Torah Weekly

For the week ending 3 March 2007 / 13 Adar I 5767

Parshat Tetzaveh

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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G-d tells Moshe to command the Jewish People to supply pure olive oil for the menorah in the Mishkan (Tent of Meeting). He also tells Moshe to organize the making of the bigdei kehuna (priestly garments): A breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a checkered tunic, a turban, a sash, a forehead-plate, and linen trousers. Upon their completion, Moshe is to perform a ceremony for seven days to consecrate Aharon and his sons. This includes offering sacrifices, dressing Aharon and his sons in their respective garments, and anointing Aharon with oil. G-d commands that every morning and afternoon a sheep be offered on the altar in the Mishkan. This offering should be accompanied by a meal-offering and libations of wine and oil. G-d commands that an altar for incense be built from acacia wood and covered with gold. Aharon and his descendants should burn incense on this altar every day.


Flash Memory

“… you shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven – you shall not forget!” (Devarim 25:19)

Nothing is more hidden than a forgotten memory.

Memory is an evanescent storehouse. How often do we struggle to locate a name, a face or a phone number in the dusty databanks of our gray matter, while at other times, a specter will arise before our eyes unbidden, unexpected — and often unwelcome — in brilliant clarity!

Memory is a slippery customer at best.

This week is a special Shabbat. Its name is Shabbat Zachor. The Shabbat of Remembering. On this Shabbat we perform the Torah mitzvah to remember Amalek’s attack on the Jewish People after our exodus from Egypt. We are bidden not to forget to erase “the memory of Amalek from under the heaven.”

Ostensibly, the idea of Shabbat Zachor is self-contradictory. If the mitzvah is to obliterate the memory of Amalek from the world, why do we dredge it up every year at this time? Isn’t that helping to perpetuate his remembrance rather than eradicate it?

There’s another day of “memory” in the Jewish calendar — Rosh Hashana. The Torah calls Rosh Hashana Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Memory. Rosh Hashana is a day of judgment because on that day G-d “remembers.” He compares how the world looks as compared to His original conception of how it should look. That comparison is, in essence, judgment. It’s as though G-d thinks “Is this the world that I had in mind when I created it?” That judgment call extends to each and every part of G-d’s creation. To each one of us. Have I done with my time on this planet what G-d had in mind when He created me?

Remembrance is, in essence, judgment.

The gematria of Amalek is 240, which is also the gematria of “safek” — doubt. The doubt that Amalek engenders in this world is existential doubt. His is the voice of denial that lurks in the heart. The voice that says, “Can you be sure there’s a G-d without a doubt?”

Amalek’s attack took place immediately after the event that removed all doubt about G-d’s existence: the ten plagues and the miraculous Exodus of the Jewish People from Egypt.

Amalek, and the doubt he tries to sow in our hearts, cannot be annihilated by mere forgetfulness. Amalek’s power cannot be assuaged by allowing it to fester in the darker recesses of our collective memory, for there it becomes more powerful. Like all decay, it thrives in dark crevices.

Our remembrance of Amalek is his obliteration, for we are able once again to remember who he is and what he stands for, and that G-d’s dominion over this world will never be complete until Amalek’s is truly forgotten, and never to be remembered.

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