The Shabbos preceding Purim is known as “Shabbos Zachor” because of the special Torah portion we read on that day. Parshas Zachor details the battle against Amalek during the reign of King Shaul. The word zachor means “remember,” because we are commanded to always remember the deeds of Amalek, and what this nation did to Bnei Yisrael. Haman, the antagonist of the Purim story, was a descendant of Agag, king of Amalek, with whom King Shaul made war.

King Agag was the sole survivor of the battle. Hashem had instructed Shaul to leave no trace of the Amalekite race, however Agag was left alive, spared by Shaul. As a result of this tragic mistake, Haman, the descendant of Agag, was born, and went on to persecute the Jews. Had King Shaul killed Agag as he had been commanded to do, the nation of Amalek would not exist today.

This was not the only encounter between our nation and Amalek. It is unlikely that we would be commanded to remember Amalek due to a simple mistake committed by the king of Israel. We find more of the story earlier on in history, during the time of Moshe.

The unnecessary Amaleki war following Yetziat Mitzrayim is the first of three horrific encounters between our nation and Amalek. The second confrontation is with King Shaul, while the third is with Esther, occurring at the height of the Persian Empire’s power and influence. The point of attacking the “untouchable” Jewish nation must have been meant as a direct insult to God. Why else would Amalek have ventured so far out of its way to attack Hashem’s nation in Refidim? None of the twelve shvatim (tribes) were destined to have the land of Amalek, so the Jews had no reason to attack this nation. In spite of this, the nation of Amalek went out of its way to muster up its “bravery” to go up against the Israelites.

Amalek chose to be the first nation to war with Bnei Yisrael following the Exodus. Hashem was enraged, as a result. Rashi explains that Amalek’s hostilities against the Jews had the effect of “cooling off the bath water” in regard to the other nations. Once Amalek battled the Israelites, the awe surrounding Yetziat Mitzrayim was diminished.

In this way, Amalek brought Bnei Yisrael back down to earth, creating doubt in regard to God’s miracles at the Yam Suf, with the splitting of the Red Sea. These doubts actually date back to when our nation began to test God in the midbar (desert). The people complained because they doubted Hashem. Each time, Hashem came through. When they were hungry, Hashem provided quail to eat. When they were thirsty, God brought water from a stone. Moshe too, expressed doubt in Hashem when he hit the rock. Hashem was upset following the water incident because the people said “Where are You?” when He is always there.

God’s name is not mentioned in the Purim megilla in order to force us to confront the challenge of doubt. It was only at the cusp of extermination that God saved our nation. Now today, after seeing how God saved us in our vulnerability, will we once more doubt in Hashem? At the same time, we also acknowledge that without the decree to annihilate the Jews, Queen Esther could not have shown her heroism.

Haman, as an Amaleki himself, would stop at nothing to see the Jews fall. He pursued this task with the same sinas chinam (baseless or pointless hatred) that we sadly see in our own communities. There was no point to Haman’s demands, yet Achashverosh went along with it all, even to stamping the Amalekite’s plan with his royal signet. The way of the Amalekim is to unjustly pursue the death of the

Jews without purpose, and without logic. So too, our love for God must be pursued without logic, to dispel all doubt.

The command to annihilate all the Jews was a whisper from Haman into the ear of King Achashverosh. Haman was responsible for the original idea to wipe out the Jews, who didn’t serve him, and who would not bow down to him. As the king’s right-hand man, Haman’s advice was, in the eyes of Achashverosh to be completely trustworthy and without defect. That assumption was a misstep: the decree was full of Jewish blood.

Today as yesterday, we are commanded to blot out the blood of Amalek. Rashi explains this as a missing element in the world. Hashem’s name will not be complete (ושמו אחד) until Amalek’s presence and name is gone. Just as Haman called for the complete eradication of the Jews, so too we must remove the name of Amalek from the world in order to restore this missing element.

For this exact reason, Parshat Zachor is mandated as a yearly reading to remind us to fully recognize the disgusting reality that is Amalek. Entering Purim with this in mind ensures we have the proper context when we hear Megillas Esther. Without recognition of the horrendous nation of Amalek, our own nation might look for reasons to rationalize the actions of Haman.

Shabbat Zachor is an integral reminder and a call to action, similar to hearing the blasts of the shofar in Elul. Zachor is a kind of alarm clock that serves to remind us that Haman called for our extermination, and that we must somehow wake up. How do we manage this and how do we eradicate the Amalekite presence around us? We begin by working on eliminating all doubt.

It was only once we began doubting Hashem that Amalek was able to pounce on the Jews. Both Ahavas Hashem (love of Hashem) and Yiras Hashem (awe of Hashem) are important—but when we doubt in God, these expressions of belief in Him are less than authentic. This is why we celebrate both Shabbos Zachor and Purim. We must remember how Amalek preyed on the vulnerable, and the way we doubted in Hashem. The two are forever linked and if we fail to recognize this fact, we may go so far as to doubt in Hashem once more, God forbid.

Submitted by Hindy Gross

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