Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim

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Parshat Zachor Purim 5783
Rabbi Jablinowitz

The Medrash Tanchuma at the end of parshat Ki Seitzei points out that both the mitzvah of eradicating Amalek and the mitzvah of Shabbos are given with the same word; Zachor. Nonetheless, the two mitzvos are diametrically opposed. The Medrash connects this distinction with the pasuk in Koheles (Chapter 2, Pasuk 15), אמרתי אני בלבי כמקרה הכסיל גם אני יקרני. Shlomo Hamelech observes that at the end of the day, both the righteous and the wicked die. I might conclude, therefore, that since they both have same the fate, there is no ultimate difference between them. However, he concludes in the next pasuk, כי אין זכרון לחכם עם הכסיל לעולם; their memory afterward is totally different. One is remembered for all the good he has done, while the other is totally forgotten.

The same distinction applies to the two mitzvos of Zachor. The Medrash describes it as follows. The mitzvah of remembering, of Zachor on Shabbos, זכור את יום השבת לקדשו, is fulfilled on a table filled with delicacies with the individual dressed in his finest Shabbos clothes. The other mitzvah of Zachor, זכור את אשר עשה לך עמלק, is done on an empty table. It is a mitzvah of eradication; just as the wicked person leaves behind no memory, so too the remembering of Amalek is to remove any trace of them.

The Medrash Rabbah on Vayikra (33,1) quotes the pasuk from sefer Mishlei (Chapter 18, Pasuk 21), מות וחיים ביד הלשון; life and death are determined by the tongue. The Medrash brings a metaphor of burning coals; if one fans the coals, he ignites the flame. But if he spits on it, he extinguishes the flame. The Sfas Emes compares the coals in the metaphor to the Torah. He explains that the Gematria of גחלת, coals, is the same as אמת, truth. The truth of Torah has difficulty existing in our world which is a physical world of lies, עלמא דשיקרא. It is up to the Jew to fan the flames, using his mouth with words of Torah and mitzvos. Life and death are determined by the use of our mouth.

The pasuk in sefer Ovadiah says (Chapter 1, Pasuk 18), והיה בית יעקוב אש, ובית יוסף להבה ובית עשו לקש. Yaakov is fire, the coals in our metaphor, and Yaakov is the individual compared to the truth of Torah, as the pasuk says in Micha (Chapter 7, Pasuk 20), תתן אמת ליעקוב. But Yosef is the flame; he is the enthusiasm necessary to fan the flames and bring the coals of Torah to life in this world. And when this is done, then Eisav will be like straw. Then there will be a fulfillment of the eradication of Amalek.

The p’shat in the Medrash, therefore, is that by making Torah and mitzvos the main focus of one’s life, he is also eradicating Amalek. Therefore, חיים ומות ביד הלשון doesn’t mean a choice of life or death. Rather, they both occur. Bringing about the eternal life of Torah through our speech and action causes the death of Amalek as well. Fanning the coals and bringing out the Torah within, is considered as spitting on and extinguishing the coals of Amalek. When we remember and make Kiddush on a beautifully arranged Shabbos table, Amalek is “remembered” by being left with an empty table.

As the pasuk in Koheles quoted above states, there is a memory for the righteous, but not for the wicked. Similarly, Amalek is meant to be eradicated without a trace and memory, or any impression left over at all. This is the idea behind the mitzvah in the Gemara in Megillah 26B teaches, תשמישי קדושה נגנזין; mitzvah objects with inherent Kedushah must be buried. This is because even if they are no longer usable and are disqualified from their purpose, they always maintain their holiness. Anything with holiness always maintains the impression and remnant of its Kedushah. It always remains, even if just in memory.

Rabbi Yonoson David, shlita, suggests the same idea on Purim of מיחייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא עד דלא ידע. One is obligated to drink on Purim until he doesn’t have understanding. This mitzvah on Purim relates to a Jew who always maintains his impression of holiness. Even when he loses his ability to understand, the impression of that knowledge and understanding remains. This is the memory of the righteous, in contradistinction to the obliteration of the memory of Amalek.

Good Shabbos

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