Vayikra Parshat Zachor MARCH 15, 2003 Rabbi Moshe P. Weisblum (To Remember—Remembering)
Every Friday, I have the custom of going to our Kneseth Israel nursery school to sing the upcoming Shabbat songs with the little children. Yesterday, when I went there, we had the chance to discuss the story of Purim. I asked the little children, "Who is Haman?" and one child said that he was an evil man that lived in Persia. Another boy stood up and boldly said, "No, you’re wrong, he lived in Iraq…."
Several days ago there was a big explosion in the city of Haifa in Israel. My parents, as you know, live there. I can’t describe how I felt when I called my family to see if they were all right over there. Thank G-d they were safe. But the feeling, the constant feeling of fear and uncertainty, is just terrible. Twelve years ago, during the Gulf War, I remember vividly that most of the Israelis who died in that war died because of fear. About 11 out of 12 casualties were caused by fear--through heart attacks, elderly people who didn’t know how to wear their mask or people who incorrectly injected themselves.
This is the exact goal that our enemies want to achieve. They want us to worry; they want us to have fear. They want us to not sleep at night and to worry about the next day. They want us to not concentrate on our daily lives, but only on how they will attack us.
You know friends, we read today, the second Torah portion that we always read before Purim,Zachor, which means "To Remember." We read today from the book of Deuteronomy the part that deals with the rule Amelek. Our forefathers left Egypt after so many years of slavery. While they were in the desert, the nation of Amalek attacked Israel. According to the Biblical text, this attack was unwarranted, for no reason whatsoever. G-d wants us to remember that. Because this decree was against the innocent children, women and elderly, therefore, the Mitzvah, to participate with reading this Torah portion, applies to everyone under any condition. We must hear this Torah portion again and again.
In the conclusion of the portion, we have the chapter from the Book of Samuel. Because we did not fulfill G-d’s commandment to annihilate the nation of Amalek, the descendants of Amalek, the Agagites, as is stated in the account of Samuel, Chapter 15, attacked us. G-d commanded Samuel to tell Saul to annihilate the nation of Aggagites, which G-d called the descendants of Amalek. These are the words of G-d, 1st Samuel 15, "So sayeth the Lord, Master of the nations, I have remembered what Amalek did to Israel. The ambush he emplaced against him on the way as he went up from Egypt. Now go and strike down Amalek and destroy everything he has. Have no pity on him. Kill men, women alike. Infants and sucklings alike. Ox and sheep alike. Camel and donkey alike."
King Saul followed G-d’s commands and struck Amalek, but it is written here in sentence 9, "King Saul, as well as the people, took pity on Agag, on the best of the sheep, cattle, the fatted bulls, the fatted sheep, and they were not willing to destroy them."
The Word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, "I have reconsidered my having made Saul King, for he has turned away from me and has not fulfilled my word." Samuel tried to talk with Saul, and finally after a series of rebukes, Saul admitted that he had made a mistake. But it was too late. Saul lost his Kingdom, Saul killed the king of Agag, but the mistake was made. The children of Amalek survived and what happened, the descendants of Agag, of Amalek remained. And again, several generations later, the nation of Amalek, the Agagites, try to kill us. The year, the date of Mordechai and Esther, 3,405 years from creation, the Aggagites, the Amalekites, made the order to annihilate all of the Jews - 127 provinces. Around the world, women and children alike and miraculously the Jewish people gathered together and fasted for three days. Esther boldly made her request before the King, and the tide of history was changed as Israel was spared, thank G-d.
The story of Esther and her boldness helps us to remember our history every year during the Purim Celebration. There are many who believe that the evil Hitler was a descendant of Amalek, Agag. And here in our modern world, in our current time, we again are facing a situation of an evil man who threatens the innocents of the world by using biochemical weapons to control the world. He has no pity, no compassion upon anyone. At this time, we are commanded to follow the commandments of Zachor. We read today in the Torah, the Zachor, (Deuteronomy 25:17-19) "Remember what Amalek did to you on the way when you were leaving Egypt. That he happened upon you on the way and he struck those of you who were hindmost. All the weaklings at your rear when you were faint and exhausted and he did not fear G-d. It shall be that when the Lord your G-d gives you rest from all your enemies all around in the land that the Lord your G-d gives you as an inheritance to possess it you shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven. You shall not forget."
Now, the U.S. military is gathered in Kuwait, willing and ready to wipe out this evil ruler in Iraq in order to protect the world. A university professor in one of my classes, told us that he has his grandson and his daughter-in-law for a month living with him in his house because his son is a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. He said, "As a Gentile, I am looking into the eyes of my grandson, who is now 13, and I said to him, ‘We must wipe out the evil now in order for us to survive. Daddy has to do it for you in order for you and others around the country to survive and live a normal live.’" The actions that are taking place now in Iraq are a necessary evil to prevent the destruction of the world. This is the fulfillment of G-d’s commandment, "You shall wipe out and you shall not forget."
We, as a Jewish people and as Americans, must stand proud and firm, and believe in a hope for the future of our children. We shall not follow the mistakes that King Saul made by having compassion when you are commanded to not have compassion. In the Army they used to teach us to, "Kill or you get killed." Since 9/11, more and more intelligence information has revealed that the terrorists are threatening the life of the American way and the entire world. This is a time for us to unite and to look to the future with hope.
Let us pray together for all of our military men and women who are now preparing to go into battle. Let us pray that they all return home safely. Let us hope and pray this time will be the last battle. Let us call upon for the fulfillment of the word of the prophet Isaiah,"Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall man know war anymore." With this prayer and charity we believe that G-d has compassion upon his creatures and will have mercy on us by helping us bring a real peace to the world.