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What do we remember?

הרב יהודה עמיטל

* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

This coming Shabbat is "Shabbat Zachor" or Shabbat of Remembrance.In the synagogue, along with the Torah portion of the week, we will hear the verses that are always read prior to Purim, beginning with: "Remember what Amalek did to you."

Rabbi Yehuda Amital z"l, a Holocaust survivor, briefly explained the war we have today with Amalek. This is not a war against another nation (has anyone seen an Amalekite walking down the street lately?), but rather a war against a perspective on life. Rabbi Amital asks that we focus on the words the Torah uses regarding Amalek: "how he happened upon you on the way."

The words "happened upon you" describe Amalekiteness. It's the idea that everything happens by chance, arbitrarily, that our values change in every generation, if not from one moment to the next, because nothing is absolute and there is nothing to which to aspire.

But our response to this perspective appears in the continuation of the same verse: "on the way." The nation of Israel is always on the way, always on a mission. In the words of Rabbi Amital:

"Amalek's ideology was, in fact, anti-ideology: Everything is acceptable, everything happens by chance. There is no absolute value to which we must adhere. Doubt is all-pervasive. As opposed to this world view, the nation of Israel has always been 'on the way.' Each one of us has a direction and a purpose with clear values to which he or she is committed. And each detail of our lives is included in our journey along this special path. On Shabbat Zachor, this is what we need to remember, while reminding ourselves of the way that we must go."


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