1. This year, Shabbos Zachor and the Purim festival fall in direct proximity to each other. Our Sages explain that Shabbos Zachor — which recalls the command to destroy Amalek — should always be read on the Shabbos before Purim, thus connecting the obliteration of Amalek with the obliteration of Haman, one of his descendants. Furthermore, parshas Zachor is considered as the recollection of the command to destroy Amalek, and Purim, a commemoration of Amalek’s destruction. This points out the unique significance of the present year, when one follows directly after the other.1

These concepts have parallels which represent fundamental concepts in our service of G‑d. The Torah commands us to “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you left Egypt; how he encountered you on the way....” Our Sages teach “In every generation (and more particularly, each and every day2 ), a person is obligated to see himself as if he left Egypt.” The exodus from Egypt is more than a historical event. Rather, it represents a personal service in which each individual goes beyond his particular boundaries and limitations. After this service, each day, a Jew must confront Amalek.

Our Sages declare, “The Jews were commanded to fulfill three mitzvos upon their entry in to Eretz Yisrael, the appointment of a king, the destruction of Amalek, and the construction of the Bais HaMikdash.” The entry to Eretz Yisrael and the construction of the Bais HaMikdash were the goals of the exodus from Egypt. Before this process can be completed, Amalek’s memory must be obliterated.

Our Sages relate, “As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders,” implying that the Messianic redemption will resemble the exodus from Egypt for the exodus was the source of all subsequent redemptions. The ultimate goal of that redemption will be the construction of the Bais HaMikdash, “the Sanctuary of G‑d established by Your hands.” Before this happens, Amalek must be destroyed.3

This implies that we must realize that there is constantly an opponent, Amalek, challenging us, and “There will be war between G‑d and Amalek from generation to generation,” i.e., at all times, we must confront this challenge.

This concept can be understood based on the explanation of the connection between Purim and the giving of the Torah. On the verse, “And the Jews carried out and accepted,” our Sages commented: At the time of Purim, the Jews “carried out” what they had “accepted” on Mount Sinai. Our Sages explain that, at the giving of the Torah, G‑d “held the mountain4 over them like a barrel,” telling them, “If you accept the Torah, it is fine. If not, this will be your burial place.” Thus, there was a question regarding the Jews’ acceptance of the Torah. Did they really desire it, or did they accept only because of the threat hanging over them?

Nevertheless, when the Jews affirmed their acceptance of the Torah during the time of Achashverosh, showing a commitment of self-sacrifice despite the darkness of exile, they resolved any questions that could have possibly existed and demonstrated that their (and also, the original) acceptance of the Torah was genuine.

G‑d’s “forcing” the Jews to accept the Torah must also be interpreted in spiritual terms. It does not mean that the Jews did not want the Torah, but rather, that their desire for the Torah did not come from their own choice and initiative. The revelations of G‑dliness which accompanied the giving of the Torah were so powerful that they could not help but accept it. In contrast, during Achashverosh’s time, there was no revelation from above and the Jews’ commitment of mesirus nefesh came on their own initiative, as a product of their choice. This demonstrated that even the initial commitment made at the time of the giving of the Torah was an expression of the Jews’ true will. Indeed, because this commitment expressed the Jews’ true will, even when there was no revelation from above and there was a necessity to confront an enemy, they demonstrated a total commitment to Torah.

To explain the above in terms of our individual service: There are times when the light of a person’s soul shines in revelation. Then, he does not have to confront and fight against his yetzer hora. Rather, his service involves revealing the light of his soul. On such an occasion, however, it is not obvious how much his individual nature is affected, whether or not his behavior reflects his true will. On the other hand, a person who does not feel light, who faces a conflict to the extent that it is possible for him to contemplate transgressing G‑d’s will and he, nevertheless, refuses to do so and carries out G‑d’s will, is obviously doing so as an expression of his true and genuine desire.

The advantage of this service, Iskafia, corresponds to the advantage baalei teshuvah possess over tzaddikim. Thus, at the time of the giving of the Torah, there was great Divine revelation and the Jews were on the level of tzaddikim. In contrast, during the time of Achashverosh, there was great concealment. Nevertheless, the Jews’ expression of a commitment to Torah and mitzvos despite these factors showed that this was their true desire.

