In addition to the usual weekly Torah reading, this week we read Parshas Zachor. Parshas Zachor is the section of the Torah that commands us to remember that which the nation of Amalek did to us.
Shortly after our exodus from Egypt, as we were traveling through the desert, Amalek attacked. Our Sages tell us (Pirkei D’rabbi Eliezer 44) that the Mitzvah of remembering what Amalek did to us is not just about remembering the foul act of Amalek, but about what caused us to be attacked by Amalek.
Prior to the attack of Amalek, the Jews became thirsty and they tested God to see if He was with them or not, by confronting Moses with their complaint about the lack of water. The succeeding episode with Amalek was a direct consequence of their behavior.
Rashi (Shmos, 17:8) explains the juxtaposition of the two events with a parable. A man was walking with his son riding on his shoulders. The boy saw an object on the ground and asked his father for it, and his father gave it to him. A little while later, again the son was attracted to something he spotted on the road and asked his father to hand it to him, to which his father happily acquiesced. And then a third time, the boy asked his father for another object he saw, and his wish was granted.
Soon after, they met a person on the road, and the son, who was still riding on his father’s shoulders, asked him, “Did you by any chance see my dad?” Upon hearing the brazen question of his son, the father threw his son off his shoulders, and a dog came and bit him.
So too, God had provided the Jews with all their needs in the desert in a most gracious manner, enveloping them with special clouds for protection, and yet, when they reached a rough patch, they ignored the past and began to challenge whether or not God is really with them. That is why they were punished with being attacked by Amalek. And this is what we are to remember every year when we read Parshas Zachor. We must remember our mistake which brought about the attack of Amalek, and make sure we do not repeat our awful mistake again.
This is a challenge we all experience at times in our lives. Everyone goes through difficult periods in life, and at times, we may hear a little voice inside us that begins to ask, “What’s going on? Where is God? Why isn’t He helping me?”
Every year when we read Parshas Zachor, we remember that it is a grave error to harbor such thoughts. The same way God has taken care of us until this point, God continues to be there with us.
There was a terrible period in Russia when Jews were viciously attacked, known as the “Kishinev Progroms.” During that time, the Chofetz Chaim was seen by a doctor, and the doctor asked him, “Rabbi, Jewish blood is being spilled like water and the troubles the Jews are enduring are unbearable. Where is God? How can He remain silent while witnessing His children suffering? How can He let these hooligans act so evilly with no restraint?”
The Chofetz Chaim asked in response, “How do I know you are a certified doctor?” The doctor promptly pointed to his diploma displayed on the wall. “What value does this diploma have?” asked Chofetz Chaim, “Look at the date; it’s forty years old!”
Dumbfounded, the doctor responded, “What difference does it make how old the diploma is?! I have been a doctor ever since I received the diploma. I don’t need to continuously be tested.”
“You are right,” said the Chofetz Chaim. “So too, when God took us out of Egypt with great miracles, God proved to us that He controls the world and He cares for us. God doesn’t need to constantly prove it to us. It is our duty to utilize our free will to trust in God that He knows what He is doing, and ultimately everything is for the best.”
It is not easy to feel that God is caring for us when we are suffering. But this does not excuse us from acknowledging that God is always there, watching over us. Instead of focusing on that which we are lacking, let’s think back to all that God has provided us with until this point, and realize that our suffering too must be for our own good. There is no such thing as God neglecting us – ever. The same way God has always been there for us in the past, God will always continue to care for us in the most loving manner possible.