February 27, 2015
Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, February 27, 2015.
This week is Shabbat Zachor – Shabbat “Remember.” It is always the Shabbat before Purim (which is Wednesday night/ Thursday day next week). Its theme co-ordinates with the theme of the holiday of Purim: The Jews persevere and eventually rejoice by thwarting the plan by the evil villain, Haman, as recounted in the Biblical Book of Esther. It’s certainly in keeping with a central theme of several of our most important holidays: They hated us. They tried to annihilate us. We persevered. Let’s eat. What’s remarkable is how relevant this 2000 year plus book is to us today. Anti-Semitism has been called “the longest hatred.” Even when we think we’re finally free of this ancient irrational hatred, it suddenly appears. The news around the world about attacks on Jews is shocking for us who have lived here in America relatively free of anti-Semitism... at least anti-Semitism that keeps us from fulfilling our dreams and living our lives.
The Torah reading on this special Shabbat comes from the Book of Deuteronomy. It describes the perennial enemy of the Jews, the Amalekites, who attacked the weak and the worn down in the desert. The Book of Esther specifically implies that the villain, Haman, is a descendant of an Amalekite King! It is even said that the worst enemies of the Jews throughout history, such as Torquemada, the grand inquisitor of Medieval Spain, or Hitler, the dictator of WWII Germany, were descendants of the Amalekites. The quote from Deuteronomy is pretty perplexing, however:
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 the Lord your God grants you safety from all your enemies around you, in the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a hereditary portion, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget.
Those last 14 words of the quotation are odd: we must blot out the memory of Amalek. That’s clear. We must forget. Move past it. Grow away from the shadow of the enemy. However... the last three words are Do not forget. Wipe out memory, but totally forget at the same time. And maybe that’s the key to the perseverance of the Jewish people. We can live our lives without the burden of oppression. But at the same time we mustn’t forget it. We move on... but sometimes we look back.