“For if you remain silent at this time, rescue and safety will come from another place”

Netanyahu prays at the Kotel before leaving for Washington

The words in the title are a direct quote from Megillat Esther, the Book of Esther, which Jews worldwide will read on Wednesday night as Purim begins.  The background to the story is the plot by Haman the Agagite, the evil Vizier of the King, to murder all the Jews in the Persian Empire.  The words are spoken by Mordechai, the leader of the Persian Jewish community during the Babylonian Exile, who advises his niece, who had been selected by the King to become his Queen despite her extreme reluctance, that it is entirely possible that it is for this very reason that she was chosen to become Queen – in order to intervene with King Ahasuerus (Achashverosh) to stop the planned genocide of the Jews in the Persian Empire, organized and initiated by the wicked Amalekite Haman.

Esther is scared to approach the King because if you enter the King’s chamber without an invitation, there is an automatic death sentence. Mordechai reminds Esther that if she reamins silent, G-d will surely rescue them some other way, but Esther herself, as the King’s wife, might be at risk herself if there is a palace coup.

Much as I am loth to compare Binyamin Netanyahu to Queen Esther (!) the parallels between the two events, roughly 2,500 years apart, are startling.

A short snappy email from a friend (h/t Henry) explains the situation perfectly:

Once there was a King in Shushan, the most powerful ruler in the world, who had a strong disdain, dislike or perhaps even hatred of Jews.

Today there is a President in Washington, the most powerful ruler in the world, who has a strong disdain, dislike or perhaps even hatred of Jews.

Once there was a Persian who wanted to kill all the Jews, but needed the King’s authorization to proceed.
Today there are Persians who want to kill all the Jews, but need the President’s authorization to proceed.

The King didn’t really care, as long as there was something in it for him – lots of money.
The President doesn’t really care, as long as there is something in it for him – a deal with the Persians.

The Jewish Queen wanted to tell the King what was really happening, but going in to talk to the King was dangerous.
The Jewish Prime Minister wants to tell the President what is really happening, but going to talk to him is dangerous.

Some people thought she shouldn’t go, it would just anger the King and make things worse.
Some people think he shouldn’t go, it will just anger the President and make things worse.

The Queen asked the Jews to fast and pray for the success of her mission. They did so, and the King accepted her words, and the plot to destroy them was thwarted.
Will we fast and pray for the success of his mission? Will the President and Congress accept his words? Will the plot to destroy us be thwarted?

We commemorate the fasting prior to the Queen’s plea to the King on Taanit Ester, which commences on 3rd March.
The Prime Minister of Israel has been invited to address the United States Congress on 3rd March.

The obvious parallels between Purim and Netanyahu’s Washington visit are evident to all, and articles in the Jewish and Israeli media abound.

First of all, Binyamin Netanyahu himself is aware of the extreme importance and the symbolic timing of his speech:

“I feel like an emissary of all of Israel, even those who do not agree with me,” he said, adding that “I sense a deep angst for the fate of Israel; I will do everything to assure our future.”

Last night, Netanyahu paid a visit to the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem, where he also related to his upcoming journey.

“I want to take this opportunity to say that I respect the President of the United States, Barack Obama. I believe in the power of the relationship between Israel and the US, and their ability to overpower the differences – those that we have had and those that, one imagines, are still to come.”

However, he emphasized that his decision to address Congress despite the White House’s objections were the result of his fears over the existential threat posed to Israel by a “bad” deal with Iran over its nuclear program.

“As the prime minister of Israel it is my duty to safeguard the security of Israel, and that is why we strenuously oppose the deal that is forming between Iran and the powers, which can endanger our very existence.

