Shabbat Zachor

Shabbat Zachor

This Shabbat is the Shabbat before Purim and therefore we read a special Maftir. This reading is found in Deuteronomy 25:17-19 and focuses on Amalek the enemy of the Jewish people. Amalek is related to wicked Haman, who in the book of Esther wanted to destroy the Jewish race. The text calls Israel to remember (Zachor) what Amalek did when he attacked the children of Israel after they had crossed the Red Sea in victory over the Egyptians. Even though Israel had defeated Pharaoh by G-d’s supernatural intervention, Amalek still attacked even when he knew he would not be victorious. The text even says that he attacked the weakest of the children of Israel, because he knew victory was not possible and he simply wanted to inflict pain and suffering upon G-d’s people.

It is clear from this scripture and others that Amalek had a satanic spirit because Satan, too, wants to cause pain and suffering upon the people of G-d even though he knows that victory is not an option for him.  The end of verse 18 reveals what Amalek’s real problem is – he does not fear G-d. The fear of G-d is placing G-d as the priority of one’s life and subjecting everything in one’s life to Him. Amalek’s life was set against G-d’s priorities.

Maftir Zachor contains one of the 613 commandments in the Torah, “to wipe out the memory of Amalek from the earth”(see verse 19). Many rabbis see a spiritual aspect to this commandment today. They say that although in the last days G-d will reveal to His people the identity of Amalek and the people of G-d will fulfill this commandment literally; today we can fulfill it spiritually. How? By removing from our life everything that is against the priorities of G-d. Failure to do so can be disastrous. A good example of this is seen in the life of King Saul and is recorded in this week’s special haftarah reading from I Samuel 15. HaShem had instructed Saul to go to war against Amalek and destroy all his people and all his possessions. Saul did not complete this commandment. He spared the best of the livestock and the life of Agag, Amalek’s king. The scripture tells us that Haman was an Agagite (see Esther 3:1). Saul allowed Agag to live long enough that he father a child who preserved the people of Amalek and many generations later fathered wicked Haman. This act of disobedience brought much suffering upon the Jewish people. The same happens when you and I fail to complete the word of G-d in our lives.  Much of the pain and suffering we go through is not because we are walking with G-d and receiving righteous persecution from an unrighteous world, rather often the misery we are experiencing is a direct result of our own disobedience.

Why not on this Shabbat pause and reflect upon the areas of your life that do not reflect G-d’s priorities and wipe these areas away from yourself. It is not easy; it is a spiritual battle and requires the same type of commitment as fighting any other type of war.  What is the nature of this commitment? Sacrifice! This week’s Parashah is Vayikra and focuses on drawing near to G-d. The torah reveals that man, due to his sinfulness, cannot approach a Holy G-d. Therefore we need to come near to Him by means of a Korban (sacrifice). Offer up to G-d those things which need to be destroyed in your life,  for they are the very things that keep you from experiencing the intimacy that inner man truly desires and needs.

Shabbat Shalom.

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