Parshas Ki Seitzei: Why Remember?

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Ki Seitzei, the Torah charges us with the command to remember – זָכוֹר.  We are commanded to remember what Hashem did to Miriam on the way out of Egypt (Devarim 24:9).  Reminding us to recall an incident that happened years earlier, the Torah charges us with invoking the memory of Miriam ha’tzadekes, who spoke lashon ha’rah (slanderous speech) to her brother, Aharon, about their brother, Moshe (see Bamidbar 12:1-16). 

Rashi tells us (Devarim 24:9) – אִם בָּאתָ לְהִזָּהֵר שֶׁלֹּא תִלְקֶה בְּצָרַעַת אַל תְּסַפֵּר לְשׁוֹן הָרָע, זָכוֹר הֶעָשׂוּי לְמִרְיָם שֶׁדִּבְּרָה בְאָחִיהָ וְלָקְתָה בִנְגָעִים – If you wish to take care not to be stricken with tzara’as, do not speak evil speech.  Remember what was done to Miriam who spoke about her brother (Moshe), and was stricken with afflictions

If you want to know what not to do; remember what Miriam did!

And at the parsha’s end, we have a second command to remember.

זָכ֕וֹר אֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂ֥ה לְךָ֖ עֲמָלֵ֑ק בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶ֥ם מִמִּצְרָֽיִם – Remember what Amalek did to you, on the way, when you were leaving Egypt (Devarim 25:17).

Remember that they chanced upon you and attacked you; that you were a nation just emerged from the clutches of servitude; that you were a tired people finding your way; that you were following, faithfully, after G-d, into the barren wilderness.

Remember that though you posed no threat, Amalek viciously attacked you.  לֹ֖א תִּשְׁכָּֽח, do not forget (ibid, v.19). 

These dual remembrances are so important, that they are both included in the שש זכירות – the Six Remembrances, recited daily after Shachris (morning prayers).  The Torah commands us to remember six events always, and some authorities maintain that the Torah verses related to the remembrances should, therefore, be recited daily. 

(The other four are: remember the day you left Egypt; remember what you saw when you stood at Mt. Sinai; remember how you angered Hashem in the desert, and remember Shabbos.)

It is interesting that these two mitzvos of zechiros, commands to remember, occur in our parsha, in very close proximity to one another. 

What is the lesson and message?

My thanks to Mrs. Rochy Fried for the following beautiful thoughts. 

She proposed that, “It occurred to me during our parsha class learning this week, that there is a reason for the two separate mitzvos of zechiros (commands to remember) in this same parsha: 1) Miriam and 2) Amalek.

“What do the personification of tzidkus (Miriam, the personification of righteousness) and the personification of rishus (Amalek, the personification of wickedness) have in common that they should be put in proximity to each other?

“Perhaps we can answer that Miriam, with her slanderous speech, represented our potential spiritual destruction.  And Amalek, in their attack and attempt to destroy us, represented our potential physical destruction. Moreover, both of those dangers exist ad hayom hazeh – until this very day!  And, lest we be complacent, loshon harah is as prevalent today as our enemy Amalek is. 

“Therefore, the Torah cautions us to remember forever both these zechiros (remembrances), to make a conscious and concerted effort to wipe out both aspects of our potential downfall.”

We are often all too aware of the threat that Amalek poses, until this very day, in their evil and satanic attempts to physically destroy our heritage, our people, and our Land. 

However, we are often not aware enough of the spiritual danger that exists from transgressions such a lashon harah.

While we will ask Hashem to take vengeance upon our enemies when we recite Avinu Malkeinu during the upcoming Yomim Noraim (High Holidays), we will struck our very own hearts with our very own fists, for the sins of lashon harah, as we daven for forgiveness. 

Both the physical threat of Amalek, and the spiritual threat of lashon harah, exist until today… We would do well to remember, as the Torah so commands, so that we may battle both evils which threaten our existence and purity as a people. 

R’ Shimshon Pincus zt’l teaches that “The avodah (the service, the goal) of Rosh Hashanah is to take the person of last year, slaughter him, offer him up as a burnt offering, and produce a new and rectified person.  This is the work of teshuva (repentance) of these days, this is the vidui (confession) of ashamnu, bagadnu, etc (we have sinned…)… this is the meaning of Rosh Hashanah, to create ourselves anew.” (Moadei Hashana, The Month of Elul and R”H, p.282)

While G-d will surely do His part in the battle against Amalek, promising forever that we will physically survive, let us do our part in the spiritual battle(s) that we face every day, thereby ensuring our survival as the elevated, sanctified, wondrous nation that we are – ad hayom hazeh

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,

Michal

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