3/17/2016

Shabbat Vayikra, Shabbat Zachor

Candles Friday, 18th at 6:46pm
Havdalah 19th at 7:42pm

The Shabbat before Purim is always Shabbat Zachor, when we read an additional extract from the second Sefer Torah.

“Remember what Amalek did to to you on your way out of Egypt. They lay in wait for you and they struck your rear, the weakest of you while you were tired and struggling. They had no respect for God. So when God gives you rest from your enemies around in the land which God is going to give you, you should rub out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. Do not forget” (Deuteronomy 25.17 and see also Exodus 17.8).

This is regarded as a positive command that falls on everyone. But what exactly does it mean?

On the face of it it distinguishes Amalek from all the other tribes that inhabited the Land of Canaan. One might well understand the Canaanites fighting Israel to protect their territory. But Amalek was not being threatened. And whereas all the other tribes who chose to attack Israel did so front on, facing male opponents, the Amalekites alone went deviously for the rear, the invalids, the women and children.

This law is worded in such a way as to emphasize its specific relation to the Land that God was going to give Israel. And so under King Saul the Amalekites under their king Agag again attacked and Saul was commanded to destroy them. Hundreds of years later when the Assyrians invaded they exiled all the local tribes they conquered and replaced them with others from the far corners of their empire.

Indeed, the Mishna (Yadayim 4.4) says that since Sennacherib it is impossible to identify any of the local tribes and nations any more.

Uniquely the Torah tells both to “remember” and “not to forget.” Why the repetition? Clearly this is more than a specific command related to one period in History. The Amalekites have come to symbolize anti-Semitism, hatred of Jews for no valid or fair reason. “Remembering” implies the past. “Not forgetting” implies that the challenge continues. Although anti Semitism comes in waves, still the virus has remained embedded in humanity since Amalek Though we must be very careful not to assume all who hate or disagree with us are Amalekites.

This is why we celebrate Purim, to record the challenge, the danger that does not go away. The best way to combat it is, positively, not to forget our own identity but to nurture it. And by not forgetting to combat it and imagining it will disappear. Indeed, Haman is called an Agagite, a descendant of the Amalekite. Hatred was in his genes! And above all, we celebrate our good fortune when we can live free of fear by giving charity to those less fortunate and gifts to friends to celebrate community and humanity. In the end love survives and is more effective than hatred.

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PLEASE NOTE:

We will read the Megillah on Wednesday March 23rd at 7pm at Park East in the Mezzanine.

This will be followed by a reception, drinks, and a festive meal, very kindly sponsored by Joe Moinian and family and Morad Ghadamian and family.

Please come, and invite your friends.