The Purim Mirror

A Word with Rabbi Moshe Taub

Shul Chronicles 111

Rabbi Moshe Taub

(Originally published in Ami Magazine)


Hitler, Haman, and History

Allow me to open this week’s column –during the week of Purim – with a most remarkable, unbelievable statement from the gemara.

 “Yaakov Avinu said before Hashem, Master of the world, ‘Do not give-over to Esav the desires of his heart…’ [To whom does this refer?] Germamia, who if allowed would seek to annihilate the entire world.” (Megilla 6a-6b)

 The Vilna Gaon (d. 1797) emends the text to ‘Germany’.

 It is not happenstance that this prescient line of gemara is found in the very tractate that expounds the verses in Esther and the halachos surrounding the holiday of Purim.

 For many decades now there has been a growing sense that Hitler was a modern-day amalek, and that the holocaust carries many similarities to the story of Purim.

 Before we continue it may be worthwhile to make note of the limitation of our analogy. As one scholar writes (see ‘The Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible’ for a historical account of the Purim-Holocaust connection) the Purim story ended without a death and with pure salvation. Whereas the holocaust, while we rose from the ashes, from the ashes we rose.

 Yet, there was one man who saw this Purim-holocaust connection clearer than anyone. Hitler, yamach shemo v’zichro.


Jewish Telegraph Agency

April 8, 1935



“Adolph Hitler was compared today With Haman, the Persian minister of ancient times who plotted to massacre the Jews, in an article appearing in the Nazi paper Judenkenner.

"Both Hitler and Haman are leaders with a profound knowledge of the Jews," the Nazi paper says, adding that the Jews had better be careful about "the red flame of hatred against Hitler" because this flame may destroy them utterly.”


While sadly and eerily prescient, 1935 was not the first time this comparison was made.

 What follows is stunning, and I would not believe it if not being sent a scanned copy of the document I am soon to describe (sent to me, after a request, by the ISJL).

 Harlan, Kentucky 1933. Yes, Kentucky. Even today Harlan is a tiny town of about two thousand sitting at the edge of the state, surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains. According to the 2000 census the Jewish population of Harlan is, as would be expected, 0.00%. But this was not always the case.

 For reasons that are still not clear, in the 1920’s a handful of Jewish families settled there. By 1933 there lived about 30 Jewish families in Harlan. That same year, just two months after Hitler was elected (we must never forget that he was democratically elected), the Jews of Harlan and the surrounding towns decided to make a Purim feast.  It is unclear how what happened next came to be, but at some point that evening they drafted a press release which was sent to President Roosevelt as well as the American ambassador to Germany.

 The press release stated, in part: “Monday March 12, 1933…Over one hundred men, women, and children gathered…under the auspices of Bnei Shalom congregation of Southwestern Kentucky to celebrate the Feast of Purim founded on the dramatic story in the biblical book of Esther, dating back to 4 BCE. In the course of the meeting a motion was adopted to draft resolutions protecting against Haman-like designs of the German Hitler against German Jews…”


Sorrowfully, the Nazis took this comparison to heart. One Purim SS guards took ten Jews to be hanged in Zduńska Wola for payment for the hanging of Haman’s ten sons. That Shavous they did the same to represent the Luchos, R’l (20th Century Jewish Thought, p. 949).

 Yet, in the spirit of Purim, they had their comeuppance. During the Nuremberg trials twelve men were sentenced to hanging. However Hermann Göring (who committed suicide) and Martin Bormann were absent, so….ten men were hanged. Sound familiar?

 Amazingly, Julius Streicher  -who ran the propaganda arm of the Nazis –made a strange comment as he was taken to be hanged: “Purimfest 1946!”

 He may have been referring to what Time magazine (March 7, 2012) reported Hitler himself said in a speech in 1944, “If the Jews defeat me they should make a second Purim”!

 If all of the above is not fascinating enough, the following demonstrates how even some survivors saw the connection between their story and Purim. From Haaretz (March 11, 2012):

“… ‘Megillat Hitler’ is today on display at Washington, D.C.’s U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Written in Hebrew, its text mimics the language of the original Scroll of Esther, as it describes the rise of “Hitler the painter,” who rose to become the ruler of all of Germany, and who decided, on the advice of his chamberlain Himmler, to destroy the Jews.

