shushan, under the hand of Hegai, Esther was brought also unto the king’s house under the hand of Hegai the keeper of the women.
9 And the maid pleased him, and she found favor in his sight: therefore he caused her things for purification to be given her speedily, and her state, and seven comely maids to be given her out of the king’s house, and he gave change to her and to her maids of the best in the house of the women.
10 But Esther showed not her people and her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her, that she should not tell it.
11 And Mordecai walked every day before the court of the women’s house, to know if Esther did well, and what should be done with her.
12 And when the course of every maid came, to go in to king Ahasuerus [Xerxes], after that she had been twelve months according to the manner of the women (for so were the days of their purifications accomplished, six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odors and in the purifying of the women:
13 And thus went the maids unto the king) whatsoever she required, was given her, to go with her out of the women’s house unto the king’s house.
14 In the evening she went, and on the morrow she returned into the second house of the women under the hand of Shaashgaz the king’s eunuch, which kept the concubines: she came in to the king no more, except she pleased the king, and that she were called by name.
15 Now when the course of Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai (which had taken her as his own daughter) came, that she should go in to the king, she desired nothing, but what Hegai the king’s eunuch the keeper of the women said: and Esther found favor in the sight of all them that looked upon her.
16 So Esther was taken unto king Ahasuerus [Xerxes] into his house royal in the tenth month, which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.
17 And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she found grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins: so that he set the crown of the kingdom upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.
18 Then the king made a great feast unto all his princes, and his servants, which was the feast of Esther, and gave rest unto the provinces, and gave gifts, according to the power of a king.
19 And when the virgins were gathered the second time, then Mordecai sat in the king’s gate.
20 Esther had not yet showed her kindred nor her people, as Mordecai had charged her: for Esther did after the word of Mordecai, as when she was nourished with him.
21 In those days when Mordecai sat in the king’s gate, two of the king’s eunuchs, Bigthan and Teresh, which kept the door, were wroth, and sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus [Xerxes].
22 And the thing was known to Mordecai, and he told it unto queen Esther, and Esther certified the king thereof in Mordecai’s name:
23 And when inquisition was made, it was found so: therefore they were both hanged on a tree: and it was written in the book of the chronicles before the king.
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