Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Vayikra
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Adar II 5779
Memory is one of Hashem’s greatest gifts to us. By activating our memory, we can access facts, figures, pictures & even emotions from earliest times. Memory is a unique bridge to the past & an invaluable bridge to the future.

For the Jewish People, "Zachor" is a sacred word. Just the very mention of the word "Yizkor," for example, evokes our deepest feelings, an indescribable combination of joy, sadness & melancholy, as we recall those whose lives touched us.

Chazal urge us to recall 6 vital things each day: The Exodus; Ma’amad (the Revelation at) Har Sinai; the sins of the Golden Calf & Miriam’s Lashon Ha-ra, spoken against her brother Moshe; Shabbat; & Amalek’s attack upon Bnei Yisrael. Of the 6, the remembrance of Amalek is both the longest & the only one that is Biblically-mandated, in the form of the special Torah reading this Shabbat of Parshat Zachor (as well as the reading on Purim morning).

Why is davka the focus on Amalek so very important?

I suggest that while all of the Z’chirot are powerful points on the Jewish compass – observing Shabbat, honoring the Torah, appreciating G-d & all He does for us, etc. - the threat of Amalek is a matter of Pikuach Nefesh, & guarding our lives from physical danger always takes precedence, even to the extent of suspending Shabbat and most Mitzvot.

Sadly, we have never managed to totally eradicate the phenomenon of Amalek & Amalek-like enemies, whose raison d’etre is eliminating Jews & Judaism, for no reason other than that we exist. We can be rich, poor, religious ornon, & still Amalek, in blind, irrational hatred, seeks our destruction – even at their own peril & loss. And so we must be aware of the past & remain vigilant in the future. Yet while Purim provides this backdrop of danger never being too far from our door, it is at heart a joyous holiday – maybe the most joyous holiday of the entire year. We must not let danger diminish our Joie de vivre.

This is the idea behind the strange phraseology of "Zachor – Al Tishkach;" we are told by the Torah to remember & not to forget (what Amalek represents). On the surface, this seems quite contradictory a statement: If we remember, then of course we don’t forget. And if we don’t forget, then we surely remember!

But the Torah is telling us: There are times, like parshat Zachor or Yom Hazikaron, when we must make a specific effort to "Zachor," to remember - out of respect for the victims, & for our own self-defense – the threats we may face. But If we were to remember constantly & vividly all the encounters we’ve had over the centuries with Amalek – the pogroms, the Shoa, the terror attacks – we would be emotionally paralyzed, & could not lead normal lives. So at most times it’s sufficient to at least "Al Tishkach," to not forget those episodes, & go on with life.

Most important right now: Remember, & don’t forget, to have a fantastic Purim!
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