In honor of our dear daughter Emuna (our California girl) who turned 12 this week and became a Bat Mitzvah.
This week is a special Shabbat called “Shabbat Zachor”.
Zachor means “remember”.
Why is it called that? What does it mean?
“Remember Shabbat"? "Shabbat of Remember"?
The Torah says (Deut. 25:17-19):
Remember what Amalek did to you on the way, when you were going out of Egypt.
This is one of the 613 mitzvot — to remember what Amalek did to us.
What is it that we are remembering? Why is it important to remember this?
That they ran into you on the way and they cut you off, all the weak ones after you.
“After you” means stragglers. There was one group of people among the Bnai Yisrael (Children of Israel) who were straggling behind everyone else. What does it mean they were straggling?
There are two meanings for the word “straggling”. It can either mean physically straggling, physically left behind.
Or, it can mean spiritually straggling – lacking in godliness or awareness of God (yirat Shamayim).
Here it makes sense that it means both, that part of Bnai Yisrael were both (a) lacking in Yiras Shamaim and (b) physically left behind.
Moreover, the Midrash says that the reason Amalek was able to attack them is because the protective clouds - the הכבוד ענני - weren’t protecting them. In fact, it says that the clouds “spit” them out. Why weren’t the clouds protecting them? The rest of that verse explains:
And you were tired, and wiped out, and he did not fear God.
Who is this HE that did not fear God? Is it talking about Amalek? Or the Bnai Yisrael...?
Rashi says “he” means Amalek because of the vowel under the “yud”, a “kumutz”, which makes it a verb “he did not fear Hashem”. We usually refer to Amalek as “he” and to Bnai Yisrael as “they”. To make it an adjective, you would have to change the “yud” to a “sh’va.”
Chizkuni says “he” means Bnai Yisrael. Bnai Yisrael didn’t have Yiras Shamaim so it was their fault that Amalek attacked.
On the one hand, Rashi makes sense. It was Amalek because after they saw Bnai Yisrael cross the סוף ים-the sea and all the nissim-miracles they saw Hashem do, they still didn’t fear Him?
But, on the other hand, Chizkuni makes sense. It was Bnai Yisrael, or at least some of Bnai Yisrael, because if they were straggling behind, then obviously they were “straggling” in Yiras Shamaim. They wouldn’t have been “spit out” if they weren’t lacking.
So it was the stragglers’ own fault that they were straggling. But was it their fault that Amalek attacked?
It seems to me that it was because of the rest of Bnai Yisrael that Amalek attacked, because they weren’t helping the straggling ones. They should have helped them, physically and spiritually.
We learn from here that if there is anyone who is straggling, we should reach out to any chance we get to raise them up and hopefully prevent Amalek from ever attacking us again.
This Shabbat – and every day – we should remember that it is our own responsibility to prevent Amalek from attacking, by making sure we take care of our own stragglers.
- Emuna Seinfeld
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Purim!
PS - My purim class mp3
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