(Torah Portion Tetzaveh) Memories Stimulate!
After the nations of the world heard that the Jews were miraculously freed from Egypt and that G-d orchestrated an awesome salvation at the Red Sea, they were spellbound and awed by the Jewish Nation.
Only one nation dared wage war against the Jews, attacking them by surprise. This was the nation of Amalek, named after a grandson of our nemesis Aisav. The nation of Amalek was the precursor of all future attacks against the Jews. For this, the Torah issues a command that we always remember and never forget what Amalek did.
The Shabbat before the Holiday of Purim, which commemorates the plan of Haman, a descendant of Amalek, to kill all the Jews , is specifically designated to read the portion in the Torah commanding us to remember what Amalek did to us. Therefore this Shabbat is called Shabbat Parshas Zachor – The Shabbat of Remembering.
During the war with Amalek, the Jews were victorious because they dedicated themselves to belief in G-d. So too, in the time of Haman, the Jews renewed trust and commitment to the Almighty enabled their salvation and victory.
Haman himself recognized that he had an opportunity to act against the Jews after noticing that they were slacking off in their observances. And when Haman saw his good fortune changing, he attributed it to the Torah study of the Jews and their recommitment to G-d.
I recently read an enlightening article by Rabbi Berel Wein where he explains that one of the basic requirements of Judaism is the gift of memory. The word Zachor – remember – is key to many of the basic Mitzvos and values of Judaism. It is the basis of our holy day of Shabbos where the commandment in the Ten Commandments begins with the word Zachor – “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” The great days of awe and judgment that constitute Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year days, are called in our prayers Yom Hazikaron, the day of remembrance. The Mitzva of Tzitzis is dedicated to remembering all of the commandments of the Torah. And this Shabbos, Parshas Zachor is when we pledge not to forget the evil that continually lurks in our world and its inherent danger to civilized human survival.
In fifty places the Torah evokes the memory of our national freedom from Egypt.
The Torah also tells us to continuously remember our frailty towards sin, commanding us to be mindful of the sin of the golden calf and to remember that Miram was disciplined for speaking Lashon Harah about her brother Moshe.
We also turn to G-d in our prayers and ask Him to remember the great deeds of our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaacov, and we ask G-d to remember all the deeds and Mitzvos that were ever done by the myriad of Jews who lived over the generations, to serve for our merit and benefit.
We see that memory is essential for Jewish continuity and success.
We all witness the human tragedy when, God forbid, someone in a family loses his memory. There is nothing as crushing as seeing a vibrant and productive human being disappear before our very eyes because of their loss of memory.
The same tragedy can be on a national scale as well. A people that has no memory has a difficult and uncertain future.
In a general sense, all of the mitzvos of the Torah can be seen as memory aids. For memory depends upon tangible experiences. The smells of the Jewish kitchen on Friday are what cause the memory of Shabbos to be real and unforgettable. Our memory is fashioned from sitting in a Succah, hearing the sound of the Shofar, and eating Matzo at the Pesach Seder. Memory always needs positive reinforcement to be preserved and treasured.
The Torah commands us not to forget Amalek. But it is not only Amalek that is not to be forgotten. It is all of Jewish history, including the stories of our families and ancestors and the message of Sinai. Memory and practice guarantees for us a productive present and future!
Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family