1. Many Halachic authorities1 maintain that it is a positive commandment from the Torah to hear the reading of Parshas Zachor. Hearing each of the other Torah readings (with the exception of Parshas Parah, according to some opinions,) is considered a Rabbinic decree.

The question arises: Why was the remembrance of Amalek connected with the reading of the Torah. There are a number of matters which we are obligated to recall, including “Six Remembrances” that we recite every day. Among them is the remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt. However, aside from remembering Amalek, there are no remembrances which are connected to a special Torah reading. Furthermore, the remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt has an advantage over the remembrance of Amalek. The remembrance of the Exodus is a Mitzvah for all generations, even the Messianic age, and it must be recalled both at night and during the day, making it a constant obligation. We are not obligated to remember Amalek in the same manner. There are some opinions who maintain that it is necessary to recall Amalek only once a year. Even those who hold that the Mitzvah applies to each day of the year agree that it is not as constant an obligation as the Mitzvah to recall the Exodus. Also in Messianic times there will be no need to remember Amalek. Moshiach will have destroyed Amalek before the building of the Temple and the ingathering of exiles.2 Considering all this, it is difficult to understand why a special Torah reading was instituted to recall the Exodus.

It is possible to answer that the question answers itself. Because the remembrance of Egypt is essential and constant, there is no need to institute a special Torah reading on its behalf.

On the other hand, the obligation to remember Amalek is fulfilled only once a year.3 When that one time comes it is carried out with full strength and power, including a reading from the Torah. However, this rationale is weak and does not provide an adequate answer to the question.

Another possible explanation is that the remembrance of Amalek shares an intrinsic connection to Torah, while the Exodus from Egypt does not. The Hebrew word for Egypt — Mitzarim — is related to the world Maytzarim — boundaries and limitations. Our Exodus from Egypt symbolizes our breaking out of all limitations that hold us back in our service of G‑d. Therefore the Exodus applies to all aspects of our service of G‑d, and has no specific connection to Torah. The remembrance of the Exodus is constant, in the morning and in the evening, affecting every aspect of our lives. On the other hand, the Mitzvah to remember Amalek is specifically tied to Torah. Amalek attacked the Jews in the midst of their journey to receive the Torah — hence, its’ remembrance is specifically related to the reading of the Torah.

The connection between the remembrance of Amalek and the particular Torah reading of that day (in contrast to all parts of the Torah) can be understood as follows: Amalek did not oppose all aspects of Torah; they opposed the Torah as it was given on Mt Sinai. Torah existed before the revelation of Mt Sinai, as our sages Yoma 28b declared, “Avraham was old and studied in the Yeshivah,” and, “In all the days of our forefathers, a Yeshivah was maintained.” However, before Mt Sinai, Torah was not related to the world. Only then was a connection between Torah and the world established. G‑d’s commandment, “I am the L‑rd your G‑d,” reverberated throughout the totality of creation to the point where “a bird did not chirp...and an ox did not bellow”; a connection of Torah with the world. Amalek was opposed to this aspect of the Torah. Thus, the remembrance of Amalek is connected with an aspect of Torah that is related to the world — a scroll with ink written upon parchment — and the reading of the Torah is done in public and in a publicized manner.

2. When one prepares for war, he assesses the resources of his opponent and sets up his means of attack accordingly. The approach used to combat an enemy depends on his particular nature. Therefore, the approach the Jewish people used to fight Amalek differed from the approach they used in other wars. Similarly, in regard to our inner spiritual battle, i.e., our conflict with the Yetzer Hora (evil Inclination), a difference exists between our approach to combat each particular devise used by the Yetzer Hora. Our means of response depends on the particular nature of the challenge.