Ruthie Blum in Yisrael Hayom also writes about the similarities “Between Esther and Congress”:

Within the framework of the discussion over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech before Congress, several historic figures have been dug up from their graves and revived: Roosevelt and Chamberlain, Hitler and Churchill. Those inclined to look further back and have a Jewish calendar handy cannot help invoking a deeper historical comparison — a chilling one. The date of the speech is the 12th of Adar after sunset, in other words the 13th of Adar: “And the letters sealed with his ring were sent by the king’s messengers to all provinces, to kill and destroy all the Jews, both young and old, little children, and women, in one day, that is, on the 13th of the 12th month, which is called Adar, and to make a spoil of their goods” (Esther 3:13). This is the date, that’s the story. A 2,300-year gap, bridged in an instant.

Now the head of the Jewish state is traveling to the palace of Ahasuerus to cry out against the decree. The present-day Ahasuerus is not a king ruling over 127 states, but 50; he is not a drunkard or an idiot, but he is apathetic to the fate of the Jews. And this is the third year of his second term, just as Ahasuerus was in the third year of his kingdom, according to the Book of Esther. Esther arrived at the palace on the third day, after three days of preparations; Netanyahu will speak before Congress on the third day of its convening.

By the way, Mordechai also came under attack back then: He was “held in high esteem by many of his brethren” (Esther 10:3). As it is written, “many” of his brethren, not “all” of them. There were always those who put on sour faces and harbored bitter hearts. Not much has changed.

…  And on the 13th of Adar, in the year 5776, the messenger of the Jews, Netanyahu, will walk into Congress, accompanied by 8 million plaintiffs, the citizens of Israel, and the weight of 2,300 years on his shoulders.

Netanyahu will speak the words of Esther and his voice will reverberate to all corners of the world.


Arlene Kushner stresses the Divine commandment to “remember Amalek and wipe it out“, which Torah portion we read in shul this past Shabbat. I highly recommend you read what she has to say:

Sam Shore, one of the rabbis in my shul, addressed this with a powerful relevancy yesterday, which I want to share:

More than Amalek was a people, it was an ideology of evil. At one and the same time, we must work to defeat – wipe out – that ideology wherever we find it and we must remember what Amalek did so that we stay alert to what evil is possible in this world.

What is more, we Jews, having been commanded to remember, are charged with alerting others in the world about evil when we see it.

Netanyahu’s speech, he told me after his talk, is holy work.

Read the whole thing. There is so much more there.

The Megillah of course has a happy end. Esther intervened as Mordechai requested, the King was happy to see her, and – shocked at Haman’s betrayal – orders Haman’s execution and the promotion of Mordechai to the position of Vizier.

We must all pray that tomorrow, as 2,300 years ago, Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech will have the desired effect, and that, unwelcome as it is to so many, it will shock American lawmakers into action that will prevent the future genocide (G-d forbid) of the Jews of Israel.

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48 Responses to “For if you remain silent at this time, rescue and safety will come from another place”

  1. cba says:

    ומי יודע אם לעת כזאת הגעת למלכות?
    I wish I had a bit more faith in Bibi.

    • anneinpt says:

      I have faith in Bibi. I have no faith at all in Obama, and am neutral on Congress doing the right thing.

      I think if Obama had handled it differently Bibi would have backed off. But Obama pushed him into a corner, whether deliberately or incompetently. Either way it speaks badly of Obama.

  2. LL Cheung says:

    Wow the weight of 2,300 years on his shoulders…photo of Netanyahu praying at the Kotel is really touching and fills my eyes up… will pray for Israel and Bibi.

  3. Reality says:

    G-d works in interesting ways Then as now G-d’s hand was”hidden,”yet the story when pieced together revealed G-ds help.I pray G-d will help again now

  4. Pete says:

    Well, I will give you my tongue-in-cheek comment first. Yes, I am very familiar with the story of Esther and the Persian King.

    BUT why did the Persian King really listen to Esther, instead of killing her? Surely it was because he had a sincere love for her in his heart, and therefore he was willing to set aside royal protocols.

    But will Pres. Obama have the same love for Bibi??!!

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      LOL. The mind boggles.

