Vol 21.25 - Parshat Zochor         Spanish French Audio  Video

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(5741) The aspect remembering and eradicating Amalek; Amalek - an adversary to the letters Vav and Hei the final two letters of the Tetragrammaton of G-d's name  


1. The Magen Avraham, concerning the ruling to read Parshat Zachor

(“Remember/Zachor what Amalek did to you”) on the Shabbat before Purim –


We find many Mitzvot of “zechirot/remembrances” such as the “remembrances” that we must mention in the Kriat Shema blessings (and in Kriat Shema), the “remembrance of Matan Torah, the episode of Amalek, the episode of Miriam, Shabbat and the episode of the Calf. Why did they rule to specifically read in the Torah Parshat Amalek and not for the other “remembrances”?

And he answers:

“Matan Torah has the holiday Chag HaAtzeret and same applies to Shabbat. And they did not rule so regarding the episode of Miriam and the episode of the Calf because it speaks disparagingly of Yisroel”.

However, this, seemingly, is not a sufficient answer because also for the episode of Amalek, there is Purim which is connected to the remembrance and obliteration of Amalek. So much so that the Torah reading for Purim is – the Parsha of the war against Amalek (“And Amalek came”). Moreover, the reason that that Parshat Zachor is on the Shabbat before Purim is: “In order to not preface the deed to the remembrance”. In other words, Purim is akin to the “deed” of the remembrance of Parshat Zachor.

Therefore, why must we make a special ruling of reading the remembrance of Amalek - and so much so that the Shabbat is termed “Shabbat Parshat Zachor etc.”?

It therefore appears that the enactment of Parshat Zachor is

                (not just because there is no special time to remember the episode of Amalek, but rather)

because there is a quality and special aspect in remembering  the episode of Amalek compared to the other remembrances.

One must understand:

What is this special aspect of remembering the episode of Amalek that does not exist by the other remembrances, and for which we must enact for this remembrance a special (Torah) reading?

Seemingly, it should be the opposite.

The other remembrances are general aspects in the conduct of Yidden, in all places and times:

·         Receiving the Torah and Sinai - Matan Torah - is the foundation of the entire Torah and Mitzvot.


·         Shabbat – is from the inclusive Mitzvot which affect (not just on the Shabbat day, but also on) all the six weekdays.


·         The episode of the Calf, on the other hand which is the opposite of: “I am the L-rd and You shall not have etc., since (it states) “on the day when I take account of them etc.”, causes a Yid eats appropriately, being careful to “turn from evil/sur m’ra”” to avoid G-d’s “taking their sin into account”. And this includes – also heeding the “doing good/Asei tov”.


·         And even the episode of Miriam, which is seemingly, a solitary aspect that did not carry any ramifications for Klal Yisroel in the ensuing generations – nevertheless, there is also a lesson for all Yidden as to how careful one must safeguard against Lashon Hara, which is one of the most stringent sins. As the Sages state: “Whoever speaks slander increases his sins even up to (the degree of) the three cardinal sins: idolatry, incest, and the shedding of blood”. And together with this – from the harshest (sins) we are careful completely, because of her.

However the remembrance of Amalek is a specific Mitzvah, and it does not, seemingly, contain a lesson for every Jew in his conduct – just a general learning/Limud klali.

The question is even stronger:

The purpose of remembering Amalek is – to obliterate Amalek, as in the continuation of the verses (after “remembering“) – “When the L-rd, your G-d, has given you repose from all your enemies etc. you shall obliterate the memory of Amalek etc.” And Rambam explains: “We are commanded to remember what Amalek did to us . . (and to hate them) and to speak of it constantly; to arouse people to wage war against them”.

And since at this time it is not relevant to fulfill the Mitzvah of actually obliterating Amalek – because:

1.       The Mitzvah of obliterating Amalek is only when the Yidden are in their land (in a peaceful condition – (as it states) “when your G-d, has given you repose from all your enemies around in the land etc.”


2.       Even if the above condition were satisfied, it is impossible to obliterate Amalek, since “Sennacherib has already arisen and mixed up all the nations – and whoever separates, separates from the majority” (kol d’parush m’ruba parish -meaning that we cannot identify Amalek from the majority of nations).

It therefore comes out that the aspect of remembering Amalek in our time is not (that) actually relevant. Yet, notwithstanding, a special Torah reading and a special Shabbat was enacted for this remembrance?

3. We can understand this by prefacing an explanation in the essence of the Mitzvah of remembering Amalek, for seemingly:

1.       Since The purpose of remembering Amalek is – to obliterate Amalek (as above), why is there an obligation to remember Amalek even when, according to Torah, the actual obliteration is not relevant?


2.       Why must we require a special commandment: “Remember/Zachor what Amalek did to you”, at all, in order to awaken people to “to wage war against them”. Why is the commandment of: “Obliterate the remembrance of Amalek”, not sufficient, in and of itself?


