Parshat Zachor

On the Shabbat preceding Purim (tomorrow morning) we read a special portion of the Torah called “Parshat Zachor”, which speaks about the obligation to wipe out the memory of Amalek. It is a Torah commandment to hear this portion read in the synagogue every year.

Our Sages teach that the numerical value of “Amalek” is equal to the word “Safek”, which means doubt. By being the first to attack to the Jewish nation after their exodus of Egypt, Amalek sowed doubt into their hearts, by showing that they were susceptible to the same trails and tribulations like any other nation, and that perhaps they weren’t as “chosen” as they thought. Amalek made the Jews question their relationship with God. Was God actually still with them as He had been during the splitting of the sea? For a moment, it seemed as though God was gone, hidden from view. The Sages call this idea of God “hiding” from the world, “Hester Panim”.

Now we can begin to understand why we read this special torah portion right before Purim. The name of God is not mentioned at all in the entire Book of Esther (Megillat Esther). There are no open miracles that occur to save the Jews from destruction at the hands of Haman. Instead, it is Esther, whose very name implies Hester Panim, who serves as the tool of God’s salvation, along with Mordechai and the Persian king Achashverosh. When all seems lost for the Jews, Haman is reigning supreme, and God seems nowhere to be found, everything suddenly turns upside down, and salvation comes.

Purim is a lesson in destroying Safek (doubt). It teaches us how to see God even when he is “hidden”, how to wipe out the Amalek within each of us.

May we be blessed with the strength to overcome the doubts that plague us and hold us back from achieving our full potential, and to see God even when it looks like He’s not there.

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