Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller
When Haman broached the topic of annihilating the Jewish people with Achashveirosh, he introduced the Jewish people as being, “…one nation which is scattered and divided amongst all the other nations.” He meant to tell Achashveirosh that the Jews cannot get along among each other and certainly not with other nationalities, and, therefore, they constitute a threat to the country. What Haman didn’t realize is that in this description, he paid an unintentional compliment to the Jewish people. When he said they were one nation, he acknowledged Jews care for each other’s welfare and take responsibility for each and every Jew, no matter where they are and how they live.
Rabbi Yaakov Galinsky z’l, a famous maggid and Rosh Yeshiva of Chadera, tells a personal story in this vein. During WWII, he was exiled as a Polish citizen within Stalin’s Soviet Russia. Since he was an enemy alien and had no legal standing, he was considered an enemy of the state. Moreover, as a yeshiva man he was also considered to be a subversive and a counterrevolutionary. He spent a considerable time on the run, and one night, he found himself on a train station platform in Bucharia.
Train stations were carefully watched by the NKVD and Reb Yaakov could not get a train out. Without papers and a place to stay out of sight, it was simply a matter of time before he would be arrested and sent to Siberia. As he looked around hoping to find some way out of his dilemma, he saw a cobbler with Jewish features working in a small shop at the railway station. In desperation, he decided to approach this man and ask him for shelter until he could slip onto a train and get out of town. He hesitated since he knew that if he was mistaken and the man was not a fellow Jew, he would be handed over to the police immediately. He decided to approach the man and blurt out Shema Yisrael and see what the cobbler’s response would be. Sure enough, the man responded with, “Baruch Sheim Kvod…” In some way, Reb Yaakov communicated his predicament to the man, and this person took him home and sheltered him for 11 days at great risk to his family and himself.
Many years later Rav Galinsky reflected on this selfless kindness and sacrifice this Buchari Jew had shown him in spite of the fact that their lives, language and cultures were entirely different. This is one of Purim’s major themes. When Jews come together, miraculous things happen. If we focus on our common peoplehood, take responsibility for every Jew’s well-being and ignore how we differ from each other, then we will overcome any adversity. This is why we emphasize mishloach manos and maatanos l’evyonim as important mitzvos that display our care for each other. A joyous and inspiring Purim to all!
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