Friday, March 22, 2024 / 12 Adar II 5784

Shalom Chaverim,

זָכ֕וֹר אֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂ֥ה לְךָ֖ עֲמָלֵ֑ק בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶ֥ם מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃ אֲשֶׁ֨ר קָֽרְךָ֜ בַּדֶּ֗רֶךְ וַיְזַנֵּ֤ב בְּךָ֙ כָּל־הַנֶּחֱשָׁלִ֣ים אַֽחַרֶ֔יךָ וְאַתָּ֖ה עָיֵ֣ף וְיָגֵ֑עַ וְלֹ֥א יָרֵ֖א אֱלֹהִֽים׃ וְהָיָ֡ה בְּהָנִ֣יחַ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֣יךָ ׀ לְ֠ךָ מִכָּל־אֹ֨יְבֶ֜יךָ מִסָּבִ֗יב בָּאָ֙רֶץ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יְהוָֽה־אֱ֠לֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵ֨ן לְךָ֤ נַחֲלָה֙ לְרִשְׁתָּ֔הּ תִּמְחֶה֙ אֶת־זֵ֣כֶר עֲמָלֵ֔ק מִתַּ֖חַת הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם לֹ֖א תִּשְׁכָּֽח׃

Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt— how, undeterred by fear of God, he surprised you on the march, when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear. Therefore, when Adonai your God grants you safety from all your enemies around you, in the land that Adonai your God is giving you as a hereditary portion, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget. — Deuteronomy 25:17-19

It would be a fun riddle to solve, if it was not so serious. This shabbat is known as Shabbat Zachor, “The Sabbath of Remembrance”, which is always on the shabbat prior to Purim. We read three verses from Deuteronomy, above, which instruct us to remember the evil cruelty that Amalek inflicted upon us…in order to blot out the memory of Amalek…and not to forget to do so…

Wait a second: Are we supposed to remember that awful episode or forget it and move on?!

One way our Jewish tradition has manifested this remembering/erasing the memory/not forgetting, is how we respond to the events described in the Book of Esther. We read the story from the Megillah each year at Purim during which we ‘blot out’ with noise the name of the villain Haman – a descendent of Amalek. But more profoundly, we transform the memory of all the evil that befell us. We respond to evil with good, to hate with kindness and love, to injustice with justice. If evil is a kind of darkness, we respond by creating light to drive that dark away.

So….Amalek attacked the most vulnerable, the hungry and weary stragglers among us who came out of Egypt?!

Well then, we’ll respond at Purim by giving gifts of food and tzedaka to the poor (“matanot l’evyonim”), and by sending kind gifts of festive foods to our neighbors and friends (“mishloach manot”, or “shalach manos”). We’ll tell the story and dress up in frivolity and make merry.

This year especially.

The message of Shabbat Zachor and Purim is heard loud and clear this year, and its riddle seems to make sense. Remembering to forget the awful horror for a while. Recalling that evil can be – will be – erased. May this Shabbat and this Purim help us – enable us – to embrace the triumphant spirit of life and love and kindness and justice…both with our minds, and through the good we can yet do in this world.

Please join us tomorrow morning for Shabbat Zachor services and again on Saturday evening at 6:30 pm for some Purim fun, dinner, laughs, sharing a few drinks, our dramatic and delightful Megillah reading with an all-new and surprise video translation, cake walk, Purim Bingo, and more!!


Rabbi Michael Schwartz