Friday, March 6, 2009

The Sabbath of Remembering

This Shabbat is Shabbat Parashat Zachor, the Sabbath of “Remembering.”

The Torah portion that is read as the Maftir (additional) portion after the conclusion of the regular weekly Torah reading, commands that the Jewish people remember that the nation of Amalek attacked the elderly and weak of the Jewish people shortly after the Jews crossed the Red Sea (Deuteronomy 25:17-19) and that there is a mitzvah to destroy Amalek. Zachor is always read on the Shabbat before Purim.

Three days after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, the Amalekites traveled many miles in order to attack the Jewish people from behind, attacking the weak and the stragglers. The Jewish people miraculously defeated the Amalekites in a one day war. This attack underscores the evil character of the Amalekites. G-d had just performed great miracles for the Israelites and no nation dared attack them, except Amalek, who hit them from the rear.

The nation of Amalek is known for its all-consuming love of self, and reliance on violence to prove its superiority. The Midrash (Sifrei 296) tells us that the wording in Deuteronomy 25:18, "Asher kar'cha ba'derech," literally means that Amalek “happened” upon the Jews. This, the rabbis explain, is an explanation of the personality of Amalek: Amalek represents the belief in chance, of the haphazard dictates of “fate” and “destiny,” which opposes the Jewish belief in Divine providence. Amalek’s philosophy negates the concept that there is a purpose to humanity or to creation itself--again the antithesis of Jewish philosophy.

Parashat Zachor is read on the Shabbat before Purim because Haman was a direct descendant of Amalek. Like his forefathers, Haman was the archenemy of the Jews. He wanted to wipe them out. Neither begging, bribery nor debate would have changed Haman's mind, because he recognized that the Jewish nation represented a spiritual force which he abhorred.

To understand Haman's motives and the commandment of Zachor , learn the history of Amalek--a summary of which can be found at http://njop.org/html/PurimHanging.html

Alert: Monday is the Fast of Esther (Taanit Esther)
The day before Purim is a fast day observed in commemoration of the 3 days of fasting by Esther, Mordechai and the entire Jewish community before Esther approached Achashverosh.

The fast begins at the break of dawn and ends after the Megillah (Book of Esther) is read that night.

1 comment:

Paige Dansinger and The (future) Jewish Art Museum of Minnesota (JAMM) said...

Love your Tweets!! Check out my blog for Images of Esther from Art History..http://jewishartmuseummn.blogspot.com/

From: @paigedansinger/@jewishartmuseummn