Friday, February 18, 2011

Purim Katan - The Threat of The Mob

Everywhere in the world today, minorities are under threat. Some of you, no–many of you, would note, “They always are.” Yet, the truth is that such threats are relative and today, I am concerned.

Americans believe that power is derived from the will of the people. We decry despotism. Yet our sense of fairness often drives us to allow the mob to rule even when we know that its rule is unfair. That contradiction results in another, namely a contradiction between the belief that the rights of every person are sacred and the belief that the will of the majority, even to trample upon the rights of the minority, must be followed.

Today we are witnessing upheaval in the Middle East. Mob rule threatens to overturn despotism. Ethically, we must support the mob because power should derive from the will of the people. Yet also ethically, we must oppose the mob’s efforts should they gain power, to create a tyranny of their own. Our conflicted minds think, “Down with the dictator! Beware the victors!

I wish that I could say that this conflict was limited to foreign lands. It is not. This week, both on the left and the right of the political spectrum, mobs gather to press their voice, to press their power, in states across our Union. They speak and act in righteous indignation at affronts, at unfairness, or in religious fury. I will not for a moment declare all of these groups wrong to do so and, in this place, will not even criticize a one. What I offer here is one man’s sense that times are changing. The majority is feeling empowered to act as a mob. Minorities, both ethnic minorities and those who hold minority views, are under increasing threat.

Thus, when I hear the words of those advocating for the United States to support condemnation of Israel precisely because the majority of nations do and when I can note that this reasoning seems to be starting to resonate, I find myself, as I do today, becoming increasingly concerned. I am concerned not only for Israel. Israel has friends. Israel has strength. Israel may take care of itself. I am concerned that the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s will be reborn and that Israel’s purpose as a safe haven for the persecuted Jew will be made manifest again. I am concerned that the rights of minorities in America and throughout the world will be under threat because the masses so wish. I am concerned that the rule of law will be increasingly unable to be sustained against the will of the masses.

There is little or no difference between the resolution proposed in the UN Security Council today in condemnation of Israel and many others that have been proposed before. The real difference is in the sense that standing up for the persecuted minority, or even standing apart with a minority, increasingly appears to be seen as unreasonable and even as unrighteous.

Should the United States today vote to support the majority for that sole reason, it will be a shameful day in our nation’s history and a frightening omen for the future.

Today is Purim Katan, “Little Purim”. Today is the 14th of the First Month of Adar. Today, though we are not required to read the Megillah, the Book of Esther, as we will be required next month on Purim, we are reminded of the persecution of minorities everywhere in the world. We are reminded that the tide may swiftly change against us and others. We cannot forget.

If we are vigilant, we may live the blessing from the Book of Esther, “And the Jews had light and Gladness and Joy and Honor.” Kein yehi ratson!

This article is cross-posted at

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