This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat of Remembrance, the Shabbat before Purim. The final portion read on Shabbat Zachor, the maftir portion, is from the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 25, verses 17 through 19, “Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt, how, undeterred by fear of God, Amalek 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.” It has always seemed so strange to me, like an oxymoron, that the Torah tells us to blot out the memory, to not forget. We want to get rid of the memory of the horrible things that Amalek did to us, but at the same time, we must not forget. We teach that Amalek’s descendants are the many different enemies that the Jewish people have been persecuted by throughout our history – Haman – why we read this portion the Shabbat before Purim, and Hitler and many others. We must remember what our enemies have done to the Jewish people, but always, we overcome, and the Jewish People, with the help and faith in God, and the persistence of the Jewish People, we triumph over the tyranny of our enemies. The remembrance of Shabbat Zachor is a two fold memory – of the bad that Amalek did to us, but the good that came out of it – that the children of Israel triumphed over Amalek.
Isn’t that so true of life? So often we have memories – that are both good and bad? We have all sat at a funeral crying, remembering our loved one, crying for our loss, yet, also laugh, from the happy memory of times spent together. And often our memories are not always happy, so much so, that the Machzor Lev Shalem and the Siddur Lev Shalem, relatively new prayer books from the Conservative Movements have Yizkor, Memorial Prayers, for parents who were abusive. Memories can be bitter sweet – remember the time Aunt Lilly would call her youngest child by the dog’s name, because the dog kept barking and she was distracted, but now when her daughter comes to visit, she asks who she is, because she has Alzheimer’s, and Aunt Lilly does not remember anyone’s name or what their relationship is to her. Memories are so precious, and often we might take it for granted.
Judaism is brilliant – to create a Shabbat to remind us that we need to make time for Memory – to call a specific Shabbat, the Shabbat of Memory, Shabbat Zachor. What have been some of your greatest memories? Where have they been spent? Who have you spent them with, and where? Many of my greatest memories spent with my children, were walking in the streets of Jerusalem, watching the cats scurry around, or another time when I was floating in the Dead Sea, solo – because my children found it too salty, and had too many cuts, and I found it completely relaxing, without a care in the world. What memories do you want to create on your next trip to Israel? Let us at ITC help you create those lasting memories.