For Purim

The following is a translation from Hebrew of a section from Yishmiru Daat, Reb Zalman’s wonderful Sefer.  On Shabbos zachor, the Shabbos before Purim, (this year, March 7, 2009), we read about Haman’s ancestor Amalek.  Reb Zalman’s piece below gives us a fresh way to understand what the Torah had in mind when it asked us to remember Amalek, one of the six rememberances, (sheish zechiros).   Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor

“Remember what Amalek did to you — — how he chilled you on the way and brought you down — — and when it comes to pass that you will find your peace and rest in the land to which the Lord your God will take you, you are to erase the memory of Amalek — do not forget!, (Deut 25;17,18,19). ”

Erase the memory of Amalek — that is, make sure that no memory of Amalek will remain with you.  Nevertheless, it says right away, “Do not forget.” This looks like a contradiction, (i.e. to remove all memory of Amalek and then, right away the words, “Do not forget.”)  It creates a paradox that does not yield to reason in a simple way.  This leads us to a SaFeQ / a doubt as to how to fulfill this commandment.

And why is this commandment surrounded by doubt?  It’s not by accident.  If you check the numerical value of Amalek it equals 240, which is the numerical value of the word SaFeQ / doubt.  (ayin 70 + mem 40 + nun 30 + kuf 100 = samech 60 + feh 80 + kuf 100).  And what is that deepest doubt that plagues us?  It stems from an existential doubt whether to keep on living or to end it all.  (On an archetypal level, the deep force that is within and that is aimed to destroy and diminish oneself can be found in the strong reasonings and arguments as set forth by the angel Azael.  At a time when the world was still being planned by its Creator, Azael argued that mankind must not be created; that God would stand to lose.  Refer also to the discourse on Yom Kippur in Sefer Beit Yaakov (by the Izbitzer).  This accusation against mankind is the same as what’s found in the Christian concept, “Original Sin,” the sin of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil.) 

It is true that there are some times in our lives when the whole beautiful fragrance of life takes on the bad odor of rot.  It is at such times that it is most urgent to, (Deut 4;10) “Remember the day when you stood before the Lord our God at Mount Sinai.”  As we are told in the Talmud, (Shabbos 146a), at Mount Sinai “the bad odor was removed from them,”  and, (Ketubot 111b) “the dew of Torah revived them.”  (Also,  to strengthen oneself through the Holy Name, (Song 1;3) “Your essence is as a precious scent; therefore do the maidens” – (i.e., the worlds – alamot – olamot) “love You.”)

When we find ourselves dealing with the “bad odor”, when we are in a war, in battles, or in the desert, (as, e.g.  (Jer, 2;2) “into the Wilderness, into a land that was not sown”), it is very difficult to erase the memory of Amalek.  It is at such a time that we begin to challenge our own worth. But while we’re told, (Ps.8;5) “What is a human edition that You would take notice of them,” nevertheless, as it says right afterwards, (ibid, verse 6)  “You made him only a touch less than divine,” and (Ps. 34;10.)  “one will never” – that means never ever – “experience privation” – not privation in the slightest – “if one opens to God in holy awe.”  (Not even the first tzimtzum, the time when the withdrawal of the light of Eyn Sof occurred to create a space devoid of God’s light, not even this cosmic time of apparent darkness and despair was exempt from the principle that the opening to God in holy awe will mean one will never experience privation.  Because even at this time, it had already been written that we would one day stand before God at Sinai.)

It is for this reason that the Torah urges us not to fall into despair, but to “Remember what Amalek has done to us,” i.e., that Amalek placed in us an existential doubt when we were leaving Egypt.  Having been enslaved by the Egyptians, we began to believe them when they said that we were worthless, that we had no other value, and that we did, in fact, deserve to be slaves.  To a degree, we even believed that  we deserved to be the “tail of things” and not the “head,” and also, that while Amalek claimed to be (Num 24;20) “principal among nations,” we had no worth at all.  And we were tired and exhausted and our fear gave us the self loathing, cutting us off from God. 

So, “It will come to pass that when God will have given you respite from all the enemies surrounding you,”–  even at a time when people feel safe, they still sometimes forget to heal the past traumas of the heart.  But the Torah reminds us, that at precisely this time, when things are going well, we are to remember to eradicate the memory of Amalek, the mantra of our worthlessness, that robs us of our value.  Therefore, we must not forget to put in place the better mantra, “we are God’s treasure,” (as in Deut 26;18, “God has bespoken you… and you have bespoken God.”)

5 Responses to “For Purim”

  1. Integral Halachah - Interfaith forums Says:

    […] across a translation of a different passage from one of those texts that was recently translated: Reb Zalman Legacy Project Blog Archive For Purim but at least to me that particular passage isn’t dealing much with Renewal thought. It does […]

  2. Chaplain Gloria Krasno Says:

    Shabbos Zachor

    I cry in the night . . . remembering
    And then I erase Amalek
    Remembering to ‘re-member’


  3. bobby minkoff Says:

    Doubt is the illness spread by Amalek. Standing in Holy Awe is the medicine. The problem is we often forget to take our medicine, therefore it says: Do Not Forget.

  4. Andrea Cohen-Kiener Says:

    Rebbeynu – there is strong Torah in this. Thank you.

  5. Sharonah Laemmle Says:

    My current antidote for doubt & despair is GRATITUDE. “If the only prayer you say in your whole life is ‘Thank You,’ that would suffice.” Meister Eckhart
    Happy Purim!

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