      But seriously, the King listened to Esther because he had a premonition, recorded in the story as a dream, that wicked Haman wanted to topple him. So when Esther entered the chamber he had a feeling she was going to reveal something about the suspected plot.

      One could draw a similar parallel today. Congress want Bibi to speak because they have a sneaking suspicion (if not outright facts) that the deal with Iran is going to be dreadful, and they want Bibi to spell it out for all the world to hear.

  5. Pete says:

    OK, enough of the cheap sideline comments.
    What is truly significant are the prayers that are said by PM Netanyahu at this time.
    And also the prayers said by all Israelis, all Jews, and all people who seek an answer from God.

    It is very likely that this dispute between Iran and Israel, which involves nuclear technology, will have profound implications for the world. Therefore, deep prayers are appropriate. No doubt Israel can take unilateral action. But it will set off a chain of events that are very big. And personally I do believe there will be real loss of life in Israel as well. I am sure that Bibi and Israel’s leaders are well aware of this. Therefore, this is a time for profound prayers.

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      Amen to all the prayers. I am so glad that Bibi went to pray before he got on the plane. He is not a religious man at all but he has a very strong sense of Israel’s destiny. Acknowledging G-d’s hand in all of this and asking for His help is the best thing he can do in the circumstances.

  6. Aridog says:

    Just to be clear, I am one American who is grateful that Prime Minister Netanyahu is coming to the USA to speak to our Congress, the legislature of the people….however corrupt it might seem at times. Those who boycott the affair are cowards. He served in the Sayeret Matkal and that is enough for me to give him an ear…whether I agree or not is not the point. We are allegedly a nation of free speech and this is one opportunity to prove it. Welcome Bibi.

    • Pete says:

      Aridog – well said. YES … we are still a nation of free men and women in America. PM Netanyahu deserves the right to be heard.

      Practically speaking, I HOPE that he has something new to say – some new point that adds clarity to his viewpoint of this issue. If he simply re-hashes the old arguments, then this speech is likely to be caught in a quagmire of partisan politics for America. He needs to add factual evidence and clear logic – to an on-going discussion that has become deeply polarized.

      Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      Agreed Aridog. I still don’t understand Obama. If he so objects to Bibi’s speech – and I can understand where that objection is coming from – why didn’t he simply demand the right of reply? He could have rebutted the speech and embarrassed Bibi, and that would have been the end of the story.

      But the way he has behaved has only drawn huge attention to Bibi’s speech, made himself look like a truculent teenager, and he has abdicated his right to rebut any claims that Bibi might make. What a lost opportunity for him! I thought he was supposed to be the master politician. He comes across instead as a pathetic rookie.

      • Aridog says:

        He cannot help it…because he IS an extreme pathetic rookie. And a majority of us voted for the guy….I didn’t but so what? Go figure.

  7. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Off topic – sorry about that – but “Gorgeous” George Galloway, MP for Bradford and jihadists everywhere, is threatening to sue those who tweeted (or retweeted) that he was at least partially responsible for the apparent rise in antisemitism in the UK since the vents of summer 2014 in the Middle East. (sorry for the weasel words, but I don’t need a lawyer’s letter at £6000 a pop.) The response is, in part, here: http://www.timesofisrael.com/twitter-battleground-for-campaigns-by-and-against-mp-galloway/

    Lawyers are already offering pro bono (i.e., free) legal advice and there may well be crowd-funding efforts to aid the fight-back. Not the least interesting comment is that offered by one person that £6000 just for one lawyer’s letter is “odd” (my word): not even the most expensive lawyers demand that for one letter (from the recipients, that is, not the client briefing them). Maybe 1% would be closer to the mark, especially as the cost of composing the letter would be spread over 12 (it seems) recipients, and the secretary doesn’t get paid that much for typing out the same letter 12 times.

