Parshas Zachor/Purim: Remember Not To Forget & LINK to NEW Purim Shiurim

This coming Shabbos, the Shabbos before Purim, we will read from two Sifrei Torah.  From the first, we will read the weekly Parsha, Parshas Tetzaveh, which continues the instruction regarding the building of the Mishkan and all that was required within it, for the service of G-d.  And from the second, we will read from Devarim 25:17-19, a passage known as Parshas Zachor, the chapter of Remembrance.  This yearly public reading is always conducted on the Shabbos prior to Purim, when we read of the plot of wicked Haman and Achashvairosh to destroy the entire nation of Israel. 

זָכוֹר, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה לְךָ עֲמָלֵק, בַּדֶּרֶךְ, בְּצֵאתְכֶם מִמִּצְרָיִם – Remember what Amalek did to you, on the way, when you were coming out of Egypt; אֲשֶׁר קָרְךָ בַּדֶּרֶךְ, וַיְזַנֵּב בְּךָ כָּל-הַנֶּחֱשָׁלִים אַחֲרֶיךָ וְאַתָּה, עָיֵף וְיָגֵעַ; וְלֹא יָרֵא, אלקים – that he attacked you on the way, and he struck all the weak ones at your rear, and you were weary and tired, and he (Rashi: Amalek) did not fear G-d; And it will be, when Hashem your G-d gives you rest from your enemies all around, in the land that Hashem your G-d gives to you for an inheritance, תִּמְחֶה אֶת-זֵכֶר עֲמָלֵק, מִתַּחַת הַשָּׁמָיִם; לֹא, תִּשְׁכָּח, you shall erase the remembrance of Amalek from under the heavens, do not forget!

Rashi teaches, אֲשֶׁר קָרְךָ בַּדֶּרֶךְ, that he attacked you on the way: קָרְךָ, as in קֹר וְחֹם, hot and cold.  Amalek cooled us off from our boiling heat before the rest of the world.  For after the Exodus from Egypt, all the nations were afraid to fight against Israel, for fear of defeat.  Along came the nation of Amalek and battled against us, showing others that Israel was not as “hot” and untouchable as the world perceived.  It can be compared to a boiling hot bathtub, says Rashi, that no one will enter.  One scoundrel comes along and jumps in, and even though he was burned, he cooled off the waters for everyone else. 

As the main foe in the Purim story was Haman ha’Agagi m’zerah Amalek, Haman the Aggagite from the seed of Amalek, we begin our Purim festivities with first recalling what Amalek – the father of Haman and the father of all Jew-hatred – did to us then… and what he still strives to do to us today.

Upon devising their terrible plan of destruction, to destroy, kill and annihilate every Jew, from young to old, from babies to women (Esther 3:13), וְהַמֶּלֶךְ וְהָמָן יָשְׁבוּ לִשְׁתּוֹת, וְהָעִיר שׁוּשָׁן נָבוֹכָה, Haman and Achashvairosh sat to drink, while the city of Shushan was confused and perplexed (3:15).  Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita teaches, “וְהָעִיר שׁוּשָׁן נָבוֹכָה – And the city of Shushan was bewildered; Although the decree (of extermination) was not limited to Shushan, this verse mentions only that ‘Shushan was bewildered, as soon as the couriers went forth hurriedly by order of the king’.  As the decree reached other cities, however, the bewilderment and dread spread (to the Jews in those cities as well)” (Rav Chaim Kanievsky on Megillas Esther and Purim, p.88).

My grandfather, Yitzchak ben Moshe a’h, wrote in his Holocaust memoirs (written in Yiddish and later translated to English), “The first Pesach in Budzin we arranged a kitchen which cooked holiday soup.  Whoever so wished, did not have to eat chametz during Pesach.  Yom Kippur, when we came from a hard day’s work, we quickly went into the barracks so that Neila could still be davened with a minyan, yet for us was heaven closed.  However, all of us together vigorously pleaded for help… Just a few days before liberation, all the Jews were taken and driven to Therezienstadt.  There we were liberated by the Russian army, after languishing for almost three years in seven camps, staring death in the eyes almost every day.  And just as I was set free almost completely debilitated, skin and bone, I returned to Krashnik (Poland), thinking to find someone from my family totaling thirteen souls when I left my home. 

“Arriving in Krashnik, one could wait for an expression of guilt and sympathy on the part of our neighbors, the rotten Poles.  But the first Shabbos that I was in Krashnik and attempted to go out into the street with a group of Jewish survivors from all the hells, we were chased by a drunken policeman with a machine-gun who was shouting, ‘If you don’t get out of here – I’ll shoot all of you!’…”

R’ Soloveitchik zt’l comments, “וְהָעִיר שׁוּשָׁן נָבוֹכָה, the town of Shushan stood aghast in horror.  Our faith in man’s goodness should not blind us to the latent demonic in man.  Evidently, civilized men can become the personification of evil.  The town of Shushan stood aghast in horror’ due to the traditional naivete of the Jew who cannot believe that human beings may act like predatory beasts of the jungle.  This was a traumatic discovery for the Jews of Persia.  The Jew believes intuitively in man’s inherent goodness, that a divine spark inhabits every human being, even the habitual sinner and criminal.  The sudden confrontation with the total Amalek-style cruelty was, therefore, a painful and rude awakening.  In Haman, the Jews of Persia met a descendant of Amalek. 

“Who is Amalek?  He is the personification of total evil, for whom immorality has become the norm.  Amalek is obviously more than a Bedouin tribe.  He is more than a particular group, nationality or people.  He is Everyman gone berserk, who has shed his divine image for that of Satan.  This is the persistent villainy that the L-rd bid us combat and against which He has sworn eternal enmity.  It is for this reason that there is a positive Torah commandment: Remember what Amalek did to you when you were on your journey, after you left Egypt…Do not forget (Devarim 25:17-19)” (Megillat Esther Mesorat HaRav, p.83-82).

As we gather en masse this Shabbos to read of the attack of Amalek oh-so-long-ago, and we read of Haman and his evil plot in the Megillah, let us not forget that Amalek today is, R”L, alive and well.  And yet, by the grace of G-d, Amalek of each generation comes and goes, while Am Yisrael is alive, thriving, vibrant and very much still here; בכל דר ודר עומדים עלינו לכלותינו, והקב״ה מצילנו מידם. 

לַיְּהוּדִים, הָיְתָה אוֹרָה וְשִׂמְחָה, וְשָׂשֹׂן, וִיקָר – to the Jews there was light and joy, gladness and honor (Esther 8:16).  As we were saved then, may the RS”O save us today from our enemies all around… תִּמְחֶה֙ אֶת־זֵ֣כֶר עֲמָלֵ֔ק מִתַּ֖חַת הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם לֹ֖א תִּשְׁכָּֽח!

Wishing you a good Shabbos and Freilichin Purim,


לז״נ יצחק בן משה ע״ה, my maternal grandfather, whose yarzheit is 6 Adar, תהא זכרו ברוך.

For your interest, here are the links to some new Purim shiurim, presented this week:שאלתי-ובקשתי-the-motif-of-prayer-as-related-to-purim/

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