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              Dispelling the Shadow: Parshat Zachor-   the Secret of Amalek

02/27/2023 12:45:19 AM


Rabbi Moshe Rudin


This Shabbat we read Parshat Zachor, a short passage from Deuteronomy evoking a moment of unspeakable horror and trauma:

Remember what Amalek did to you as you left Egypt: coming upon you when you were exhausted and weakened, attacking the stragglers, the hurt and exhausted with no regard, no reverence for G-d or life.  It shall be that when Adonai, your G-d has given you respite from your foes all around in the Land that Adonai your G-d is giving you for an inheritance, you shall obliterate the memory of Amalek from beneath the heavens.  Do not forget. 


Amalek is the nation of marauders who have always had it in for Israel, driven by an ancient and irrelevant sense of grievance dragged up from the contested and inconclusive past.  

The generations-long conflict with Amalek, like the ancient, irrational scourge of antisemitism, is an expression of the same primal evil that haunts humanity.  Too often the promise and the hope of the human spirit is blighted and corrupted by this shadow of savagery that forever threatens and sometimes indeed breaks through.  Amalek is our name for this shadow.  How can it be defeated at last?

The verses above contain the answer:  “It shall be when Adonai your G-d has given you respite from the foes around you in the Land…”  In partnership with Adonai, the life force of the universe, respite- peace- can somehow be achieved.  And then: You shall obliterate the memory of Amalek from beneath the heavens.   Not Amalek itself but the memory of Amalek.  Amalek, the shadow cast on the soul of humanity.  

Shadows are not dispelled by more shadow but by light.  Light is what enables us to truly see each other.  Light is love.  In the holiday of Purim that arrives next week, there is nothing of the struggle with Amalek.  Haman is defeated by G-d’s hidden miracle, embodied in Esther.  Our task and the all of the practices and Mitzvot of Purim is to love one another.  

Giving Purim baskets, gifts to the poor, celebrating together and even reading the story of the Megilla all say the same thing: love is not complicated or difficult: it’s as simple as a smile, a shared treat, a celebration, a good story shared.  Amalek cannot exist in a world of light and light is what we are all made out of.  Let yours shine.  Happy Purim!

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Wed, April 17 2024 9 Nisan 5784