Commemorating Shabbat and Amaleik by Rabbi Yehuda Chanales


While the custom to read Parashat Zachor on Shabbat may be based on practical considerations, the Midrash Tanchuma finds a connection between the ideas of Shabbat and destroying Amaleik. Based on the similar command, “Zachor,” “Remember” that is used for each obligation, the Midrash concludes that “Sheneihem Shekulin” “They (the two Mitzvot) are equivalent.” In what ways are these ideas similar? Is every idea we are told to remember equivalent, or did Chazal see some special connection between Shabbat and Amaleik?

If we look carefully at Parashat Zachor, we will find another word that the Torah uses that reminds us of Shabbat. We are commanded to destroy Amaleik only “BeHaniach Hashem Elokecha Lecha MiKol Oyevecha MiSaviv,” “when Hashem allows you to rest from all those around you.” Like Shabbat, the Mitzvah of destryoing Amaleik must be accomplished in a time period of Menuchah, rest. This connection between Amaleik and Menuchah is furthered in Megillat Ester. The days of Purim that we celebrate do not commemorate the days on which the Jews were actively fighting the war against their enemies. Even though these are the days when the Jews were victorious in overturning Haman’s decree and defeating their enemies, Purim celebrates the day when “VeNoach MeiOyeveihem,” “[The Jews] rested from their enemies” (Ester 9:16). Why must this holiday, like the battle against Amaleik, occur only when it is time to rest?

In the modern world, rest and relaxation are valued as a way to take time off, forget about the rush of our daily routine, and simply enjoy ourselves. While that certainly is part of the “Menuchah” that we experience on Shabbat, resting on Shabbat also gives us an opportunity to take a step back and consider the previous and upcoming weeks. When Hashem rested on the first Shabbat of creation, He was able to look not only at the events of the previous day or two, but at “Kol Asher Asah,” “everything He had done” and proclaim “VeHineih Tov Meod,” “and it was very good” (Bereishit 1:31). Only after the Sheishet Yemei HaMaaseh are complete and (as one famous song tell us) “We throw away our hammer with nothing left to do,” can we reflect and internalize the lessons of our successes and challenges. Psychologists tell us that true change requires shifting perspectives, which in turn requires time to consider the “bigger picture” of things.

Amaleik preyed on the Jews when they were “Ayeif VeYageia,” “tired and weary” (Devarim 25:18), lacking the time or energy to be “Yarei Elokim.” According to Chazal, Amaleik questioned the Jews’ spiritual commitment to Hashem, and did so to those who were incapable of reflecting or examining how to respond properly. Therefore, our battle against Amaleik not only seeks their physical destruction, but also includes uprooting the opportunism that Amaleik represents. Similarly, throughout the Megillah, Achashveirosh and Haman are both presented as characters that make decisions without considering the broader implications of those decisions. Achashveirosh is angered by Vashti’s refusal to appear before him, and in his anger he chooses to send her away. (The next Perek begins by telling us that after “the king’s anger subsided,” he regretted his decision regarding Vashti.) Haman is angered by Mordechai’s refusal to bow down, and he chooses to run to the king and demand Mordechai’s execution. For the Jewish people to appreciate the true miraculous nature of their salvation, they must be capable of looking beyond the moment and recognizing Hashem’s hand in the entire story.

Amaleik can be destroyed only when we are at rest, and Purim may be celebrated only on the day after the battle, the day of resting from our enemies. It is only befitting that on the day of reflection and commemoration we celebrate each week, we have the custom of remembering those who attempted to take opportunities like these away from us. 

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