The Politics of Adar
The masses were exuberant; champagne bubbling over, shouts of victory and pride, emotions bursting forth with confidence and joyous affirmation of a smashing success. Triumph and euphoria filled the air. But the morning after, fear and trepidation gripped the celebrants, the glee and sense of security dissipating in a fleeting moment.
The ebullience of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s historic reelection victory soured and fizzled as the White House responded with a snub and startlingly declared the following day that the United States’ (favorable) policy toward the State of Israel pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be reassessed, reflecting an unprecedented blow. Israeli politicians and supporters went scrambling in a damage control effort to salvage the favor and grace of the State’s most powerful ally.
The irony does not stop with the unparalleled White House affront toward a world leader, and the potential pulling of the rug out from under Israeli security concerns, allowing a lone and tiny allied country to be diplomatically devoured by the pack of wolves that constitutes much of the international community vis a vis the State of Israel at the United Nations. The irony cuts much deeper, to the point of the incredulous.
The White House explains its decision to reevaluate its backing for the State of Israel at the UN primarily in light of Netanyahu’s declaration three days before the election that he no longer supports a two-state solution. It is clear that this was routine politicking by the Prime Minister designed to draw requisite numbers of right-wing voters, and it was obviously a scheme that could be easily “clarified” later, as all politicians do, in order to retain their long-term acceptance by the mainstream while temporarily appeasing a particular voting bloc. It is done all the time, and it was fully predictable that Netanyahu would immediately after the election explain what he “really” meant – that he of course supports a two-state solution, and that his rhetoric against it referred to one set of circumstances and not to the two-state goal. No politician with a modicum of intelligence would publicly and intentionally abrogate his country’s allegiance to its closest and most essential ally as part of a political campaign; the whole thing was politicking and posturing, and everyone, including the current occupant of the Oval Office, routinely engages in it before elections.
Although the White House assuredly knows that the “no Palestinian state” utterance was mere campaign rhetoric that predictably was of course explained away the day after the election, and that such was the scheme all along, the White House is capitalizing on the Prime Minister’s words as a device to radically alter Mideast policy to the detriment of Netanyahu’s country. This is the focal point, missed by many, but central to what is really happening.
As much as it is almost impossible to conceive of the United States abandoning the State of Israel at the United Nations (just as it is almost impossible to conceive of the US President publicly snubbing the Prime Minister – or any world leader – and denigrating him on previous occasions over the years), the dramatic irony of boundless elation transitioning into an abyss of doom within a single day is a foundational theme of Purim, as elucidated by Rav Soloveitchik zt”l. The Rav explained that one of the core motifs of Purim is the insecurity and vulnerability of man, as the fate of the Jews of Shushan and the Persian Empire transformed overnight from comfort and fraternal celebration to a decree for their brutal and comprehensive annihilation. Rav Soloveitchik elaborated that the antidote to man’s insecurity and vulnerability is a life of tefillah (prayer), in which man transcends the sensation of being at the mercy of a cruel and absurd universe, and man instead lives connected with Hashem and knows that he has a holy goal of consecration to the Divine Plan, rather than a fate determined by detached freak phenomena.
A day before, they had feasted, Jew and Gentile, courtier and Ish Yehudi. Together, they had drunk toasts and hugged each other. In a matter of hours, the missive was sent out with the couriers to destroy, to slay and to kill.
…Man’s insecurity lies at the very root of prayer. Without the finiteness awareness, without man’s insecurity, there would be no prayer… Prayer, whether of Biblical or Rabbinic origin, bears witness to one inalterable fact, namely, that man is always in need… The act of praying is the religious response to need, to the experience of Tzarah, of distress, of existential straits and narrowness, of Min Ha-Meitzar, when man is defeated…
Prayer in Yahadus is not just a recital. It is more than that. It is a world outlook… You translate prayer into daily life, into deeds… Prayer is the answer to the insecurity of man. When I am with God, I feel secure… Life must be saturated with the philosophy of prayer and the metaphysics of prayer.
What is the way of life which prayer reflects? The prayer life signifies first, the consecrated life. Yahadus believed that each man has an assignment in this world. A man is born, not cast, as the existentialists say, into this world in vain and for no purpose. He is burdened with an assignment. Each man, in the opinion of Yahadus, is anointed, not appointed, by the Almighty to contribute something to redemption, toward the arrival of the eschatological age, to the great redemption…
Yes, we need to exert as much hishtadlus (human effort) as possible, including masterful diplomacy and public relations work, mending breaches and opening new venues of favor and grace. But ultimately, we must look above and beyond all victory celebration and angst, and realize that our fortune lies with our real, eternal Protector, and it is with Him that we must cast our ultimate lot and find true security.
As we depart from Adar and enter Nissan, the month of redemption, let us pray that authentic security, both physical and spiritual, be eminently and speedily manifest.