    Keep your eyes open on this one, it threatens to run and run, and not necessarily to Galloway’s benefit, if a court decides that he hasn’t been libelled, and anyway if inflating his costs. They have people to check the costs involved in such cases in the UK, you know, and they can knock the costs payable back quite a bit, if they think the payees are being overcharged.

    • anneinpt says:

      He is so disgusting yet so entertaining at the same time. Did you see my last Good News Friday post? He compounded his Twitter problems and Israellycool had a great amount of fun at his expense. 🙂

  8. Martin says:

    Three years ago Bibi gave Obama a copy of the Book of Esther. Did Obama ever read it?

  9. Pete says:

    There has been some very interesting “educated discussion” today in the US media about Bibi’s speech, and the role that it has in American policy making. The thrust of the arguments is this … The history of US politics gives “foreign policy making and diplomacy” to the President of the United States. Foreign policy is SOLELY the purview of the President, and it is not the job of Congress. While Congress may weigh in on wars and treaties, it is the President who determines foreign policy. And this role of the presidency has been upheld by the US Supreme Court since 1776.

    Therefore, if you view Bibi’s speech in this light, you can understand why Pres. Obama would be opposed to the events tomorrow. And also it is helpful to be aware of just how much this speech by PM Natanyahu represents a type of “contradiction” to the standard US political process. Congress is not necessarily empowered to be second-guessing US foreign policy with invited speeches in this way.

    However, as Reader AriDog has said …. America is a FREE country. And Bibi’s speech does represent freedom of expression.

    The QUESTION is … what is PM Netanyahu trying to accomplish here? If he is arguing against the US Treaty with Iran, then YES he is undercutting the US Administration in a rather unconventional way. But instead if Bibi uses this speech to outline Israel’s point of view, and he does not mention the treaty directly, then perhaps something useful is conveyed. Israel has the right to make its own foreign policy, and to explain that policy. If that is the thrust of Bibi’s speech, then it is important to hear.

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      It’s quite obvious what Bibi is trying to accomplish. We are no longer talking abotu mere “foreign policy”. What is an abstract policy to you is an absolute immediate existential threat to Israel, i.e. to me personally.

      It is clear that Obama has not internalized this threat to Israel, or if he has, he doesn’t actually care. I’m not sure which option is the more scary: his stupidity or his malice.

      In any event, Bibi feels he cannot leave it to chance that Congress will stand up to Obama, and feels he has to put our case to the people. If after that they still vote with Obama, well, at least Bibi can say he tried. And then Israel will know that we cannot rely on the US to have our back and we have to act unilaterally.

      Remember, foreign policy works in 2 directions. Israel shouldn’t interfere in America’s foreign policy, but the US, by making a deal with Iran, is interfering with Israel’s foreign policy, and in fact with Israel’s life.

      THAT is what Bibi is doing. It should be 100% clear by now.

  10. Daniel says:

    Quite scary how little has changed in 2500 years.
    Great blog. פורים שמח

  11. floranista says:

    OT, annie, how is Bibi doing in the polls?

    I am looking forward to his speech in the morning. All the petulant moves by the Obama administration has simply ensured more people are going to be paying attention to what Netanyahu has to say. So many of us are thirsting for honest dialogue over polit-speak. I can no longer abide talking points from either side.

    • anneinpt says:

      Hi Florrie, Bibi himself is struggling in the polls. The media are doing their darndest to smear him and embarrass him and he’s prone to mistakes anyway. Yes, the Israeli media are for the most part as bad as the US or Europe, besides Yisrael Hayom and Arutz Sheva. He’s about neck and neck with Labour (now known as “Zionist Union”), specifically with Isaac “Buji” Herzog. Their co-leader Tzippi Livni has been hidden away from the public for some reason – probably because she’s a liability.

      I think (I hope!) that Bibi will form the next government simply because the right are the only ones who can cobble together a coalition, even if Likud get less votes than Labour. Because our governments are always a coalition, the president gives the party most likely to be able to form a coalition the chance to go first. And that is most likely the right. Keep praying!