In this context, we can understand the eternal relevance of the conflict with Amalek. As stated above, Amalek “encountered” the Jews on their way out of Egypt. The Hebrew word korcha translated as “encountered you” can also be rendered “cooled you off.” Amalek causes the Jews’ service of G‑d to be cold, without energy or warmth, mitzvos performed out of habit.5

Amalek is described as “the first of the gentiles,” i.e., the beginning of the opposition to holiness. Therefore, when the Jews left Egypt — in personal terms, when a person tries to rise above his boundaries and limitations — he must confront Amalek, a conflict, which will demonstrate that his commitment to Torah represents his true will.

The advantage of the service of Iskafia is also reflected in the comparison between the remembrance of Amalek on Shabbos Zachor and the “obliteration” of Amalek on Purim itself. To explain: Some opinions relate that the two mitzvos, the remembrance and the obliteration of Amalek, refer to two different periods within Jewish history. When it is possible, Amalek must be obliterated. If that is not possible, at the very least, its wickedness should be recalled. This explanation is not entirely correct, rather, as the Rambam writes:

He commanded us to remember what Amalek did to us... so that this will arose the desire to fight against him in our souls so that the people will hate him. When Shmuel the Prophet began to fulfill this mitzvah... first he commanded them to remember [Amalek’s] evil acts and then, he commanded them to slay them.

Thus, it is clear that the remembrance of Amalek is intended to ensure that the obliteration of him will be carried out with an active desire. We must destroy Amalek, not only because we are commanded to do so by G‑d, but also because we have aroused — and in doing so, have fulfilled another mitzvah — hatred for Amalek.

There is another point, however. There is an advantage to arousing hatred (remembering) Amalek even when one does not have the potential to destroy him. This shows that even when a person is on a lower level and does not have the potential to overcome his enemy, he is not overcome by him. On the contrary, though he does not actually engage in conflict with Amalek, inside he arouses hatred for him. This shows that the opposition to Amalek is absolute and reflects the Jews’ true feelings as explained above regarding the service of Iskafia.

The ultimate goal, however, is that we should reach the obliteration of Amalek. Though there is an advantage to the service of Iskafia, that advantage involves revealing the true and inner will of the Jews. The ultimate goal, from the perspective of G‑d and the world at large, however, is to obliterate Amalek entirely.

This year, when Purim follows directly after Shabbos Zachor, we combine both qualities, and immediately subsequent to the recollection of Amalek (Shabbos Zachor, Iskafia), follows the complete obliteration of Amalek (Purim). This demonstrates that even when Amalek exists, the only reason for its existence is to bring out the advantage of the service of Iskafia.

2. There is a point of connection between the above concepts and this week’s Torah portion, parshas Tetzaveh.6 Parshas Tetzaveh begins with the command to light the Menorah. The Menorah burnt “from evening to the morning” with the intention of illuminating the darkness. Similarly, in our personal service, it refers to a situation where light does not shine within a person’s soul and his service is characterized by Iskafia.

This is also alluded to by the fact that the oil used to kindle the Menorah must be “crushed for the light.” Crushing also signifies the service of Iskafia when a person must fight against his basic nature. Nevertheless, this is not the ultimate goal, but a means to reach complete service. Thus, the process of crushing produces pure oil, without any dregs at all, referring to a level of service above any connection with opposing influences.

Here also, we can see a point of connection with the Torah portion of the following week, parshas Ki Sisa, which begins with the command to give the half-shekel. The half-shekel was intended to be “atonement for your souls,” emphasizing that it was connected with service within the context of this world (Iskafia). Nevertheless, even on such a level, a Jew is able to give over his entire existence to G‑d, establishing complete unity with Him.7

Similarly, in regard to the effect within the world, originally, the half-shekel was used for the sockets for the Sanctuary, i.e., the Sanctuary’s foundation. Similarly, each year the half-shekels would be used to purchase the communal offerings whose sacrifice was the primary goal of the Sanctuary. Thus, the donation of these half-shekels is fundamentally related to the service of elevating the physical world and making it part of G‑d’s Sanctuary.

Nevertheless, the name of the portion, Ki Sisa, “When you shall lift up,” implies that the Jews are lifted up above the material existence of the world. Even after the world has been refined and transformed into a “dwelling for G‑d,” the level of the Jewish people is higher and they are separated from the world. This is alluded to by the fact that the Jews are called Ivri’im (“Hebrews”) which, as our Sages explain, means that they are on the opposite side of the entire world. More importantly, they are called Yehudim, which alludes to the service of mesirus nefesh, through which they establish complete unity with G‑d’s essence.

