Author’s Note: This article was one of two written for the March, 2020 issue of The Scroll.
Have I ever told you about the attic? When I was growing up, my mother, may she rest in peace, had hundreds of books stored in our attic. She was a veritable bookworm and she passed that wonderful quality on to me. (I am proud to say that I have passed that on to Yitzchak who also reads incessantly). I have very fond memories of going up into the attic, rummaging around in countless boxes and pulling out a gem. I would then sit in the attic under the window and read for hours. To this day I can hear my mother’s voice yelling “MENACHEM!!!” in her futile quest to find her missing son.
One of the books I found was called “Loxfinger” by Sol Weinstein, a parody of Ian Fleming’s James Bond series. Loxfinger, and the other three in the series, tell the story of Israel Bond, Agent Oy Oy Seven. Like his British cousin, Israel Bond (who was born in New Jersey), Israel is licensed to kill.
I recently remembered the book during a conversation with my boss and I decided to see if I could get my hands on a copy. Sure enough, there are four novels in the series and I was able to get an omnibus volume with all four in one. I started reading Loxfinger, which is the first novel in the series, and was instantly laughing uproariously as Israel Bond dispatched his first attacher using a dart coated with a poison so potent that it killed his opponent in two seconds. Of course, this miracle poison is known as “Malachhamoves-B.” (In Hebrew, Malach Hamoves means angel of death. It has many connotations in Yiddish too.)
Of course, having a license to kill doesn’t mean you kill everything. Both agents 007 and Oy Oy Seven know that. Having the ability to do something, having the right to do something, doesn’t mean you should automatically do it.
I treasure the opportunity I have to join you in your home, once a month, and share missives like this with you. On those occasions when I get feedback, either in person or electronically, it means a lot (even when the feedback isn’t totally positive). Having this space in The Scroll is to me, an awesome responsibility. I feel it my job to grab your interest, entertain you and, hopefully, leave you with something to think about.
This month, we will join together to celebrate an eternal holiday. As the Megilla says: “And these days of Purim shall never cease among the Jews, and the memory of them shall never perish among their descendants.” (Est, 9:28). The phrase “shall never perish” has been interpreted to mean that the holiday will never end, even after the Messiah comes.
Purim has great meaning to us because the story of Purim has played out many times over our history. In the times of Persia, it was Haman and Ahasuerus who wanted to kill us. In the middle ages, it was Pope Urban II, among others, who unleashed the hordes of the Crusades that led to the destruction of Jewish communities throughout Europe. During the inquisition, it was Tomás de Torquemada that spilled a river of Jewish blood. The Czars of Russia tried to destroy the Jewish people by kidnapping their children into army service whereupon the children would grow up never knowing what it means to be Jewish. During World War II, it was the Nazis and their cohorts who murdered millions of Jews. Today, it is organizations like Hamas, Hizbollah and countries like Iran that want to finish what the Nazis started.
Yes, as we say during the seder, “In each generation, they arose to destroy us… But G-d saved us from their hand.” Celebration should be the order of the day for Purim. We should follow the traditions of the holiday, hear the Megilla, give gifts of Mishloach Manot and gifts of Matanot La’evyonim to the poor, participate in a festive meal and, in general, be happy. G-d knows there is enough reason to look at the world and despair. Purim should be one day when the rest of the world can go hang, we’re going to celebrate. However, and this is key, we should celebrate responsibly.
In case you were ever wondering, one of the reasons we have the special Mitzvot of giving gifts of food and money to the poor is to ensure that everyone has what they need to celebrate. As our sages tell us in many places, “All Israel are guarantors for each other.” We share a communal responsibility for each other. We cannot truly celebrate alone nor can we celebrate without caring for those around us.
So, when you celebrate Purim, remember that you are not just partying but you are engaged in a Mitzvah. Although the common “wisdom” is “it’s a Mitzvah to get drunk on Purim” that is, in fact, not the case. (Anyone who would like to debate this with me on the basis of the statement in the Talmud that it is a Mitzvah is welcome to do so.) We should enjoy ourselves responsibly. More importantly, when we drive on Purim, please be careful out there. Purim seems to bring the foolish out in people and, especially in our area, there may be people on the road who should not be.
Just because we have license on Purim to drink and celebrate does not mean that we should do so indiscriminately. Have fun with your friends and family and bask in the joy of the holiday. But, most of all, be safe. You are too precious to take chances with.