Parasha Tetzaveh/Purim

Only a smattering of Shabbatot have "names."  Shabbat T'tzavveh is also known as Shabbat Zakhor as it immediately precedes Purim, and at the end of the Torah reading (from a second Torah, from Parashat Ki Tetzei) we read of the attack of Amalek.  There is a tradition from the Talmud that Haman was descended from Amalek.  The Amalek portion includes the firm commandment to remember his attack.  I encourage you to read it from Deuteronomy 25:17-19.  In very traditional settings all men and women make a special effort to "hear" that reading.  As Jews, we see that things do not change.

While the initial Torah portions lack the drama of Megillat Esther, they do provide a sensuous experience in their accounts of the colors, textures, sounds, tastes, and fragrances of the Tabernacle and the High Priest's vestments.  Mordechai, too, wears special vestments-first of bereavement and later of royalty, symbolizing the shifting fortunes of the Jews in his era.

The passage addressing Amalek's attack recalls a significant aspect of our bloody history, and, at the same time, alerts us to new perils while eliciting divine compassion.  Indeed, Jewish memory is sometimes of future events.  Zikaron is about aspiration and hope as much as about preserving a sense of the past. "Memory" is not an adequate translation for the word "zakhor." "Mindfulness" may sound too trendy, but it is in fact a decent approximation of the experience of Zikaron.

On Shabbat Zakhor we all become like priests, bearing the names of our people and also of our oppressors, in a ritualized form of memory before God. In Psalm 92, we read that the wicked "flower like grass" but will eventually be scattered and destroyed by God. That is, the victory of evil is never as complete as it seems; salvation awaits at the darkest junctures. At this moment it may seem that the darkest days of Jewish history are behind us, but Shabbat Zakhor is a day to be on guard for future peril. Yet, there is also a positive side to this Zikaron. We should not forget the resilience of evil, but we should also not forget the potential for deliverance. 

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Purim!

Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham