Saturday, February 27, 2010

Purim and My Past,Toledo,Akiva Eiger Krakow , Yehuda AmichaiZyg and Mea

yehuda Amichai

“When I asked a rabbi, ‘Why do I feel this way?’ he replied, ‘The sleeping souls of your ancestors are calling out to you.’ ”

Purim in 2010 will start on Sunday, the 28th of February and will

continue for 2 days until Monday, the 1st of March.

Note that in the Jewish calendar, a holiday begins on the sunset of the

previous day, so observing Jews will celebrate Purim on the sunset of

Saturday, the 27th of February.

The events commemorated by Purim took place in the ancient

Persian Empire, in the fifth century BCE, under the reign

of King Achashverosh. Mordechai, a Jew, refused to bow down

and prostrate himself before Haman, the vizier to the King.

Haman immediately set out "to destroy all the Jews

that were throughout

the whole kingdom of Achashverosh" (Esther 3,6). In order to

effect his vicious racist plan, Haman decided to enlist the aid

of the unsuspecting King

Achashverosh. Since Haman was a very superstitious person,

he had lots cast to determine on which day he

should carry out his design. The word for lots is "Purim",

and from it we get the name for the holiday. The chosen

date was the thirteenth of Adar.

The king, who trusted Haman, agreed to his plan

to murder the Jews. For Haman had told him that

the Jews were "scattered abroad in all the provinces,"

and that "their laws are different from those of every people" (Esther 3,8).

Letters, written by Haman and signed by the king,

were sent out throughout all the provinces, commanding

all persons "to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish

all the Jews" (Esther 3,13). The Jews would

have been massacred, had it not been for Esther,

Mordechai's cousin, who had been chosen queen a few years earlier.

Queen Esther was able to intercede and save

the Jewish community from genocide.

Haman was hanged on the gallows which he

himself had prepared for Mordechai.

The Jews of Persia were spared and

judgments were executed on their enemies.

Mordechai thereupon sent letters to all the Jews,calling upon them

to observe the fourteenth and the fifteenth of Adar,

"the days wherein the Jews had rest from their enemies,

and the month which was turned for them from sorrow

to gladness, and from mourning

into a good day;

that they should make them days of feasting

and gladness, and of sending portions (mishloach manot)

one to another and gifts to the poor (matanot la'evyonim)" (Esther 9,22).

Some of the nicest traditions of Purim

are matanot laevyonim, the giving of gifts to the poor

, and mishloach manot,

the giving of gifts of food to friends and family.

Before 1939, Poland was home to more than three million Jews, more than 90 percent of whom were killed by the Nazis. Most who survived emigrated. Of the fewer than 50,000 who remained in Poland, many abandoned or hid their Judaism during decades of Communist oppression in which political pogroms against Jews persisted.

Today, though, Michael Schudrich, the chief rabbi of Poland, said he considered Poland the most pro-Israel country in the European Union. He said the attitude of Pope John Paul II, a Pole, who called Jews “our elder brothers,” had finally entered the public consciousness.

Ten years after the revelation that 1,600 Jews of the town of Jedwabne were burned alive by their Polish neighbors in July 1941, he said the national myth that all Poles were victims of World War II had finally been shattered.

“Before 1989 there was a feeling that it was not safe to say, ‘I am a Jew,’ ” Rabbi Schudrich said. “But two decades later, there is a growing feeling that Jews are a missing limb in Poland. The level of anti-Semitism remains unacceptable, but the image of the murderous Pole seared in the consciousness of many Jews after the war doesn’t correspond to the Poland of 2010.”

The small Jewish revival has been under way for several years around eastern Europe. Hundreds of Poles, a majority of them raised as Catholics, are either converting to Judaism or discovering Jewish roots submerged for decades in the aftermath of World War II.

In the past five years, Warsaw’s Jewish community had grown to 600 families from 250. The cafes and bars of the old Jewish quarter in Krakow brim with young Jewish converts listening to Israeli hip hop music.

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