Subscribe to a Weekly Series

Posted on March 4, 2020 (5780) By Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein | Series: | Level:

Parshas Zachor — Based on Nitai Gavriel (Hakdama to Purim)

The maftir this week tells of the obligation to remember the evils of Amalek, so as not to forget to destroy him.

In general, we must strive to remember all our Torah learning. As it says, “Be careful and guard your soul exceedingly, lest you forget what your eyes saw (at Mount Sinai)…” (Devarim 4) The prohibition not to forget covers all the teachings of the Torah, as stated in Avos 3:8. At the same time, there are specific concepts which the Torah commands us to recall. The story of how Miriam was punished for accusing Moshe, the incident of the eigel (the Golden Calf), the command to destroy Amalek and the Shabbos day, are concepts that we are told to remember.


How is it possible not to forget? Forgetting is a natural occurrence! Nonetheless, there are specific acts we can do to facilitate remembering.

There are several methods the Rabbis established to aid memory. From the examples that the Rabbis provided, we can get ideas for remembering the other mitzvos. For example, they decreed a special Torah reading for remembering the acts of Amalek. (We could have used the regular reading of Parshas Ki Seitze in the summer; instead they decreed a special maftir before Purim — in order to connect the acts of Amalek with the story of Homon.)

Remembering is also achieved through learning and review. Talmud Yerushalmi says that learning tractate Megilla fulfills the mitzva to remember Amalek.

Learning the halachos is one way to remember concepts; we are instructed to review pertinent laws thirty days before Yom Tov. However, it is not only the halachos that need review; the Ramban writes that part of the mitzva regarding Amalek is to recall their evil, and explain their atrocities to our children (see Mishna Brura 785:16).

Megillas Esther

The Urgency of Saving Klal Yisrael

Mordechai sends word to Esther that the matter is extremely urgent. She must immediately go to the king and ask him to intercede. Esther responds that anyone who approaches the king without permission can be killed on the spot. If, on the other hand, she would delay — certainly she would be called to the king soon after. She understood that her intervention might be critical — but did it necessitate sacrificing her life in vain?

Mordechai answers that Esther should not imagine that she, being in the king’s domain, will be safe from the danger. If she refuses to aid her brethren, the Jews will certainly be spared, but Esther and her father’s house will perish. Perhaps just for a time such as this — Esther became queen!

Mordechai’s point is that time is critical. Esther must immediately demonstrate her willingness to help. Hashem will deliver the Jewish People in any case, but if Esther refuses to help — now — she and her father’s house will suffer irreparable consequences.

Esther responds — if that is the case, we must have a massive, communal tefilla. Decree a three day fast…

Effort to Help Others

Akeidas Yitzchak (Rav Meir Arama) explains that, in working for the community, there must be hishtadlus — preceded by tefilla. The effort is necessary, so that we not be accused of laziness, but tefilla is our main work.

What is amazing is that Mordechai told her that the Jews would anyway be saved, but Esther herself would perish. How important it is to step in and help! Even though salvation was assured, nonetheless — if she refused to help — Esther would suffer permanently!

Mordechai’s Challenge

“If you were really afraid — you would do something! The fact that you think that nothing needs to be done — indicates that you believe that you will be safe. However — it is not so! If you are quiet, you and your father’s house will perish.”

The M’nos Halevi presents a number of explanations. One: We are taught in Mishlei 24, that if one fails to help his friend but rejoices — that the suffering of his friend is transferred back to himself. (See Rebbenu Yonah there, Rashi on 24:10 mentions our verses regarding Esther). Later, M’nos Halevi explains: Mordechai told Esther, “Your ancestor — Shaul Hamelech — failed to destroy Amalek. This is your chance to make amends. You can initiate the battle against Amalek. Perhaps this is the reason for your monarchy — to atone for your ancestor. If, however, you fail to act — then your entire family will remain with this stain — the failure to destroy Amalek.”