Virtual Talmud

I disagree with Rabbi Waxman’s suggestion that what distinguishes Haman from the historic villain Hitler or today’s Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is that Haman jumped to the chase in seeking the total annihilation of the Jewish people immediately, rather than taking intermediate steps towards that goal.

A close reading of the Book of Esther shows that Haman had an inner and external agenda, much like Hitler and Ahmadinejad. Read Chapter Three of the Book of Esther very carefully and you will find that while Haman decides early on that he wants to destroy all the Jews, he must still go about making a case for the slaughter with the King. Haman begins slowly, explaining to the King that there is among all the religions of his kingdom only one that is different, and that this different religion does not follow the King’s laws.

Only once Haman is able to set the Jew apart as “other” does he advance his plans for ridding the empire of them. As a group of people, he has successfully identified them as a danger to the State. He even adds in the economic factor of taking over Jewish property. Hitler could have taken his cues from Haman’s own game plan. Ahmadinejad’s focus on destroying Israel is similar, a sop to Palestinians who think all their problems will be solved if they could only have the land of Israel. (The debacle of Palestinian civil strife in Gaza is clear evidence to the contrary.)

What frightens me most is not the modern analogy to Haman but to King Ahashverus. My fear stems from more than the fact that Ahashverus is easily taken in by Haman’s ploy; it is that he seems to listen only with half an ear to Haman’s manipulations in Chapter Three. You can almost see Ahashverus waving his hand dismissively as he tells Haman to take the money and do what he wants with the people (our people!). The slaughter of millions just doesn’t matter to him since it doesn’t affect his palace life or the security of his throne.

The real enemy is not Haman, but those people who allow him–and those like him throughout history–to pursue their nefarious goal of slaughter just because it does not immediately matter to them.

— Posted by Rabbi Susan Grossman

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