This week, Jews around the world will observe the beginning of the Hebrew month, Adar. Adar is the month of joy. This is the month we celebrate the holiday, Purim; we celebrate how HaShem saved the Jewish people from the wicked Haman, who sought to kill the Jews of Persia. Adar is also the month we begin reviewing the laws of Pesach (Passover), which is itself a holiday of joy.
Jews have a saying: when Adar begins, we increase our joy. That joy is built upon salvation, when the Jewish people were saved from destruction (Purim) and from slavery (Pesach). That joy begins with Adar and builds for six weeks, until we come to Pesach. Then, we not only celebrate being saved from slavery. We celebrate the Jewish First Redemption--and speak of the Final Redemption, which we hope will come speedily in our day.
Adar reminds us of the two men who were perhaps the Jewish people’s greatest adversaries, the Egyptian Pharaoh and the Persian Haman. Both stood against the Jewish people. Both attempted, in their own way, to crush the Jewish people. Most important for our story here, both dealt with the Jewish people through the lens of an irrational animus.
We are reminded of such irrational hostility just as this year’s Adar begins (Thursday-Friday, February 19-20, 2015) because of the brouhaha that has erupted over an invitation to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Republican Speaker of the US House of Representatives (John Boehner) has invited Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress early next month. Boehner had extended that invitation because Republicans were angry at the way US President Obama has pursued negotiations with Iran over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. According to some, Obama’s ‘negotiations’ are a failure: he’s already given Iran 80 per cent of what Iran wants—with nothing yielded by Iran in return (Shoula Romano Horing, “Fearmongering about US-Israeli Relations”, The American Thinker, February 15, 2015). Obama had declared that he wouldn’t tolerate any attempt by Congress to oppose his plans for Iran. The Boehner invitation was the Republican response to that Obama ‘threat’.
Boehner has explained that he had purposely withheld telling the White House of the invitation because “he wanted to make sure that there was no interference" (“Boehner Defends Netanyahu Invite, Blames DHS Standoff On Senate Democrats”, Huffington Post, February 15, 2015). He added, "There's no secret here in Washington about the animosity that this White House has for Prime Minister Netanyahu” (ibid).
Obama’s ‘animosity’ for Netanyahu has reached epic proportions. Stories circulate that he has lied about Netanyahu (“Did the Obama Administration lie about Netanyahu? (Updated and revised)”, The Washington Post, February 8, 2015). Stories appear that the US has stopped sharing with Israel updates on its talks with Iran—to punish Israel because of Netanyahu (“American Officials Deny Obama Admin is 'Punishing' Israel”, Arutz Sheva, February 16, 2015).
Stories appear that Obama’s outrage at Netanyahu is so great that he—Obama--has decided to interfere in Israel’s upcoming elections. He doesn’t want to deal with Netanyahu any more (“Obama Is Pursuing Regime Change in Israel”, Foreign Policy, February 12, 2015).
Israelis begin to wonder if there’s some kind of linkage between Obama’s anger, Labor Party Isaac Herzog’s anti-Netanyahu electioneering, and those Iran talks (“Herzog, Obama and Iran”, Times of Israel, February 14, 2015). There’s even talk of a secretly arranged ‘conspiracy’ between Obama operatives and Herzog’s Party to ‘overthrow’ Netanyahu (“Analysis: A Coalition of Interests”, Arutz Sheva, February 15, 2015).
Like Pharaoh and Haman before him, this US President displays an irrational hostility towards the Jewish Israel. That hostility is breath-taking (“Obama’s conduct toward Israel can’t be excused”, The Washington Post, November 14, 2014). He has become “the U.S. president least friendly toward the Jewish state since its founding” (ibid).
The anti-Israel attitudes within this Administration are equally stunning (“[Former Presidential candidate Gary] Bauer Condemns Obama Administration's Hostility to Israel, 'No Doubt the Most Anti-Israeli Government in U.S. History'”, wthr. com, March 15, 2014).
In the original Purim and Pesach stories, the most powerful leader of the world turned against the Jewish people with a hostility that threatened the spiritual and/or physical survival of the Jewish people. Today, we see yet again the most powerful leader in the world turn against the Jewish Israel with a hostility that has been called, ‘red hot’ (“The Crisis in US-Israel Relations is officially Here,” The Atlantic, October 28, 2014). That hostility threatens Israel’s security (“Reports: Obama Mulling Sanctions on Israel”, Washington Free Beacon, December 4, 2014).
Why do we see so powerful a world leader hold so irrational a hostility towards Israel at just this moment, when Jews begin to write about the Jewish Final Redemption? Will this most powerful of men be the modern ‘Pharaoh’? Will he drive forward the story of the Final Jewish Redemption?