There is no way to avoid referring to the extra drama underlining the celebration of Purim this year for every Jew around the world. Some 2,500 years after the events of the Purim story unfolded in Persia (modern-day Iran), the same swaggering hatred of Jews that obsessed the Iranian leaders of those days and the same aspiration toward genocide that such hatred spawned then appear to reaching a crescendo of menace today.
Public pronouncements against that menace – the development of nuclear weapons capability by Iran – were unambiguously and carefully articulated last week in Ottawa and Washington, merely days ahead of the merriment and noisemaking, the sending of gifts to our friends and aid to the needy that will typify our celebration of Purim this week.
During a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper reaffirmed his opposition to Iran developing nuclear weapons and urged that every avenue for a peaceful resolution of the crisis be explored while recognizing “the right of Israel to defend itself as a sovereign Jewish state.”
In Washington, D.C., on Sunday, ahead of a visit by Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama said much the same thing to the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. “Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States, just as they should not doubt Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs. I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say.”
The unambiguous language by Harper and Obama is significant, for Iran has often made clear that the first priority of its foreign policy is the removal of the Jewish state from the map of the world. Hence the constant, stomach-churning worry about Tehran’s development of nuclear weapons.
The ever-heightening tension surrounding the crisis with Iran is the discomfiting, emotional and psychological backdrop to the celebration of Purim this year. And thus the extra drama.
And yet, as the cartoon on this page bids us, we will don a mask to make children laugh, to set aside our worries and to convey to them and to ourselves our confidence in the future despite those worries.
But once the masks are returned to their drawers or closets, we set ourselves to the task of ensuring our own rescue from the ancient, yet modern, menace. The Purim story tells us how.
We must act together. We must unite against the common danger. We must care for one another. We must do for one another. We must regard the safety and well-being of one as the safety and well-being of all. Happy Purim.