      • floranista says:

        Will do! Thanks for the info, annie, I don’t really understand the parliamentary system.

        • anneinpt says:

          it’s quite simple really (I’ll do a more detailed post after Purim towards the elections on 17th March)

          We have lots of small parties, who now have to get at least 5% of the vote in order to enter the Knesset. Because there are so many parties, no one party gets a clear majority. So the President charges the party which is most likely to be able to form a government to form a coalition. Usually that is the party with the most votes, but not always. Twice now Likud did not have the most seats, though they only lagged by one seat behind Labour, but the Right is a much larger sector of the Knesset than the Left, and more united. But it all involves lots of ugly horse-trading, as we would expect from politicians.

          • floranista says:

            Yes, that makes it clearer. I’ll look forward to your post then, thanks again, annie.

  12. lewy14 says:

    I saw this and knew it needed posting here: http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/03/02/will-it-play-in-petah-tikva/ … Well, will it?!

    Susan Rice said something critical at her AIPAC speech: “No deal is preferable to a bad deal.”

    So then if a deal is signed, it will be up to Obama to justify why it’s not a bad deal. (Good luck with that.)

    And a deal will happen, in my estimation. Obama feels he has to justify that Nobel Peace Prize somehow.

    • anneinpt says:

      That’s so funny that they picked PT of all places. To answer the question, yes,it plays in PT, at least the Iranian question. It plays the same all over Israel.

      The economic question is harder to answer. Definitely housing costs and food costs have risen drastically in the last few years. I don’t necessarily fault Bibi for that. He has tried so hard to break up the unions, to allow imports etc., but his “wonderful” aka idiotic Treasury Minister Yair “I-didn’t-graduate-from-school” Lapid did not cooperate. He came up with some stupid ideas of his own and basically every initiative that might have worked was shot down. It is partly Bibi’s fault of course for appointing Lapid int he first place and for not firing him, and also for not being more pro-active with privatisation and liberalisation of the markets.

      The average man in the street doesn’t care whose direct fault it is. They see the prices, and see who is PM, and the buck stops there. The only question is how much weight will be given to security – not just Iran, but the Palestinians, Hezbollah, Hamas etc. – and how much to the economy. The answer is anybody’s guess. We’ll know more on 18th March.

    • Aridog says:

      Yes, a “deal” will happen alright. It will have all the chimera and dishonesty of the one in September 1938 in Munich. How’d that one work out?

      This one could bring all of us THIS … won’t that be special?

      • anneinpt says:

        Do you think Obama will go ahead despite the speech and despite a lot of opposition within Congress? Not to mention the opposition from the Saudis and the Gulf states?

        • Aridog says:

          Yes, I believe the petulant child, President Obama, will go ahead with everything he thinks is his right to do. One of those things is to make a “deal” that he won’t have to enforce, leaving that to those who follow him.

          • anneinpt says:

            I wonder in that case if Bibi really has the guts to attack Iran, whether overtly or otherwise. Is he all talk or will he finally take action?

            • Aridog says:

              Anne….I don’t doubt Bibi’s courage, however, if he attacked Iran without the USA behind him, you’ll all be toast one way or the other. And then us too. I suspect that is why he came here. To sound a warning. The question is: is anyone listening?

              • anneinpt says:

                And even if anyone is listening, can Obama be stopped if he uses his executive powers?

                • lewy14 says:

                  annie – this is where Treasury Secretary Jack Lew comes in.

                  Assuming that sanctions are phased out gradually, it will be up to Lew to keep sanctions enforced in the interim, for the next couple years.

                  Recall there was consternation that Obama sent Lew to the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in lieu (heh) of any higher official – but given the importance of the Treasury secretary in enforcing sanctions, Lew is a pretty important guy…

                  Of course the question of who the next president is remains key.

                  • anneinpt says:

                    Very interesting Lewy. Thanks. I find it odd that it’s the Treasury that is involved in such a security matter. In Israel the Treasury deals only with the country’s finances.

