This week, we read as the Maftir Parashat Zachor, the second of the four special Parashiyot we read surrounding Purim and Pesach. This is the only Torah reading today which constitutes a Mitzvah from the Torah, according to the mainstream Halachic view. We are obligated to hear every word and then act on it and wipe out Amaleik.
Rav Moshe Feinstein, as is quoted by Rav Avraham Fiskelis in Bastion of Faith, poses three questions about this Mitzvah. Firstly, since ethnic identity was obliterated during the time of Sancheirev, we don’t know who descends from Amaleik; therefore, how does this Mitzvah speak to us nowadays? Secondly, even if we knew that a specific person was from Amaleik, we would still be powerless to kill him, because it would jeopardize all Jews and there would surely be terrible repercussions. Thirdly, killing all members of Amaleik seems contrary to our holy Torah, which forbids holding a grudge to kill Amaleiki people, some of whom may not have even directly harmed us. Rav Moshe explains that because of these questions, the Mitzvah today is not to wipe out a nation called Amaleik, but rather to wipe out what they represented, namely the evil in this world. We must look into ourselves and see what we can correct and defeat our Yeitzer HaRa. We should never be overconfident about our righteousness, but rather we must work every minute of every day to improve.
For many years during my youth, I had the great privilege of davening with Rav Moshe when he came to Monsey. I observed that when he took off his Tefillin, he would have someone hold up a set of Mishnayot so that he could learn while wrapping up his Tefillin. I asked Rav Moshe, “Even at this time you have to learn?” He answered, “the Gemara testifies about Yochanan Kohein Gadol that he went into the Holy of Holies 80 times as he served as a Kohein Gadol for 80 years, and at the end of his life he became a non-believer. If it could happen to Yochanan Kohein Gadol, it can happen to Moshe Feinstein.”
This Parashat Zachor, we should learn this message of examining ourselves and trying to destroy the Yeitzer HaRa within us by strengthening our commitment to the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah and not just reading the text, but having the text permeate through us and affect our personalities. If so, we will emerge stronger in our observance of both our Mitzvot between mankind and Hashem as well as between different members of mankind. By learning this message on the Shabbat before Purim, hopefully Purim will be a day in which we accept the Torah and fulfill the Gemara’s (Shabbat) statement that on Shavuot Hashem held a mountain over our heads in order for us to accept the Torah, but in the days of Achashveirosh we accepted the Torah willingly.
This message is critical as we begin today Sefer VaYikra. The Midrash in VaYikra Rabba (7:3) writes, “Let the pure ones come and study the laws of purification.” May Hashem speedily build the third Beit HaMikdash so we can fulfill all the laws of sacrifices which are recorded in VaYikra and may we merit a day when all the evil in this world is eliminated.