The spiritual challenge Amalek posed is unique. He attacked Israel after they left Egypt. He had heard about the miracles that had taken place in Egypt. Therefore, he could not approach the Jewish people with the argument that the miracles did not exist,4 for they would not accept such an argument being that they witnessed the miracles with their own eyes — to the point that they “believed in Hashem and Moshe His servant.” Furthermore, Amalek could not try to tell the Jewish people to “go to sleep,” to become lax in their service of G‑d, because the Jewish people were “on the way” to Mt Sinai. They were going from the Exodus from Egypt to the Giving of the Torah and they would not be deterred or held back. Therefore, Amalek had to devise a unique approach. Amalek argued “Surely there were miracles, and surely you must proceed to receive the Torah, but what’s the hurry? Why is it necessary to have so much feeling and excitement?” Amalek’s weapon is coldness;5 he dampens the Jewish people’s enthusiasm.

If one argues with Amalek saying that the service of G‑d must be charged with great zeal, as exemplified by Avraham, who “rose early in the morning” to set out for the Akeida (the binding of Yitzchok), Amalek will answer: “Surely, but let us sit down and carefully decide which issues are important and must be reacted to with zeal. After all, you are a thinker; you must approach everything intellectually. Think over and consider the matter fully.”

Our sages teach that Amalek must be countered through a service of the heart, as the Talmud (Megillah 18a) states, “Don’t forget (Amalek) must be fulfilled with one’s heart.” We must proceed to Mt Sinai and the Giving of the Torah with our feelings, not with our intellect. Only when motivated by feelings of the heart will we proceed with warmth and excitement.

Intellect requires peace of mind and peace of the body. We must be able to meditate in a relaxed manner, and a journey (to Torah) will disrupt that process. Therefore, our intellect will cool down our enthusiasm to journey forward to the Giving of the Torah. On the other hand, movement is natural to the heart6 which is excited and active. Therefore, the heart should be the major influence in our journey to the Giving of the Torah.

After Amalek cools one off, he uses another approach to deter the Jewish people from the path that leads to the Torah: He explains, “Surely miracles exist; the events that are above the limits of nature were caused by G‑d. But nature, the mundane pattern in which the world proceeds, is not controlled by Him.” Amalek argues that G‑d controls events of great importance, but not the small things.7 He knew that the Jewish people would not deny G‑d’s control over the world. However, he hoped to sway them away from a complete faith. It is necessary that a Jew believe that G‑d controls even the most inconsequential aspects of creation. The Baal Shem Tov teaches us that the turning of a leaf in the wind is a direct result of the Divine Will and Desire.

The above concept (that Hashgachah Protis is even on small things) is fundamental to our belief in G‑d, and is an extension of our simple faith in G‑d. Two of the basic principles of our faith are that G‑d is the controller of the world, and that “G‑d is exalted above all nations,” — before Him the great and the small are equal. Since the great and small are equal before Him, it is improper to say that more Hashgachah Protis is involved with “great” matters than with “small” ones. Our definitions of ‘great’ and ‘small’ do not apply in relation to Him. The opinion that maintains that He does not control “small” matters, also implies that “great” matters are beyond His influence. Therefore, we must conclude that He controls everything and that the most minute occurrence is as important to Him as a miracle.

Our response to Amalek is two-fold. The service of the heart alone is insufficient. Therefore, our sages explained that the Mitzvah, “Remember (Amalek), must be carried out with our mouths.” Though each Jew has a “Pintele Yid,” innate feelings of faith, he must bring those feelings “to his mouth.” That is, he must express them in actions, as our sages commented, “the movement of one’s lips is a deed.” However, deed alone is also insufficient. One’s Torah actions should not become routine, lacking in feeling and enthusiasm. We must become emotionally involved and excited in our Torah service.

The above must produce an intensification of our efforts to establish fixed times of Torah study and to arrange public classes of Torah learning. — This is particularly relevant to Purim at which time “they (Jews) confirmed what they had undertaken long before (at the Giving of the Torah).” — Through a Jew doing all in his capabilities “to blot out the memory of Amalek” (Devorim 25:19) we prepare the world for the destruction of Amalek by G‑d (Shemos 17:14), with the coming of Moshiach, in the near future.

