Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

March 23, 2005

Jews Fasting for Terri

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:24 pm

The one good thing — perhaps the only good thing — about this is that it has brought people from all sorts of historically opposed groups, particularly religions. The Schindlers (Terri’s family) are Roman Catholics, and the Catholic Church has spoken out in Terri’s favor. Evangelical Protestants like Randall Terry have taken the lead in the legislative fight to save her. And the Orthodox Jewish organization Agudath Israel of America publicly called on Michael to spare Terri’s life. Rabbi Aryeh Spero has spoken out as well.

Just today, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein speaks out against the “Silence About Schiavo” which is no doubt hidden from those of us who are news junkies and read these blogs all day:

Why aren’t people taking to the streets in support of Terri Schiavo? This case will prove to be the Roe v. Wade of the disabled and terminally ill. Tens of thousands of lives in the future hang in the balance, not just that of one tragic woman whose parents are not willing to relinquish her life to the capriciousness of activist judges. This case will effectively not extend a “right to die,” but firm up the right for people other than the patient to decide when a life is worthwhile preserving or not.

And, then there is timing. Many Christians have drawn lessons or inspiration from the fact that all this is taking place during the Christian Holy Week. See this article by the Bishop of Orlando and this passion play with characters from the Schiavo case replacing the traditional ones.

For Jews too, this week has two special days — the Fast of Esther tomorrow (Thursday), and Purim on Friday. Both are based on the story told in the Book of Esther. On the Fast of Esther, we commemorate the three-day fast undertaken by Queen Esther immediately before she went to plea for our lives after the Jewish people were condemned to destruction by Persian King Ahasuerus (AKA Achashverosh, AKA Xerxes II) at the request of his prime minster Haman (see Esther 4:16). Purim is a celebration of our miraculous deliverance from that decree.

There are two potential connections between these events and the Schiavo case. First, a Jewish fast is a complete fast — no food or water of any kind is ingested for the entire day. (For this fast, it is from sunrise to sunset; for “major fasts” it is from sunset to sunset.) We Jews will be depriving ourselves tomorrow in the same way that Terri has been deprived by the court — only our deprivation is voluntary, and we are commanded to suspend it if there is any danger to our health, and most imporantly, it’s only for about 12 hours.

The second connection is that the miracle of Purim is a particularly odd kind of miracle compared to others in the Bible — it is accomplished without any overt Acts of God or suspensions, apparent or otherwise, of the laws of nature. There is no splitting of the Red Sea, no voices from heaven, no walls falling down. Indeed, the Book of Esther is the only book of the (Jewish) Bible which does not mention God’s name at all. The miracle was accomplished only through the apparently normal workings of Persian government processes.

Many of us have been hoping and praying for a miracle to save Terri Schiavo — but I, and I imagine most others, have been seeking deliverance for her through the wisdom and actions of public officials — judges, legislators, and other authorities — in much the same way that the Jews were delivered from Haman’s decree.

I would not have thought of this, except that Chana Meira drew the connection explicitly in her blog, as linked here:

The significance of this is not lost to me as it relates to the Schiavo case, the result of which will affect the disabled community, and all people. We see an important message for us in these days in Esther chapter 4 verse 14:

13. Then Mordecai bade them to return answer unto Esther: ‘Think not with yourself that you will escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. 14. For if you remain silent at this time, then will relief and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s household will perish; and and who knows whether you have not come to royal estate for such a time as this?”

Like Esther, each of us has been placed in a unique position so that we can help bring good out of even the most evil of situations. God only asks that we do our part. Ultimately, He takes care of the rest.

When I fast, it will be on behalf of Terri and others in her situation. Building museums, erecting monuments, or otherwise noting atrocities is not enough. The best memorial to the tragedies of history is to act for justice today.

May we quickly see the defeat and destruction of Haman. May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob be merciful to Terri, and swiftly bring her His salvation and deliverance and into the fullness of life.

This year, my fast will be for Terri as well.

Added 3/24 9:41am:

As we are required to fast on the day before Purim, we are required to be happy on Purim — happy and thankful for our redemption. It would be very difficult to be happy on Purim this year (Thursday night and Friday) if nothing changes in this situation. However, if we get word before (or on) Thursday evening that relief for Terri is forthcoming, it will be easy to fulfill that requirement — and to understand that the same One Who brought us redemption 2500 years ago still redeems the innocent and oppressed today.

3 Responses to “Jews Fasting for Terri”

  1. Different River Says:

    Jews Fasting for Terri
    I just wanted to bring this post from yesterday back to the top again. Click here if you missed it.

  2. Agitprop Says:

    Randall Terry is a pro-terrorist media opportunistic whore. Gotta love him! Oh, and Ralph Nader has lost his marbles. Don’t pay attention to him. Praise be to Lord and Savior George W. Bush, Brother Jeb, and Saint Thomas DeLay. Their armies of Christ will conquer America for the power of the Christian Fascists! Amen I Say!

  3. Different River Says:

    I don’t know if I should dignify this with a response, but I find it rather entertaining that a post about Jews fasting for Terri has prompted an accusation of “Christian” fascism. Not to mention that Randall Terry is about as “pro-terrorist” as Osama bin Laden is “pro-infidel.”

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