On the Shabbat before Purim, the Torah reading includes a special section known as Parshat Zachor. The Zachor reading deals with the commandment to remember Amalek and how they attacked the Jewish people, without any provocation, after the Jews Egypt. Haman, the villain of the Purim story, was a descendant of Amalek; hence the connection to Purim.

Amalek represents the prototypical anti-Semite, and in our own time this infamous title has generally been bestowed on the Nazi regime. Many a Jewish author and chronicler of the Holocaust termed Hitler’s hordes the Amalekites of our generation. And so the commandment to remember what Amalek did once upon a time still speaks to us today, impressing upon us that we never allow the memories to fade into oblivion.

As the son of a survivor—my father lost his entire family in the Holocaust—this is a subject very close to my heart. I’ve read widely, often speak about the Holocaust, have addressed major memorials, and generally regard it as the most cataclysmic event to have engulfed our people in many centuries, perhaps even since the destruction of Jerusalem.

But right now I’d like to say, “On the other hand.” And the other side of the story is that as important, and imperative, as it is to remember the Holocaust, there is a danger that in our schools and when educating our young people we might overemphasize it to the exclusion of all else. I am not the first to express the concern that educators, writers and filmmakers may overdo it, to the extent that our children may grow up knowing more about the Holocaust than about Judaism.

Judaism existed before the Holocaust, and will continue to exist long after. Judaism is not only tragedy, or even a response to tragedy. The Jewish experience isn’t only pain and persecution, trials and tribulations. Judaism is joy, happiness and a celebration of life. Judaism is Shabbat, the festivals, putting on tefillin, having a brit, standing under a chupah, frolicking on Purim and dancing on Simchat Torah.

The Jewish people have been called upon by G‑d to be a holy nation and a light unto the nations of the world. We have been entrusted with a mission of morality and mentschlichkeit, of G‑dly values, of charity, of caring for each other and others.

People say that modern Israel has risen from the ashes of Auschwitz. But without a positive purpose to being Jewish, a Jewish state becomes meaningless. We might have made the desert bloom and created the only democracy in the Middle East, but in the grand scheme of things, what is it all about? Without a higher raison d’etre, we become just another Lebanon, and produce an Israeli mafia.

There has always been a higher destiny and a deeper purpose to our Jewishness. We dare not allow the entirety of our Jewish identity to be consumed by the reaction to anti-Semitism. Holocaust studies are sacred, in the sense that we have a solemn obligation never to forget “what Amalek did to you” and to forever honor the memories of millions of our martyrs. But our people and our faith go beyond the fight for survival and the determination to outlive our enemies and tormentors. There is a purpose to our survival. We must survive not only to spite Hitler and Amalek, but to assure our continuity, preserve our way of life, and successfully fulfill the Jewish mission to the world. All of creation depends on it.

Let us never forget our painful past. But let us always remember that there is more to being Jewish than kaddish and yahrtzeit. There is wisdom and wonder, philosophy and purpose, joy and celebration.

Happy Purim!