3. The above applies to the reading of Parshas Zachor each year. This year there is a unique lesson that can be derived from the fact that Parshas Zachor is read on the 13th of Adar.8 That lesson is emphasized by the fact that there are many new laws that take place this year, beginning with the fast being moved to the 11th day of Adar.9

One of the lessons connected with the present date is the proximity between the day on which the command to remember and wipe out Amalek is read (Shabbos), and the day on which that command is fulfilled (Sunday). On Purim we read the Megillah which relates the story of the battle against Haman, a descendent of Amalek, and his supporters. This close proximity will cause the destruction (and all other preparations connected with Purim) to be carried out with greater force.

In addition to the above lesson, there is also a lesson that can be learned from the fact that the 13th of Adar falls on Shabbos. The 13th of Adar contains two aspects: 1) The 13th of Adar is Erev Purim, the day on which we prepare for the celebration of Purim. These preparations receive added strength from the influence of Shabbos. 2) The 13th of Adar has a unique quality of its own — it is the day on which the Jewish people “gathered together and defended themselves.” The fast of Esther shares a spiritual connection with that service, therefore, it is held on that particular day. However, the aspects of “gathering together and defending oneself” that are connected with fasting and the service of the 13th of Adar, are carried out this year with rest and pleasure because of the Shabbos. Furthermore, on Shabbos we must consider “all work (even spiritual work) as finished” and we are forbidden to begin a war on Shabbos; it follows that the manner in which “we defend ourselves” is different from usual. In such a case the verse, “G‑d will fight for you, and you will be silent,” applies.

The knowledge that our battle against Amalek is fought with G‑d’s power, (“G‑d will fight for you,”) and not with our limited resources, gives us the potential to be victorious. This assistance is necessary because the Jewish people’s battle with Amalek is more difficult than their battle with any other foe. [All the other battles are fought through direct confrontation. For example, the gentiles offer the Jewish people a life-style contrary to Torah and Mitzvos. There is a clear choice and a Jew realizes he should not listen to their arguments.] It is much more difficult to combat Amalek, who argues that we should accept Torah, but with coldness.10 Therefore, the lesson we learn from this year, is that the war with Amalek is fought with G‑d’s power, and not with our own limited potential, is very significant.

However, this lesson does not mean to imply that we should do nothing since G‑d is “fighting for you.” On the contrary the Jew should use the day to elevate the nature of his service to G‑d.11 On Shabbos the entire world is elevated to a higher level of existence. Therefore, every moment of the day should be used in the service of Torah and Mitzvos. The service of “being silent” means carrying out one’s service in a manner of pleasure. It is this service that causes G‑d “to fight for” the Jewish people.

Thus, the fact that the 13th of Adar falls on Shabbos teaches a fundamental lesson. It opens up a new approach to the service of “gathering together and defending oneself.” Rather than fighting Amalek in the simple sense, we can “defend” ourselves by rising above Amalek entirely, and carrying out our service of G‑d with joy. This, in turn causes the nullification of Amalek’s power.12

As mentioned above, the nullification of Amalek is brought about by reading the Torah in public. Therefore, the lesson that Amalek can be defeated by lifting oneself up to a higher level, i.e., the service of G‑d with pleasure, should influence our approach to the study of Torah. We should lift our Torah study to a level where it stands above all disturbing influences. A Baal Habayis (a family man) is obligated to learn Torah. However, because of the financial worries which confront him, he finds it difficult to apply himself to Torah study as Abaya [one of the greatest sages of the Talmud] remarked, “If my (foster) mother had told me, ‘bring me the kutha (a dish of bread-crusts, sour milk and salt),’ I would not (have been able) to study.” On the other hand, there is a higher level of Torah study, a level that stands above all distractions. This level was personified by Rav Shimon bar Yochai. He declared, “With one bond I am tied with G‑d.” At that level none of the distractions of the world can disturb one’s concentration on Torah. This year the 13th of Adar teaches us that we must study Torah in this manner — increasing both the quality and the quantity of our Torah study, and, most important, studying in such a manner that we are above all distractions.

