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 the Jewish people to remember that the nation of Amalek attacked our elderly, tired and weak shortly after the Jews crossed the Red Sea (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). Therefore, there is a mitzvah to destroy Amalek. Zachor is always read on the Shabbat before Purim.
The Amalekites traveled many miles in order to attack the Jewish people from behind, attacking the weak and the stragglers. Miraculously, the Jewish people defeated the Amalekites in a one day war. This attack underscored the evil character of the Amalekites. God 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 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
*This Treat was originally published on March 6, 2009. It is being re-Treated to help us better understand this special Torah reading and the holiday of Purim.
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