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Parashat Terumah

02/18/2021 04:41:15 PM


Rabbi Hearshen

“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!”

This week is a special Shabbat. There are four of them before Passover and this one is always read the Shabbat preceding Purim. The link is very clear in that the evil Haman is a descendent of the eternal enemy of the people of Israel, Amalek. The words that I opened with are the words from the special maftir that is read every year on this Shabbat, Shabbat Zachor, literally the Sabbath of Remembrance. Every year on this special Shabbat, we read of the commandment to wipe out the “memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget.” A close reading of this text reveals a practical and figurative problem. If we are to blot out the memory of this evil people from under heaven, how are to never forget? This is a textual problem at first glance, but also an invitation to look deeper and find a greater command and meaning. The reality is that Amalek is the embodiment of evil in the Torah and all of us should know well there’s no scenario whereby evil is eradicated from our world. It’s a part of the human experience that we all must contend with, and thus the command is to never forget that we are constantly at war with evil in each and every generation.

To explain this even further, let us look at the words of Pirkei Avot 2:16: “Rabbi Tarfon used to say: It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it;…” In plain and straight forward English, this means that it is not your job to complete the work, but you may never stop trying to do so. That means in our quest to eradicate evil from our world, we must never give up hope that one day we will actually succeed. We all must wage a war against the evil in our midst and not be discouraged that we have not succeeded because we are moving in the right direction.

When we look at the long timeline of history, we should see something very telling… that we are making progress. We should see that three steps forward and two steps back still leaves us one step in the right direction. We look back in our memories and we find that our world has waged war against true and real evil. We look back and we see that we ourselves have waged war against evil within our own nations, our own communities, our own people and indeed within ourselves. Martin Luther King, Jr., reminded us that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” meaning that justice and goodness don’t just happen. It’s long and drawn out as we fight in each and every generation to eradicate the Amalek from our world and find ways to embrace a world of goodness.

Through holidays like Purim, we are able to celebrate that good will overcome evil in spite of the draw and power evil has in our world. When we rejoice that Mordecai and Esther managed to overcome such great odds stacked against them, we will be able to better muster our own courage to fight the good fight and to do our best to rid the world of Amalek/evil. We will do so every day even though we know we will never fully win. It will take millennia to truly end this war and that is something we shall never forget. 

Rabbi Hearshen

Mon, April 19 2021 7 Iyyar 5781