(Similar to the command: “Do not allow a soul to live” regarding the Seven (Canaanite) nations. For we do not find a special commandment to remember their evil etc. deeds, in order to bring about: “arouse people to wage war against them”).

It must therefore be, that even though the purpose of remembering Amalek is the obliteration of Amalek, nevertheless there is an aspect that is achieved by remembering Amalek , in itself -

And this is why Rambam (and similarly other enumerators of the Mitzvot) consider the obliteration of Amalek and the remembrance of Amalek as two distinct Mitzvot with separate qualifications. For example: obliteration of Amalek is from the Mitzvot which are “obligatory on the community” (and according to many opinions, a command on the king (of the community). And this Mitzvah has many conditions (such as specifically after Bnei Yisroel have entered the Land, and other conditions).

However the remembrance of Amalek is a Mitzvah for every individual separately, and it is a constant Mitzvah – at all times and places – and the aspect that is accomplished by remembering Amalek alone, is a general aspect (inyan klali) in the entire Torah, even more than the other aforementioned remembrances (as will be explained in Par. 7).

4. The explanation is:

The nature and aspect of Amalek is that he “knows his Master and consciously rebels against Him” Therefore, before a Yid can fulfil the obliteration of Amalek - of Amalek literally, he must beforehand ascertain, that he does not possess (within himself) “Amalek” - (which represents the concept of) “knowing his Master and consciously rebelling against Him” (even not in the minutest detail, as will be explained in Par. 6).

This is the theme of the Mitzvah of remembering Amalek. It is not just a remembering that awakens one to do a deed for his fellow (brother) (the literal war and obliteration of Amalek) or that from the remembrance one safeguards from an improper act (like the remembrance of the episode of Miriam – to safeguard against Lashon Hara), - but rather remembering Amalek itself accomplishes the obliteration of Amalek in one’s heart, in the person himself.

It is possible that a Yid has “Amalek” in his soul/nafsho, which wants to influence him to rebel, G-d forbid, against his Master. Yet when the “Remember/Zachor what Amalek did to you” is properly imbued in him, the obliteration and nullification of Amalek in one’s heart is achieved. Every inclination (of knowing) and consciously rebelling is uprooted and erased.

We can therefore understand why this specific remembrance is connected to a special Torah reading. For Torah is the master/baal haBayit on the existence of the world.

(As the well-known saying of the Sages on the verse (Ps. 57:3) “To G‑d who makes His determination on me”/l’E-l gomer alai” (Note: Meaning that the decision of Torah determines the reality in the world. c.f. Talmud Yerushalmi, Kesubos 2:2 et. al.))

Therefore, by binding the remembrance of Amalek with a Torah reading, it becomes a remembrance which accomplishes the obliteration of Amalek in one’s soul.

5. This is also one of the explanations why the Torah reading of Parshat Zachor is (according to many codifiers) a Biblical Commandment/Mitzvat Asei Min haTorah.

One of the differences between Biblical commandments compared to Rabbinic commandments, is that Biblical commandments have a stronger influence on (and in) the world.

This is known from the lengthy debate of the later Sages (Acharonim) whether:

·         Biblical prohibitions are a prohibition incumbent upon the object (Isur Cheftza) – i.e. the object becomes a detestable/m’tuav.


·         Whereas Rabbinic prohibitions (according to many opinions) are just a prohibition incumbent upon the person (Isur Gavra). The Sages placed a prohibition upon the person, but not on the object of the world, themselves.

The reason that Rabbinic commandments have an advantage over Biblical commandments,

                As the Sages state: “The words of the Sofrim (Rabbis) are sweeter to me than the words of Torah”,

is because it relates primarily to the person. For by fulfilling the Mitzvot that the Rabbis added - the sweetness and desire to be a servant of G-d is evoked. That is why, from the very onset, he requests “decree upon us decrees” (Mechilta 20:3). And afterwards he is still not satisfied and adds upon them more decrees, or he makes fences for the Torah (for the decrees) in order to further ensure the fulfillment of the decrees.

Furthermore, one could say:

Since Biblical commandments have a stronger influence on the world, it is not that easy to fulfill them solely due to G-d’s command – since the benefit/segulah of the Mitzvah (which affects the world) obscures/malim the total acceptance/kabbalas ol of fulfilling the Mitzvah (which is the command of G-d).

However, since the benefit/segulah of Rabbinic commandments is not that strong, their fulfillment reflects upon

(not that by fulfilling them he accomplishes lofty aspects in the world, but)

how a Yid fulfills Mitzvot because he is a servant of G-d, who obeys the will and decree of the King.

Yet, regarding the “object/cheftza” – concerning how Mitzvot must transform the world -the opposite is true. For Biblical commandments possess the power of Torah (Koach HaTorah) to transform the object (existence) of the world in a manner which does not exist with Rabbinic commandments, as aforementioned.

Therefore, the Torah reading of Parshat Zachor is a positive Mitzvah from the Torah. For it gives an additional power so that the remembrance of Amalek should effect the obliteration of Amalek (meaning in our case – the soul).