The author of the scroll, P. Hasine, a Hebrew teacher from Casablanca, tells how Hitler’s plan to deport the Jews of North Africa was foiled at the last minute by the decision of President Roosevelt, “who could not sleep,” and so “commanded that these states be rescued and given protection.” Thus the feelings of the Jews “went from mourning into happiness because the Americans established their rule.” The scroll declares that every year, on the 11th of November, “we are obligated to establish this day of rescue,” a “fixed and grand festival.”

 Just as the Purim story mirrored events of the future so did it mirror the past (what follows is taken from this writer’s 2007 kuntros ‘Davarim Shavim’). Does not the story of Esther remind you of the story of Joseph? Consider: A king has trouble sleeping (Bereishis 41:4); two men are punished for a crime against the king (ibid. 40:1); a king’s party ensues helping to lay out the foundation of astounding chains of events to come (ibid. 40:20); someone was killed (by the order of the king) at said party because of their lack of proper respect to the king (Sar HaOpheh, ibid. 40:22);  the protagonist is honored/repaid by becoming the משנה למלך (see Ramban ibid. 41:43); also, he is repaid by being afforded the luxury of riding on the kings horses while wearing the king’s clothing (ibid. 41:42, 43); Pharaoh removed his ring to place it on Yoseph (ibid. 41:42); Yaakov, while “giving in” to an ultimate sacrifice, exclaims (ibid. 43:14), "כאשר שׂכלתי שׂכלתי", which is strikingly and eerily familiar to Esther’s statement when she had to make the ultimate sacrifice, "כאשר אבדתי אבדתי" (Esther 4:16), indeed, see Ramban (Bereishis 43:14) who too draws this comparison without further comment; Midrash Tehillim (#10) comments –“You sold your brother then sat down to eat…there will come a time when your descendents will be “sold” by a feast as well, (Esther 3:5) when Haman and Achashverosh will partake in a feast and decide there to exterminate the Jews; indeed the story of Yoseph does not read like the rest of the Torah in the sense that much detail is given, to the point that the story is laid out in over 10 chapters, like a Megilla, indeed no other event or episode in the Torah is given this much scriptural detail or space; see Moshav Zakeinim to 50:4 where he explains the need for Yoseph to send a messenger to Pharaoh as being similar to Esther 4:2 (his comparison) that since Yoseph – like Mordechai - was in sackcloth it was not becoming of him to approach the king; once we develop this connection between Purim and the story of Yoseph, we can then investigate deeper into the story, so, we even find drinking until the point of intoxication by the story of Yoseph (ibid 43:34); when Pharaoh is first introduced to us in parshas lech lcha we find Avraham hiding Sarah in order to save her from the king’s men discovering her beauty and reporting it to the king, exactly what happened in the story of Purim –both Mordechai and Avraham failed in this regard; both stories end with a seemingly unrelated recording of a מס/tax levied on the populace of each story (see Rashi 47:25); the Megilla ends with a Midrash that Mordechai was not loved by all (Esther 10:3) for he was too involved in politics, the Gemara in Berachos 55a comments that Yoseph died sooner then his brothers because he, too, dedicated too much time to politics; see Megilla 16b where verse 45:22 here - and Yoseph’s favoritism shown to Binyamin by giving him five times the clothing of his brothers - is explained to be “homage” to the future grandchild of Binyamin, Mordechai, who will also wear “five” kingly garments (ibid. 8:15). (See aforementioned kuntros by this writer for more comparisons between Esther and Yoseph as well as other biblical figures – available for free by request)

 If Purim represents our past, and alluded to the future, no wonder it is to be kept when moshiach comes (Rambam, Yad, Hil. Megilla). May we soon merit that day and experience the ultimate v’nahapuch hu!

Daf Yomi takes place nightly at the Young Israel of Greater Buffalo, 105 Maple Road, after the evening services. For complete schedule call 634-0212 or visit their web site at 

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