Reflections on Iran’s Threats Through the Lens of the Midrash Rabbah (Esther) | Rabbi Dovid Abenson

In the tumultuous weeks leading up to Pesach, amidst the backdrop of escalating tensions between Iran and Israel, I found myself seeking solace and guidance in the timeless wisdom of Chazal. In particular, I turned to the teachings of Midrash Esther, drawn to its narrative of resilience and triumph in the face of adversity. The story of Esther, with its central antagonist, Haman, who sought the destruction of Klal Yisroel, resonated deeply with the current events unfolding in the Middle East. Iran’s threats against Israel echoed Haman’s sinister plot, reminding us of the enduring struggle for survival and the resilience of our people throughout history.

As I delved into Midrash Esther, I discovered insights that spoke directly to our present-day situation. The parallels were striking: just as Esther and Mordechai confronted the threat posed by Haman, so too are we confronted with Iran’s hostility.

Yet, amidst the uncertainty and fear, the teachings of Chazal offer a beacon of hope. The Midrash reminded me that despite the gravity of the situation, we are not alone. Just as Esther found courage and rallied her people to action, so too can we draw strength from our yerushah and unite in solidarity against the forces that seek to do us harm.

I shared these reflections with my neighbor one Shabbos morning, knowing that he, too, felt the weight of the world’s troubles. As I recounted the chochmah of the Midrash, I could see the worry in his eyes begin to fade. “Don’t be worried,” I reassured him, echoing the timeless message of our Mesorah. “Just as our ancestors triumphed over adversity, so too will we overcome.” I then showed my neighbor this amazing Midrash Esther 7.10

Rabbi Shimon ben Yosei ben Lakonya’s moshol between the Jewish people and rocks, and the nations of the world to pottery, is a profound reflection on the enduring strength and resilience of Klal Yisroel throughout history. The moshol draws from various posukim to illustrate the solidity and steadfastness of the Jewish nation.

By likening Bnei Israel to rocks and stones, Rabbi Shimon emphasizes the enduring nature of Klal Yisroel, who has weathered countless trials and tribulations. Despite facing persecution and attempts at annihilation, we have remained steadfast and resilient, like rocks that withstand the test of time.

Conversely, the nations of the world are compared to pottery, which is fragile and easily broken. This analogy highlights the vulnerability of those who seek to harm or oppress us. Just as a clay pot would shatter when confronted with a rock, those who oppose Klal Yisroel will ultimately face their own downfall.

The reference to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream from the sefer of Daniel further reinforces this message. The stone hewn from the mountain, symbolizing the Klal Yisroel ultimately triumphs over the iron, bronze, and clay, representing the powerful empires of the world. This prophetic imagery underscores the ultimate victory of the Klal Yisroel over their adversaries.

Rabbi Shimon’s teachings convey a powerful message of hope, resilience, and the ultimate triumph of good over evil. It serves as a reminder of the enduring strength of the Jewish people and the futility of those who seek to harm them.

After discussing this Midrash with my neighbor, that Motzei Shabbos, Iran launched a massive attack against Israel, deploying approximately 170 drones, over 30 cruise missiles, and more than 120 ballistic missiles. Despite the overwhelming scale of the attack, Israel reported that Chasdei Hashem, 99 percent of the projectiles were successfully intercepted and neutralized.

The world, including many Jewish communities, understandably feared the potential devastation such an assault could bring upon Israel. The media, often leaning left, painted a grim picture of the situation, exacerbating concerns about the safety of the Jewish people.

Iran’s explicit threat to punish Israel for its diplomatic presence in Syria only added to the tension. However, in a remarkable turn of events, Boruch Hashem, no Jewish lives were lost in the attack, save for one unfortunate incident where a 7-year-old bedouin girl was critically injured. This incident ironically served to diminish Iran’s intended impact, making it a laughingstock in the eyes of many.

The outcome of the attack, where virtually all missiles were thwarted, was nothing short of a neis. It reminds us of the makkos that befell Paro and the mitzrim. Despite this undeniable display of Hashgacha Pratis, the response from the international community was muted. While some nations provided assistance, there was no widespread recognition of the miraculous nature of Israel’s survival.

In retrospect, the events of that night should have prompted a greater acknowledgment of Divine Intervention and a rush towards embracing the faith of the Jewish people. Yet, the world remained largely indifferent, failing to grasp the significance of what had transpired. Nevertheless, the resilience of Klal Israel and the protection afforded to its people serves as a testament to the enduring strength and divine providence that has safeguarded the Jewish nation throughout history.

Historical examples, such as the downfall of Haman and various adversaries throughout Jewish history, serve as reminders of this principle. Similarly, the prophecy of Gog Umagog, in which hostile forces gather against Israel, ultimately culminates in their defeat.

Eitz Yosef writes in the above Midrash that when Gog Umagog will confront Israel in the future, they will meet a similar fate. Klal Yisroel, under the protection of Hashem, will emerge victorious, and their enemies will be vanquished.

Let us not forget the words we just recited at the Pesach Seder night: “והיא שעמדה” (And it has stood). This statement, originating from Chazal and embedded in the Haggadah, reflects our enduring mesorah. The Haggadah was compiled during the Mishnaic and Talmudic periods, although its exact date remains unknown. Despite this uncertainty, this statement has persisted throughout history for over 1500 years.

“And it has stood” symbolizes the resilience that has defined our people across generations. We have faced numerous trials throughout history, from the destruction of the two Batei HaMikdash, the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, pogroms in Europe, the blood libels, the horrors of the Nazis, and ongoing conflicts such as the Arab-Israeli wars since 1948. The most recent atrocities, like the October 7th Massacre, serve as painful reminders of the threats we continue to confront.

Today, chants for our destruction echo worldwide, from campus demonstrations to street protests. The voices of those who seek our annihilation resound, declaring their intent to eradicate us “from the land to the sea” and cast us into oblivion. Yet, in the face of these challenges, we find solace in the concluding words of “והיא שעמדה”: “And the Blessed Holy One saves us from their hands.”

The Abudarham from the 14th century writes something remarkable -that In every generation Hashem arranges that someone should arise who will want to harm us, and He does so that He will be able to save us from them. This demonstrates to the whole world that we are Hashem’s special people and that He watches over us.(The Me’am Lo’ez haggadah)


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