By Moshe Feiglin
On Shabbat I thought about the famous midrash that says that in the days of Esther and Mordechai, a Heavenly decree of destruction was decreed upon the Jews because they happily participated in the feast that Ahashverosh held for his countrymen. According to the midrash, the food at the feast was served in the vessels of the destroyed Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Interestingly, our Sages relate that the entire menu was strictly kosher.
Now we can imagine the leaders of that generation saying to themselves: "After all, the king is honoring us. He's taking care of the kashrus and everything. How could we possibly refuse his invitation?"
So why did Heaven decree destruction upon them?
Because they missed the entire point. To understand this, we have to go back and understand other heavenly decrees of destruction. First, let us examine the Sin of the Golden Calf. This was a "religious" sin of the first degree. The Nation of Israel worshipped an idol and was severely punished, but they did not face a decree of destruction. When they listened to the Spies, however, and cried that they did not want to enter the Land of Israel, Heaven decreed that they were to be destroyed.
Why? True, the Nation of Israel had made a mistake in judgment; they preferred to stay in the desert and serve G-d. But they were all righteous (and presumably all kept strictly kosher). Nevertheless, they were sentenced to death.
When we commit a "religious" sin, we receive our due punishment. But when we totally miss the mark of our destiny, then our Father in Heaven has no more need for us, as it were. If the time has come to leave the desert (or Europe) and enter the Land of Israel to fulfill our destiny to perfect the world in G-d's Name as a sovereign nation in our Land and we refuse, then what we are really saying is that we insist on remaining in the narrow dimension of religion. G-d doesn't need us for that.
"I have created this Nation for Me, so that they may tell My praise." (Isaiah 43:21). Israel is a Nation, not a religion. At the feast of Ahashverosh, all the food was strictly kosher. Kosher, but repugnant. Repugnant because the entire point of the feast was to celebrate the fact that 70 years of exile had passed (according to Ahashverosh's erroneous calculation) and the Jews had not returned to their Land as their prophets had promised. So Ahashverosh took all the vessels of the Temple out for display to show that now, they belonged to him. "And you, the Jews, will also drink from them at my feast. You will admit that you are not returning to your Land, you will not be fulfilling your destiny, you do not have a King in Heaven and you will not be crowning Him as King of creation. I, Ahashverosh, am the king who reigns from India to Kush."
Soon, Obama will be speaking in the Knesset. All the MKs will be present, for how can we not honor the president of the United States?
There is an Israeli captive, however, sitting in his dungeon for the last 28 years. His name is Jonathan Pollard. I sincerely hope that my Knesset chair will not be the only empty seat during Obama's speech. I sincerely hope that I will not be the only one who sees the bigger picture. I sincerely hope that we will not all pay for the dark ethical cloud that hangs over the Obama festivities.