Some uncanny Purim coincidences

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By Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel

Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel

CHULA VISTA, California — During the Holocaust years, Purim celebrations were forbidden to the Jews. Christians and Jews could not even own the book of Esther. Such decrees did not stop the Nazis from poking fun at the Jews on this Jewish holiday. With diabolical glee, the Nazis frequently orchestrated special killings with the Jewish festivals. On Purim in 1942, the Nazis hanged ten Jews in Zdunka Wola to avenge the hanging of Haman’s sons. Similar incidents occurred in the Piotrkow ghetto and in Czestochowa and Radom.

One of Hitler’s leading Nazis was a man named Julius Streicher. The following day after the Kristallnacht attack on November 10th, 1938, Striecher gave a speech and proclaimed, “Just as the Jews butchered 75,000 Persians in one night, the same fate would have befallen the German people had the Jews succeeded in inciting a war against Germany . . . the Jews would have instituted a new Purim festival in Germany.”

Nearly eight years later, Streicher never forgot the words he uttered about Purim. For him and his associates, Purim came early that year. Streicher’s and his fellow Nazis’ hangings took place on October 16, 1946. On the Jewish calendar, October 16, 1946, corresponded to 21 Tishri, 5707. This date was the seventh day of the Jewish feast of Sukkot, the day called Hoshana Rabba. The Jews believe that this day represents the coming time when God’s verdicts of judgment upon mortals is sealed.

Although Streicher’s execution did not occur on the Purim holiday itself, he perceived an irony here that nobody else noticed at the time. Ten Nazi leaders had been condemned and executed for their crimes against the Jewish people and humanity; their mode of execution was hanging, much like the ten sons of Haman were executed by hanging in the Purim story.

For Streicher and his associates, Purim came early that year. That is why his last dying words were, ‘Purim Fest 1946.” The words sounded like the  mad ranting of a condemned man.  In Streicher’s twisted imagination, he assumed that the Jews would celebrate his death and the death of his Nazi colleagues as a new Purim holiday. That didn’t happen. The old Purim celebration sufficed.

One last note: The book of Esther recorded that the ten had been hanged on a tree (Esther 9:14). The Hebrew word for a tree is eitz, which is also “wood” in English. The hangman at Nuremberg was named John C. Woods, an American army officer. After the executions, Woods burned the hoods and ropes. He refused to profit from the $2,500 offered from people who wanted these items as souvenirs. John Wood’s revulsion for pecuniary gain also corresponds to another passage found in the book of Esther, “The Jews of Shushan mustered again on the fourteenth day of Adar and slew three hundred men in Shushan. But they did not lay hands on the spoil” (Esther 9:15).

How does one make sense of these uncanny coincidences? According to the psychologist C.G. Jung, a synchronicity refers to simultaneous events or coincidences that are not seemingly causally related. Jung regarded synchronicity as predicated upon an acausal connection between two or more -physic phenomena that seem mysteriously interrelated, e.g., such as thinking of an old friend and having that person arrive unexpectedly, or anticipating a telephone call from a long lost friend or relative. Jung’s synchronicity implies there is a web that connects many events together in ways that are necessarily obvious to the eye–but are clear only to the eye of spirit and intuition.

Although Striecher was not completely correct, for the Jews did not celebrate a new Purim holiday like Striecher imagined, but the Jewish people would within two years recreate the arguably the greatest miracle of modern times—the Jewish State of Israel, which would survive many genocidal attempts to destroy her.

While we may breathe a sigh of relief that men like Streicher finally received justice, it is a pity that so many Nazis didn’t. It is even more disconcerting that Persian descendants of Haman wish to succeed where their ancestor Haman failed.

May we be privileged to  survive men like Ahmadinejad and others like him in the future. May each of them meet the fate of Haman and Julius Streicher.

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Rabbi Samuel is spiritual leader of Temple Beth Sholom in Chula Vista.  He may be contacted at [email protected]

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