6. Since the remembering Amalek is a constantly applicable Mitzvah, it is understood that this is an aspect that everyone must constantly safeguard against, in all times.

For even though that there is no place, G-d forbid, G-d forbid, to say that a Yid must (constantly) safeguard against being someone that “knows his Master and consciously rebels against Him”, one must , nevertheless be constantly vigilant regarding the minutest aspect of “Amalek”. Especially since this could ultimately evolve into an aspect of knowing etc. and consciously rebels against Him”, G-d forbid.

The explanation is:

The sages state on the verse (Ex: 17:16):

“The hand is on G-d's ( yud -hei) throne, G-d will be at war with Amalek for all generations."

that G-d’s “Name will not be whole etc. until the name of Amalek is totally obliterated” For as long as Amalek exists, G-d’s name will not be complete. It is just yud -hei (the first two letters). For Amalek opposes the final letters vav-hei from G-d’s name.

This is seemingly puzzling:

Since Amalek consciously rebels against Him, against G-d:

1.       Why does he oppose just the completeness of G-d’s name and not on His entire name?

2.       In opposing the completeness of G-d’s name, why does he not oppose the first two letters yud -hei of the name which is higher than the final letters vav-hei?

3.       On the contrary, (what is accomplished, for if the first two letters yud -hei remain - an entire name of the (seven) names of G-d, that may not be erased, remains?

 The explanation is:

The effects of the four letters of G-d’s name on a Yid, and as they exist in the Nefesh HaAdam/soul of the person

(Adam from the phrase Adameh l’Elyon meaning "I will be like the One on High”, in Our image)


·         Yud –hei – Chochma and Bina (wisdom and understanding) (intellect).

·         Vav – Middot Sbb’leiv (attributes of the heart) and Torah.

·         Hei – Speech and Deed, Mitzvot.

The primary war against Amalek is on the aspect of actual deed.

Amalek is not that opposed to intellect itself, the level of Yud –hei . The aspect of “knowing his Master” - namely that one has (just) an understanding of G-d, does not bother him so much.

However, he does not want this to affect one’s Middot of the heart (which will bring one to) thought, speech and action (the level of vav-hei). For, on the contrary, at that point, the rebelling is an extremely frightful rebellion. And this is expressed in the wording of the Sages: “he knows his Master” – he has an understanding of his Master – yet nevertheless “consciously rebels against Him”. For the knowledge has no bearing on Middot and thought, speech and action.

And in this aspect of Amalek –

that his knowledge of G-d (he knows his Master”) does not lead him to acceptance (Kabbalat Ol) his Master, at least according to this knowledge

(For the acceptance of G-d compels (the adoption) of Torah and Mitzvot. And if one is lacking in the acceptance of the yoke of his Master that it is considered (minutely) rebellion against one’s Master.

everyone must safeguard against. For in every level of Avodah and knowledge of G-d, there is a place for error in the aspect regarding acceptance of G-d etc.

7. With this we can also understand why the war of Amalek came about “on the way when you were going out of Egypt”, before Matan Torah.

Since everything is with Divine Providence, it is understood that the reason that the physical war with Amalek was before Matan Torah, is because Amalek, spiritually, opposes the allowance of the aspect and innovation of Matan Torah:

The innovation of Matan Torah is that Torah is not in the heavens – it should not just remain in the spiritual, but rather it must come down below – actually studying and specifically fulfilling physical Mitzvot. And on the contrary, the deed is primary.

This was the protest of the angels: 'that secret treasure etc. (You desire to give to flesh and blood etc.?) Set Your glory (the Torah) upon the Heavens! (tena hodcha al HaShamayim)”. Since Torah is the epitome of spirituality and loftiness, the place of “giving/tena” it should be “in the heavens” which is higher even more than the spirituality of this world (man’s intellect).

When one, however, nullifies the aspect of Amalek – that from intellect it is drawn down into actual deed – this is the completeness of the Name (including vav-hei). One can then nullify the protest of the Angels “Set Your glory (the Torah) upon the Heavensand the Torah is given here below.

This also explains the great aspect of remembering Amalek which is much more relevant than the other remembrances ( as aforementioned Par. 1). For remembering Amalek is a preparation and condition to the entire aspect of Giving the Torah. For before a Yid takes the Torah, he must have the nullification of Amalek - which does not allow the drawing of intellect into Middot and deed.

And by fulfilling the Mitzvah of remembering Amalek in the time of Galut which (refers to) nullifying the Amalek of the person’s soul, one exhorts and hastens that we should be able fulfill the Mitzvah of actually obliterating Amalek, in the complete world, and physically.

Then, there will be the aspect of “appointing the king” – King Moshiach (Malka Meshicha). For he will determine who is Amalek and (afterwards) fight the “Wars of G-d” – including (the war of G-d against Amalek) the war of Amalek – and he will be victorious. And then he will build the third Beis HaMikdash, speedily and in our days, mamosh.

(m’Sichas Shabbat Parshat Zachor 5733)


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