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Bibi’s Breach of Protocol
Rabbi Benjamin Blech

Bibi’s Breach of Protocol

Echoes of Queen Esther who broke protocol in the face of an Iranian threat to destroy her people.


Controversy surrounds the Prime Minister of Israel’s forthcoming appearance on Capitol Hill.

Invited by Republican House Speaker John Boehner to address Congress about the threat of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed this opportunity to share his country’s existential concern as the Iranian regime comes ever closer to achieving the capability of fulfilling its avowed goal of the total annihilation of Israel. But the White House has made known its displeasure. A growing number of Democratic lawmakers said they would boycott his talk. Vice President Joe Biden, who as president of the Senate would normally oversee Netanyahu’s address, said he would be out of town. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she hoped the speech “doesn’t take place.”

Why all this animosity toward the leader of a long-standing ally, the only democracy in the middle east, to whom President Obama has long pledged his unswerving loyalty? Because the administration has made clear its fury at a supposed breach of protocol. The White House insists it was not consulted before the invitation was given. That breach of etiquette, it stoutly maintains, trumps any benefit Congress might gain from the insights of the Prime Minister of the country to be most immediately and severely affected by the present negotiations being concluded with Iran.

This isn’t the first time the issue of protocol lies at the heart of an Iranian threat to destroy the Jewish people.

Remarkably, this is not the first time the issue of protocol lies at the heart of an Iranian threat to destroy the Jewish people. There is biblical precedent. Eerily echoing today’s story, the Book of Esther recounts the first recorded instance of attempted genocide against Jews in the ancient empire of Persia, today known as Iran. When, more than two millennia ago, Mordecai learns of Haman’s plot “to destroy, to slay and to exterminate all Jews, young and old, children and women, in a single day” (Esther 3:13), he prevails upon his adopted daughter Esther, now Queen, to intercede.

But Esther is afraid. If she were to approach her husband to appeal Haman’s decree, she would be breaking royal protocol. “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces are well aware,” Esther responds to Mordecai, “that if anyone, man or woman, approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned, there is but one law for him: that he be put to death, except for the person to whom the king shall extend the gold scepter so that he may live. Now I have not been summoned to come to the king for the past thirty days” (Esther 4:11).

Nonetheless, the Book of Esther tells us that after begging the Jews to pray and fast on her behalf, Esther chose to disregard protocol in the face of possible extermination of her people. Esther succeeded in averting the evil decree. As a result, Jews to this day around the world celebrate the Festival of Purim.

In Jewish tradition, the Purim story marks the commemoration of a different kind of miracle. In its unfolding, it is a miracle of coincidences so statistically improbable that they together speak to us of the hidden hand of the divine in human events. For that reason the book of Esther is the only one in the entire Bible in which God’s name is not to be found even once. Here God hides His face - but is as much involved as when He split the sea before the Jews fleeing the Egyptians. For Jewish commentators it is the message of the famous – and ironically anonymous – adage that “Coincidence is merely God’s way of choosing to remain anonymous.”

And so perhaps the most remarkable serendipitous aspect of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech is that it is scheduled for the very day before Jews will be observing the Fast of Esther and Purim this year, to recall a time when a heroic Queen decided that the survival of her people took precedence over protocol.

February 21, 2015

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Visitor Comments: 150

(84) Neal Plotkin, March 6, 2015 9:02 PM

Bibi is no Esther

Comparing the selfish, blind ego of Bibi to the sacrifices of Queen Esther is the ultimate chutzpah. He does NOT, as he claims, speak for all of Israel. This was nothing more than shameless electioneering and cheap politics.

(83) SusanE, March 1, 2015 7:38 PM

Wow. This is disturbing.

So much hatred against my President. So much self-righteousness for everything you profess to hate about him. He was elected President of the United States twice in two fair elections. He deserves that respect from you and from your PM.

Benjamin Netanyahu may make the speech or he may not. It may be protocol or may not be. Would you think Israel could lose friends if, in his speech he shares the views expressed here by those of you that support him. However his name is barely mentioned in the comments. It's mostly hatred for my president. Would you have him stand in my country and read these comments out loud?

RichJ, March 3, 2015 10:17 PM

Hatred of Obama

He has disrespected and lied about conservative Christianity - the staunchest supporters of Israel. He has favored the Islamic enemies of Israel, he had retarded the efforts of the USA to stop ISIS, as well as those to thwart the efforts of Iran to wipe out Israel He has also done many things destructive to the USA itself. No Susan, if he is being hated it is because he has worked hard for it. You are simply blaming the people ho don't have their heads in the sand. There is an uncanny parallel to the origins of the Feast of Purim.

(82) Marie Devine, February 27, 2015 7:54 PM

Ester Went To Her Own King After Nation Called To Prayer etc.

Ester knew God was her supply. She called the people to prayer and fasting. She did not go to a foreign government or agencies to play God.

(81) Irving Bloch, February 26, 2015 2:54 PM

Love Bibi

The greatest man in this generation. A true and proud Jew.
Wake up and thank God for this great Jewish hero. He may be the savior of this generation

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