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Jewish World Review
March 15, 2006
/ 15 Adar, 5766
Rabbi Berel Wein
Forget the wooziness, there is a deeper, more persistent and much more painful hangover that descends upon us after Purim
Now that the holiday of Purim has safely past, many find themselves suffering from a hangover. There are those who are
suffering from this hangover in a literal sense — too much drink, too much food, just too much. Well, a long nap and an
analgesic to soothe the stomach and a cold compress for the headache will eventually provide relief for this type of post-Purim
But I feel that there is a deeper, more persistent and much more painful hangover that descends upon us after Purim.
And those hangovers come from the realization that, though one Haman was vanquished many centuries ago, there were and
are many others ready to take his place.
The story of Purim is therefore not a one-time event, an aberration of history, an accidental madman rising to power. It is rather
the ultimate hangover that just refuses to go away. If that be the case then why all of the merriment and celebration on Purim?
The triumph over Haman is only a temporary one, a short respite until the next onslaught against Jews, Judaism and the values
that the Torah preaches and represents. And what a pounding hangover that realization can be!
Are there cures for this type of hangover? For many centuries, for most of Jewish history in fact, Jews were convinced that
there really was no permanent cure for our hangover. Jewish survival and our eventual triumph over all of the various Hamans
who constantly arose to persecute us lay in our strength of spirit, our tenacity of faith and tradition and in our attempts to outwit
our enemies. We certainly had no ability to outgun them. Jews suffered and died and Haman always appeared triumphant but
eventually Haman fell and the Jewish people, bloodied and battered, nonetheless persisted and survived. Jews saw this pattern
of persecution and survival as a given, a facet of our existence that was almost inexorable and unable to be prevented.
Therefore, in a most ironic and paradoxical way, Purim represented not triumph or the elimination of Hamans from our world
but rather the ability to survive and be productive and creative in spite of the fact that there would always be a Haman and that
we would always have to struggle to survive his persecutions. Because of this view, Jews really did not suffer from a
post-Purim hangover since they never had any illusions that Haman was really going to disappear permanently.
Only when great expectations are fostered and permanent solutions promised and, in spite of all of our efforts, Haman mocks
us and continues to threaten does the sickening feeling of the post-Purim hangover take hold. Purim warns us that the story is
not complete and that we are at best only granted respite in the words of Achasveirosh to Esther of "up to half of a kingdom."
To expect the whole kingdom would certainly lead to disappointment and depressed spirits not to mention a splitting headache.
Purim is connected to the commandment in the Torah regarding remembering Amalek. In that struggle against evil and murder,
the Torah states explicitly that this a never-ending battle, a war of G-d and godliness against Amalek — from one generation
until the next.
From this it is easy to deduce that Amalek is not subject to a one-time knockout punch that will end the struggle
once and for all. It is rather a continuing struggle that every Jewish generation faces and must overcome, each generation in its
own way and under its particular circumstances. The joy of Purim is always tempered by the fact that there are many more
Purims that will be necessary to sustain us.
In the Passover Haggadah that we will recite at the Seder table in a few short weeks we are reminded that there is a continual
line from Pharaoh to Haman to Titus to Chmelienicki to Hitler to the current president of Iran. These people really meant and
really mean to destroy us. No words are minced and no threats are veiled. It would be foolhardy at the least to pretend that no
real danger exists to our survival.
Yet all of our past history tells us that we should not be overly pessimistic about our future.
We should not fall prey to the post-Purim hangover syndrome. Rather our realism should include the lessons of faith and
tenacity that have stood us in such good stead over the ages. The tempered joy of our Purim will help usher us into the moment
of redemption and renewal that Passover signifies.
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JWR contributor Rabbi Berel Wein --- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and
books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com Comment by clicking here.
© 2006, Rabbi Berel Wein