Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Zachor
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Parshat Zachor


Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu Zt"l

The obligation to read Parshat Zachor, whether it applies to women, and what one should do if circumstances prevented him from hearing the reading of Zachor in a synagogue.
On the Shabbat before Purim we read Parshat Zachor. The Halachic authorities determined that the obligation to read it is Mi D'Oraiita (from the Torah) and the Shulchan Aruch rules accordingly.
One who cannot come to the synagogue
One who cannot come to the synagogue - reads Parshat Zachor from a Chumash. In addition, on the Shabbat in the month of Elul when we read Parshat Ki Tezei, which includes the reading of Parshat Zachor: "remember that which Amalek did to you," he should tell the Torah - reader to intend to fulfill his obligation to hear Parshat Zachor.

The obligation of women in the reading of Zachor
The Halachic authorities are divided over whether or not women are obliged in the reading of Zachor. The Kaf HaChayim wrote that the reading of Zachor is a positive commandment which is not bound by time, and therefore women are obliged.
The Ben Ish Chai wrote in his book 'Torah LiShmah' that from the discussion in Sefer HaChinuch it follows that they are exempt for the reason that women aren't obliged in the annihilation of Amalek - as they are not warriors.
However in his book 'Yidai Chayim,' he wrote that the war against Amalek is a Mitzvah war, for which even the bride leaves her Chuppah and the groom his chamber. Therefore women are obliged.
Therefore, it is desirable that a woman come to the synagogue to hear Parshat Zachor read from a Sefer Torah. And if she cannot come, she must do the same thing a man must do under the same circumstances - she must read from a Chumash. And it is recommended that she make the condition beforehand that she is not accepting as a Neder (vow) to come the synagogue, so that in the future she will not be obligated by virtue such a Neder.
I once said jokingly that female soldiers serving in the army or in the police are obliged to read Parshat Zachor. Because the entire rationale for the ruling that women are exempt is because 'all the honor of the daughter of the king is inside' and she doesn't go to war, not even to wipe out the descendants of Amalek.
The Book of Judges (4:21) describes how the heroic Yael dealt with the evil Sisera, after seeing to it that he dozed off: "And Yael the wife of Hever picked up the tent peg and took the hammer in her hand, and she came over quietly to him and she drove the peg through his temple into the ground...and he died."
How did Yael kill Sisera? She took a peg and a hammer, put the peg to his temple, and rammed it in with the hammer. The peg entered one side of his head and came out the other, and that is how Sisera died. And the question that arises is: was this the only way she could kill him? Couldn't she have taken a sword or a dagger to kill him with? But Yael said to herself: swords and daggers are the weapons of men, and a woman cannot use the weapon of a man. But I can use a peg, since it is an implement for building a tent, and a woman can help in building a tent. Therefore she took the tent peg and killed Sisera with it.

Is Parshat "Parah" obligatory from the Torah?
The Shulchan Aruch says, "there are Halachic opinions that the requirement to read Parshat Zachor and Parshat Parah Adumah (the red heifer) is from the Torah. And the Kaf HaChayim, wrote, and the Gaon wrote as well, "we saw that Parshat Zachor is Mi D'Oraiita, but we didn't find (a source indicating) that reading Parshat Parah is required from the Torah. And indeed, we read Parshat Parah before Passover in order to remind ourselves to purify, and also so that G-d will cast pure water upon us, as the Nation of Israel did after the erection of the Mishkan (tabernacle), but reading it is not Mi D'Oraiita.
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