Do We Have to be Perfect? by Rabbi Scott Friedman


This week we read Parashat Zachor. We remember that Amaleik attacked Bnei Yisrael on their way out of Mitzrayim. Amaleik attacked the back of Bnei Yisrael’s camp, focusing on the weakest part of Bnei Yisrael.

Rav Tzvi Meir Zilberberg Shlit”a explains that Amaleik represents “Amal Kuf.” “Amal Kuf” literally means working toward the letter Kuf. Kuf in Gematria is 100. Thus, the word “Amaleik” can mean working toward 100. In other words, the people from Amaleik see no value in doing anything less than 100. To them, a task is all or nothing. They see no point in doing less than required or more than required. In contrast, Chazal teach us that a person who learns something 100 times is not even comparable to someone who studies it 101 times.

The Gemara (Chagigah 9b) comments on the Pasuk, “VeShavtem URe’item Bein Tzaddik LeRasha Bein Oveid Elokim LaAsher Lo Avado,” "And you will return and see the difference between the Tzaddik and the wicked man, between the one who serves Hashem and the one who does not serve Hashem” (Mal’achi 3:18). The Talmud asks, “Is not the Tzaddik the one who serves Hashem and the wicked man the one who does not serve Hashem?” The Gemara answers that there is a difference between one who learns a passage 100 times and one who learns a passage 101 times. The Rasha is the one who learns something 100 times and then stops; the Tzaddik learns it another time. Why is it that a person who learns only one time less is called wicked and it is not considered as if he is serving Hashem?

The answer lies in a person’s motivations. When a person learns with the purposes of Amaleik – that is, only with the intention of being viewed as a “100” – learning Torah and serving Hashem is for show. This is because the “1,” so to speak, is missing. In other words, he is missing the intention to serve Hashem, who is the One. A person who continues learning even after he has finished something 100 times is learning for the sake of learning and for the love of the Torah.

Moreover, when a person learns because of his love and respect for Hashem and the holy Torah he can and will appreciate not only the 100, but even the 1: the one minute of learning; the one act of Chessed; the one minute of holding oneself back from speaking inappropriately. Every single second counts and matters.

Too often in our lives we are overly focused on that which we are not doing well. We stress over the test grade of 80 or 90 that is not a 100. We are upset because of our friend’s accomplishments rather than happy for own accomplishments. We focus on the fact that we came late to learn, to lend a hand, or to Daven, but not on the fact that we came at all.

Rav Akiva Eiger tells a powerful Mashal. A poor person was brought into the king’s private treasury. He was told he could take anything he could grab within a small period of time. He was physically able to take only a small percentage of the entire treasure, but what he took was still worth a fortune. After leaving and reflecting on what he had taken, he felt two opposite emotions. On the one hand, he was disappointed that he had left so much behind. On the other hand, he was grateful for all that he was able to grab. Rav Akiva Eiger is emphasizing the need for us to be grateful for every minute of learning. If we recognize the value of every small gain, we will in turn be more appreciative and careful to try to continue to add to whatever we are fortunate to have. When a person appreciates having even a small amount of something, his optimism will lead him to work harder to acquire more.

Children often want the approval of their parents. They often want to please. They often want to hear that their parents are happy for them. However, we are so often focused on the negative – what children are not doing right – versus the positive – what they are doing right.

In the Megilah (5:9-13) we encounter Haman in a joyful state, invited to a private exclusive banquet with the king and queen. He feels on top of the world. But, when he notices that Mordechai HaYehudi does not stand up for him, Haman is infuriated. Haman says to himself that all his greatness means nothing to him as long as he sees Mordechai sitting before and refusing to stand. This is the attitude of Amaleik: Everything we have to be grateful about is nothing as long as one thing is not Kuf, 100, perfect. The words Haman use are “Einenu Shoveh Li,” “[All this] is worthless to me.” Comparing is this attitude’s root. Haman compares himself to others and is never content with what he has.

Amaleik’s philosophy is to be ungrateful to ourselves, to our family, to our friends, and, most of all, to Hashem. They are not afraid. They do not value the weak. They do not value the effort; rather, they value only the “Kuf.” A Yehudi, on the other hand, is called by that very name because that is his essence. The word “Hodu,” which means grateful, can be seen in the word “Yehudi.” Jews should strive to be appreciative of everything, every day, every second. When we think like a Yehudi, we wipe out Amaleik and the thought that anything less than perfection is worthless.

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