We are all ready to be savage in some cause. The difference between a good man and a bad one is the choice of the cause.
William James THE JEWISH holiday of Purim points out striking similarity between the dreaded Haman and Saddam Hussein. Though separated historically by five centuries, the two tyrants share a common trait: lust for power. To attain their goal, they commit outrageous acts of terror. And, typical of bullies, they target the weak and innocent for their treachery.
While the story of Purim has a fairy-tale quality found frequently in biblical history, it seems relevant at this time of world crisis. Haman, chief minister of Persia (today Iran), ruled ruthlessly. Fearing death for disobedience, the people bowed down to him whenever he approached. However, Mordecai, a court judge and a Jew, refused to kneel before anyone but the king, Ahasuerus. Infuriated by Mordecai's insubordination, Haman vowed revenge against him, as well as the entire Jewish population.
Cunningly, Haman lied to King Ahasuerus and told him that the Jews were disloyal. Gaining royal permission, he amassed an army to attack all Jews in the kingdom. Knowing they were peace-loving and unprepared for battle, Haman was confident that victory would be swift. (Kuwait?) He even erected a gallows upon which to hang Mordecai when the battle was won.
The plot was thwarted, however, by Queen Esther, herself a Jew. Risking her own life, she informed the king of Haman's deceit. Enraged at his minister's treachery, Ahasuerus quickly provided the Jews with weapons of war. As a result, the Jews were triumphant in battle. And Haman was hung on the gallows he had built for Mordecai.
Today, as a jittery world awaits the outcome of the present conflict, many recall the atrocities of past despots. Therefore, on Purim, as Jews stomp their feet at the mention of Haman's name to stamp out the memory of this madman's evil, they hope also that the perfidy of Saddam will be crushed by the force of good and peace restored to the embattled Middle East.
Beverly K. Fine writes from Baltimore.