Thursday, January 1, 2009

Haman's letter

For a very long, long midrash, I will keep my comments on the short side. The first:

The second: I detected in reading this passage by the rabbis of a hint of sympathy for the other. Even though the rabbis would never say they have sympathy for those listed as having been slain in the Torah, it seems to me pretty clear that they did have some thoughts underwater about how it must have looked from the other side. It reminds me of a passage in the beginning of T. Bavli, tractate Avodah Zarah, where there's a discussion of why the nations should be punished for not keeping the Torah, even though the never received, and why shouldn't Israel be punished, since the did receive it and broke the laws over and over. In the Palestinian version, it's very clear that there's some sympathy for the nations, but by the time it gets to the Bavli, that sympathy has been turned into part of a longer section which paints the non-Jews as utterly wicked and without any redeeming features. My teacher speculated that in Israel, where the Jews weren't mixed with non-Jews in their day-to-day lives, sympathy for non-Jews could be imagined, because there was no threat of assimilation, whereas in Bavel, where Jews mixed with non-Jews constantly,and there was a constant danger of acceptance and assimilation, what was originally a rather sympathetic portrayal of non-Jews came to be more of a screed.

1 comment:

BZ said...

Great scene, but we should also save it for March 19, when we get to the story of R. Shimon bar Yochai.