  13. Pete says:

    WELL … I listened to PM Netanyahu’s Speech this morning (Tuesday).
    As I listened to his words, I could not help thinking that we are watching “history being made” before our very eyes.

    I think it was an excellent speech – perhaps the very best speech that PM Netanyahu has ever delivered. I think that his delivery of the speech was also eloquent – he did convey a true sense of sincerity. What came across … was that the words came from his heart! THESE phrases seemed to capture his message …

    “The greatest danger to the world today – is the marriage of militant Islam and nuclear weapons.”
    “This treaty will not be Farewell to Arms … it will be a farewell to arms control.”

    And YES, I believe that the world heard Bibi say very clearly today – that if Israel has to stand alone … Israel will STAND.

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      Yep, those quotes and a few others stood out for me. I live-tweeted it but I’ve got to wade through it all to remember the best bits. It was all outstanding.

  14. Pete says:

    Although it is common for Pres. Obama’s approach to be “vilified” here on this blog, I think that PM Netanyahu’s speech really highlighted the two VERY DIFFERENT approaches that are being advocated by the US Administration and Israel:

    Pres. Obama … we could call this approach the “realistic political approach”. It is the philosophy that it is impossible to stop the Iranians from eventually getting nuclear technology, and possibly nuclear weapons … but a verifiable treaty will SLOW DOWN this process by a significant margin.

    PM Netanyahu … that the development of nuclear technology by Iran will inevitably lead to a Middle East that is covered in “nuclear tripwires” and that future is unthinkable. Therefore, Iran must be stopped completely now, without compromises.

    These are two very different approaches to the Iran problem. We have essentially reached the point of divergent policies between the USA and Israel. It is not possible to have both policies. Who knows what the future will bring. Despite Bibi’s impassioned speech, I doubt that America’s policies will be radically altered in the future (or not for the remaining part of the Obama presidency).

    Just my personal opinions.

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      You could well be right Pete, and that’s what terrifies us Israelis.

    • Aridog says:

      Who knows what the future will bring?

      As you did, I listened to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech beginning to end. My opinion is that he is telling us what the future will hold, whether we like it or think it is “realpolitik” or not. If you allow (they already have it but for bits & pieces only, maybe more…) a sectarian nation who stridently believes in the “Mahdi” of Armageddon the means to enact it…they will, certain as sunrise (used to be).

      The Prime Minister paid all of the requisite homages, actually more than enough really, to the opposition in his opening remarks, which I note few in the MSM have noted. Then he gave us an opinion that we’d like to ignore or play with like some petulant child insistent on have his/her way.

      We saw today what the difference is between a “community organizer” and a “national leader” really is in fact. If we chose to ignore it, we will pay the price. And I suspect we will…glad I’m old so I might not be here for it.

  15. Pete says:

    Anne … a very practical question.
    When is Bibi out of office? When does his term expire, if he is not re-elected?

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      Our elections are on March 17th. This is just over 2 years since our last elections. In principle a government’s term is 4 years, but I can hardly remember when a gov’t last finished out its term. I think Bibi’s previous term was after almost 4 years.

      The trouble is our coalition system. We have so many small parties that all gov’ts are coalitions and they have become increasingly unstable, as we have seen right now. So the Knesset recently passed a law raising the threshold of entering the Knesset to at least 3% of the vote. This is still too small, we wanted at least 5% but it’s still better than the 1% or so that has been in practice till now.

      If he’s not re-elected then it will presumably be a Labour gov’t, now in its current reincarnation as “the Zionist Union” – Labour together with Tzippi Livni’s party. The question is who will they join in with. The extreme left? Possibly. Yesh Atid and the center? Maybe. The Arabs? Unlikely because the Arabs consider them too Zionist. Duh. This is Israel. What did they expect? The religious parties probably won’t go with Labour, so it’s not going to be easy for them to form a coalition.

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