What Makes Purim the Most Joyous of Jewish Holidays?

“What makes Purim the most joyous Jewish holiday,” Yehoshua November asks, “and what can the holiday tell us about joy versus trauma in the Jewish literary tradition?”

There are many strange things about Purim, he points out. For instance, he book of Esther is the only book in the Hebrew Bible that doesn’t mention God’s name.

Just as strange, Purim “is the only festival whose name does not derive from a Hebrew word.”

“Purim” is a word in Farsi, a diasporic language Jews spoke during the Babylonian exile. The word itself, Purim, means “lots,” recalling the lottery Haman drew to determine the ideal day to wipe out the Jewish people. Calling a holiday Purim is, thus, akin to calling a holiday “the Final Solution.”

So why is Purim so joyous?

. . . the mystics teach that, in the Purim story, the Jewish people called the world’s bluff, insisting that the divine resides beneath the skin of the ordinary or non-miraculous moment, even when appearances suggest otherwise. Purim teaches that what seems random and disordered—a cosmic lottery—is really rigged with divine intentionality or acute divine providence. Unlike Passover’s ten plagues and splitting of the sea, open miracles and divine revelation do not characterize the Purim story, which theoretically could be chalked up to a series of coincidences. A Purim Jew knows otherwise.

Throughout, November connects this notion of the “Purim Jew” to contemporary poetry, explaining that even secular poets today “intuit at least a secular iteration” of the idea of “infus[ing] light into a lackluster moment.”

Read more at The Lehrhaus

More about: Poetry, Purim

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict