Vayikra, Leviticus 1:1-5:26, Parashat Hashavua for Shabbat Zachor, March 23, 2024

This Shabbat, the one that immediately precedes Purim, is called Shabbat Zachor, the Sabbath of Remembrance. The special maftir, additional, Torah reading remembers how the Amalekites attacked the Israeites in the wilderness, “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 your God יהוה grants you safety from all your enemies around you, in the land that your God יהוה is giving you as a hereditary portion, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!” (Deuteronomy 26:17-19) Amalek, like all cowards, attacked the Israelites where they were weakest, in the rear, where the old, the frail, and the weak traveled behind the main body of the Isralites. Amalek is considered the eternal enemy of Israel, because they rejected the Jewish vision of a moral world exemplified by God. Instead they sowed distrust. Haman, the villain of Purim who wanted to annihilate all the Jews of the Persian Empire is considered to be a descendent of Amalek by our sages. So we remember Amalek, before we begin the holiday of Purim. We remember that the Jewish people have always faced danger and adversity, that there have always been those who have hated the Jewish people and wished the worst for us. Yet, we also remember that we have survived those threats and thrived as a people: from Egyptian slavery to liberation, from the mortal threat of Haman to the victory and celebration of Purim, from Roman oppression and thousands of years of exile, descending into the deepest trauma and despair. Followed by the reestablishment of the State of Israel and the revitalization of Hebrew culture and the Jewish people. The key to Jewish survival has always been a commitment to Jewish values, a willingness to live by them and for them, and, as in the holiday of Purim, to defend ourselves whenever necessary.