3. The advantage of confronting a negative force is not merely that it reveals that the Jews’ service is wholehearted (coming as a result of their choice and not in reaction to a revelation from above). This service also reveals how the descent into the darkness of the material world and the service of refining this level of existence draws down the revelation of G‑d’s essence. G‑d’s essence is above both darkness and light. Therefore, it has the potential to transform darkness into light.

The transformation of darkness into light is alluded to in the name, Megillas Esther. Esther refers to the quality of concealment as our Sages declared, “What is the allusion to Esther in the Torah? ‘I will surely conceal (hastir astir) My face.’ ” To further emphasize this quality of concealment, G‑d’s name is not mentioned at all in the Megillah and the Megillah begins with the verse, “And it was in the days of Achashverosh,” relating that the entire story which follows is a narrative of the times of Achashverosh, a gentile king who oppressed the Jews.

Nevertheless, in the midst of this darkness and concealment, the Jews revealed their essential ability to serve G‑d of their own volition, without prompting from above, and, in this manner, reaffirmed the commitment made at the time of the giving of the Torah.

The Jew’s mesirus nefesh transcended the limits of intellect. This relates to the name of the holiday Purim, which means “lottery” in Persian. A lottery reveals an essential choice that reflects the level of yechidah, the point in soul which is absolutely united with G‑d’s essence.

G‑d’s essence is above all names. Since the Megillah reveals this dimension of G‑dliness, no name of G‑d is mentioned. This revelation is drawn down into “the days of Achashverosh,” the lowest levels of the world, revealing how even the undesirable elements of the world can be transformed into positive forces.8

The Megillah concludes with an expression of Jewish unity, describing how Mordechai “sought the welfare of all his people.” On the level of yechidah, there is no difference between one Jew and another and, hence, complete unity can be established among our people. Since the exile came about because of “unwonted hatred,” separation and conflict among Jews, through this expression of unity, the reason for the exile will be nullified and this will bring about the nullification of the exile itself. We will “join one redemption to another,” and proceed from the redemption of Purim to the Messianic redemption, when the concepts of peace and unity will be expressed in the most complete manner.

The high level attained through the transformation of darkness to light in the Megillah is reflected in our Sages’ statement that all the other books of the prophets and sacred writings will be nullified in the Messianic age and the Megillah will never be nullified. Rather, it will remain together with the Five Books of Moshe and the halachos of the oral law. Similarly, the holiday of Purim will never be nullified even in the Messianic age.9 This shows how the revelation which brings about the transformation of darkness into light will be significant even in the Messianic age.

The above is also connected with the unique fact that, this year, Purim is celebrated on a Sunday. In contrast to the other festivals, work is permitted on Purim. Nevertheless, Chassidic thought describes this in a positive context. The other festivals relate to very high levels of G‑dliness which cannot be revealed within the material context of the world. Hence, there is a cessation of work which reflects an elevation of the world. In contrast, the revelation of Purim is associated with G‑d’s essence which transcends all concepts of limitation. In regard to this level, the sublime level of Chochmah and material reality are equal. Hence, it can be revealed even in an atmosphere of mundane activity.

This concept receives special emphasis on Sunday. The Torah describes Sunday as yom echad, “one day,” interpreted by our Sages to mean, “the day when G‑d was at One with His world.” Though the entire creation had already come into being, there was no separation and the world was at one with G‑d.

This concept is also reflected in the Song of the Day, recited on Sunday, which begins, “The earth and all therein is the L‑rd’s.” This Psalm is also recited on Rosh HaShanah because it reflects G‑d’s sovereignty over the world. It also relates to the Messianic era when the entire world will recognize His rule.

“Deed is most essential.” It is necessary to make an increase in all matters of Torah and mitzvos in keeping with the Jews’ reaffirmation of the acceptance of Torah on Purim. In particular, efforts should be made to continue activities which, as does the mitzvah of mishloach manos, reflect ahavas Yisrael, the love for our fellow Jews, and achdus Yisrael, the unity of the Jewish people. Similarly, increases should be made in gifts to tzedakah, reflecting the mitzvah of matanos l’evyonim.

Also, efforts should be made to continue the celebrations of Purim in the days which follow the holiday, holding at least three farbrengens. In general, efforts should be made to increase farbrengens and other expressions of happiness connected with a mitzvah.10

May these celebrations lead to the fulfillment of the prophecy, “those that lie in the dust will arise and sing.” We will “join one redemption to another;” i.e., may Mashiach come before Purim and then, may we proceed from the Messianic redemption to the redemption of Purim.