Sunday, March 16, 2014

Purim and Fifteen - A festival time reflection

...Those of us raised in the shadow of the Holocaust, and who have experienced the tragedy of a child's death by hatred, struggle to understand the nature of the Divine role in our lives as individuals and as a people. There are times, according to Jewish wisdom, when you need to know that G-d's hand is at work even when the evidence is difficult to see, even when there are more questions than answers.

Frimet/Arnold Roth..
This Ongoing War..
16 March '14..

Purim, for those not so familiar with the intricacies of the age-old Jewish calendar, works in a slightly unexpected way. Throughout the world, Jewish communities began marking it last night with the first of two readings of the Book of Esther. Here in Jerusalem, we do the same but 24 hours later. So the first reading here in the capital of Israel is tonight (Sunday evening) and the second is Monday morning. Monday afternoon, we gather around family tables and celebrate what Purim stands for by means of a festive meal and appropriate beverages.

Exactly nine years ago, we were given an opportunity to publish a reflection about how Purim, with its family-focused joy and celebration of good triumphing over evil, feels to a family like ours that has lost a loved child to an act of hatred-based terrorist murder.

The result was a short essay published on the website. The themes on which we touched there remain on our minds, so here is a replay of that piece.


It's the number that conceals G-d's name, and is also the mysterious turning point for three generations of one family | Arnold Roth [Originally published March 19, 2005]

Most Jewish teenagers growing up in Australia during the 1960s were, like me, children of concentration camp survivors. Our parents were involved in owning small businesses or were employed. There was hardly a professional among them. At birth, most of us lacked even a single grandparent; almost all of us were named after family members who perished at the hands of the Nazis.

It was clear that we were everything to our parents, and no one needed to tell us why. Top of their priorities list was ensuring that we gained the best possible education. Little wonder that several of the largest and most successful Jewish schools in the world were started in Melbourne in the years right after World War II. And the community's interest in things Israeli was unlimited; the occasional Israeli film and Israeli visitor to Australia's distant shores were memorable events.

The Six Day War happened when I was 15. The weeks of rising tension leading up to it left an indelible mark on me: the grainy television images of Egyptian and Syrian troops on the march; Nasser's strident speeches and unilateral blockade of the sea lanes to Eilat; the massing of Egyptian forces on Israel's Sinai border and of the Syrians on the Golan frontier; U Thant's disgraceful capitulation in removing UN peace-keeping forces from Sinai precisely when they were most needed. And the blood-curdling threats of one after another of the Arab dictators and monarchs: "The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified... This is our opportunity to erase the ignominy which has been with us since 1948... Our goal is clear - to wipe Israel off the map."


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