WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE AND ANNE FRANK
By Rabbi Ariel Yeshurun
Passover, we know the story all too well. Each year, as we recline for the four cups, and delight in the taste of the crispy matza, we retell the narrative from the Hagaddah, surrounded by family and friends. It is, perhaps, the earliest account of the unfortunate and very familiar historic saga of the tyranny and oppression of our people. The cradle of anti-semitic hatred was Egypt.
But is that really so? Is it only the tale of the Jews? The Torah’s tenets are universal and the Bible’s truths are not reserved and cannot be claimed to represent a one-dimensional agenda. Its eternal message transcends time, space, race, ethnicity and gender. The story of the Jews is in fact the journey of all people in their quest for freedom and in their pursuit of liberty.
Hope for self-determination is in the heart of every man and woman, and the ambition for independence is at the core of every revolution. Independence is won with pain and sacrifice. The wounds of freedom and the scars of liberty have left an indelible mark on many a nation. But was it not the aching spirit and broken body that paved the road in the mighty waters of our struggles? Was it not the pangs of hunger and the suffering of children that gave us strength to trailblaze towards triumph and victory?
It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart
Mankind has broken through the chains of tyranny because man was born to be free! Freedom cannot be weakened. Freedom “…saw them all, beat them all, and is now what she always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of her parts, no slowing of her energies, and no dulling of her alert….” No dictator, no philosophy and no political agenda can tame the spontaneous energy of freedom, or alter its dynamism. Freedom is harnessed within us. Freedom is ours, and claim it we shall!
But the fight for freedom is not over. The battle for world enlightenment, co-existence and tolerance is far from won. We are surrounded by totalitarian regimes that have cast an evil spell on freedom and that will stop at nothing to destroy it. These are heartless men, hypnotized by a radical and fundamentalist rational which they believe, and in which they anchor their deepest expressions of faith and conviction. How is that possible?
The answer is quite revealing.
I am sure you are all quite familiar with William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the famous psychological drama set in action in 11th century Scotland and England, which explores the capacity of humans to be affected by external forces. In this masterpiece, both Macbeth the murderer and the three infamous witches, whose prophesy of Macbeth assuming the kingship of Scotland after he assassinates the king and throws the country into an upheaval, express one of the major themes reiterated throughout the play: “Fair is foul, and foul is fair.”
What is the meaning of this? If it is fair, how is it foul? And if it is foul, how is it fair? The answer is simple. By making a seemingly contradictory statement, Shakespeare is taking us on a journey into the distorted mind. Indeed, the choice is ever present between “fair” and “foul,” and certainly they are worlds apart, but it is the perception of the truth that eventually misleads the criminal. If what is bad is perceived as good and what is wrong is perceived as right, then a perversion has taken place, the bending of light in a sinful angle, the creation of a distortion.
I would like to conclude with the profound words of Anna Frank, words that became a central symbol of the Holocaust and of a humanity faced with suffering. The resilience of soul that led a young girl to express such words following two years of hiding in a small, crowded attic, stripped of every human right, decreed on her by senseless evil, ushered in a new era of hope and reconciliation after a world war that claimed the lives of tens of millions of innocent and pure victims:
“It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”
G-d bless you all with a happy Passover and with a meaningful Z’man cheruteinu—time of our freedom!
Ariel Yeshurunis a graduate of the Hevron Yeshiva Rabbinic College, in Givat Mordechai, Jerusalem and the Straus-Amiel Rabbinical Institute. He completed his Ordination studies in Jerusalem, holds a Rabbinic Advocate license from the Israeli Ministry of Justice, has a Bachelors of Science degree, and completed the first two years of medical school. Ariel Yeshurun served as rabbi for 11 years at ‘Shaarei Tsedek’ Jewish Congregation in the Caribbean island of Curaçao, the Netherlands Antilles, and is currently the congregational rabbi of the ‘Skylake Synagogue’ in North Miami Beach.