Today’s Washington Post has a disturbing article that should, once again, give all minorities pause. The end of Ramadan falls on September 11th and the Muslim community has decided to do the “sensitive” thing and keep their normal festivities low key. If this consideration were borne completely out of concern for their fellow citizens, I would welcome the sensitivity. However, it is clear that they feel they do not have much choice in the matter. They are afraid of how it would be seen by their fellow Americans, and they worry about being stabbed, beaten, or their places of worship being burned.
Given the very rational fear of the American Muslim community, the following Midrash from the Petichta of Esther Rabba has an eerie resonance. Look what happened when we chose to go ahead and celebrate Chanukah at an inauspicious time.
In the days of Trajan, may his bones be ground up, his wife gave birth to a son on Tisha B’Av, and all of Israel was in mourning (because of the holiday). The baby died during Chanukah. All of Israel wondered whether they should or should not light candles. They decided to light, “and whatever happens to us will happen.” The people went and spoke slanderously about the Jews to the Emperor’s wife, “These Jews, when you gave birth, they mourned and when now that your child has died, they are lighting candles!” She sent a message to her husband, “Before you conquer the barbarians, come and conquer these Jews who are rebelling against you. He set sail immediately and figured it would take him ten days to return to Judea, but a wind came and brought him back in five days. When he arrived, he found the Jews learning this verse in the Torah, “God will send a nation from afar, from the end of the earth, like the eagle flies.” (Deuteronomy 32:11) He said to them, “I am the eagle. I thought it would take ten days to reach you, but it only took five days.” His legions surrounded them, and killed them.
One would wish to believe that we Americans had less in common with Trajan and his minions than we seem to. Shame on us.