One might argue — that as stated in the Talmud, — “The Torah was given only to those who ate manna.” That is, someone who is not forced to come into contact with disturbing influences (like the Jews who were fed from heaven) can study in that manner, but someone who is in contact with disturbing influences cannot be asked to approach that level.

That argument is countered by meditating on the dearness of Torah13 and the dearness of G‑d, the giver of the Torah. When a Jew appreciates their value he will be able to study Torah in a manner in which no worldly matters bother him.

The study of Torah in this manner will “protect and save” (note Sotah 21a) him from the challenges of Amalek. Furthermore, through the study of Halachah (Torah law) “the paths of the world become his.” Then, “the fear of the Jews will fall on our enemies” and “many from among the people of the land became Jews” (through proper conversion according to Halachah). And from the redemption of Purim we will proceed to the true and complete redemption led by Moshiach.

4. This week’s portion, Parshas Tetzaveh, provides us with a valuable lesson in the service of G‑d. Tetzaveh is the only Parshah in the entire Torah (from the time of Moshe’s birth on) which does not mention Moshe’s name. The Baal Haturim explains that this phenomenon occurred because when Moshe prayed for the Jewish people after the sin of the golden calf he told G‑d, “Forgive their sin, and if not, please blot me out of Your book which You have written.” Since the curse of a wise man will always have an effect (even if it was made conditionally and the condition was not met), Moshe’s curse, “blot me out,” caused his name to be omitted from Parshas Tetzaveh.

Moshe wanted G‑d to forgive the Jewish people. He tried every means possible to bring that about. When he saw that nothing else would help, we was willing to risk his entire existence for the Jewish people. Thus, we can see the extent of Moshe’s Mesirus Nefesh (self-sacrifice) for the Jewish people. The sin of the golden calf was a very grave sin. It was the source of all the sins that followed it. Nevertheless, Moshe asked G‑d to forgive those who made the golden calf, and, if not, to “blot him14 out from Your book.” Moshe felt that he could not exist without the Jewish people.

This commitment showed the highest level of Mesirus Nefesh. Moshe had sacrificed himself for the Torah. The extent of his self-sacrifice was so great that the Torah is called, “The Torah of Moshe.” Yet, when the Jewish people were threatened, Moshe was willing to pray for them, and when that did not help, he was ready to sacrifice himself15 for them, asking G‑d to “blot him out” of the Torah.16

From the above, we can learn a lesson in the extent to which we must dedicate ourselves to the Mitzvah of “Love your fellowman as yourself.”17 Everyone realizes that there could be no personal matter important enough to cause Moshe to ask G‑d to “blot me out of Your book.” Nevertheless, Moshe was willing to make such a sacrifice for the Jewish people. Thus, we see how his love for his fellow Jews was not only “as himself,” it was even greater than his love for himself.18

The Mitzvah of Ahavas Yisroel is particularly relevant at present, in the days that precede Purim. The Mitzvos of Mishloach Manos and Matanos L’evyonim emphasize Ahavas Yisroel. Similarly, the reading of the Megillah should be done in a manner of “in the multitude of people19 is the King’s glory.” Thus, it, too, is related to Ahavas Yisroel (bringing as many people as possible to hear the reading of the Megillah).

May we accept the lesson from this Parshah and dedicate ourselves to the Mitzvah of Ahavas Yisroel. Our efforts will be strengthened by the spark of Moshe — who dedicated himself to Ahavas Yisroel — that is found in all of us. Then we will merit the fulfillment of the prophecy, “Behold, I will send you Eliyahu the prophet...who will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers,” with the coming of Moshiach, in the near future.