MARCH 2-3, 2001 8 ADAR 5761
Shabbat Zachor - This Shabbat we will read an extra portion of Torah which commands us to remember what Amalek did to us and our obligation to wipe him out. All men are required to hear this special reading and even women should try to fulfill this obligation.
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"You shall not taunt or oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Shemot 22:20)
When Haman's great-grandfather, Amalek, attacked the Jewish people in the wilderness, the name of the place where he was able to fight them was Refidim. This was a station where the Jews were in a weakened state of Torah study, and because of this, Amalek was able to start up with us. Indeed, whenever a tyrant or despot threatens the Jewish nation, it is invariably because of our lack of Torah study. Thus we find that right after the Purim miracle, when Haman and his people were defeated, there was a tremendous resurgence of Torah study amongst the Jews, and this eventually culminated in the compilation of the Oral Law.
The week before Purim, we read Parashat Zachor, which is to remember what Amalek did to us. It is just as important to remember the cause that led to Amalek's battle against the Jews, which is our weakness in Torah study. Let us commit ourselves to Torah study every day so that we can merit to see Hashem's salvation. Shabbat Shalom.
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"They shall make a sanctuary for me and I will dwell in their midst" (Shemot 25:8)
In recent weeks, we have heard so much discussion centered on Jerusalem, and especially the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount is the place where the two Temples were built. The Temples were much more than large and beautiful synagogues. They were places where the Shechinah, G-d's presence in this world, was found. The Jews have a command in this perashah to build a Temple, in the verse quoted above. The First Temple was built by Moshe in the desert, and it was known as the Mishkan.
The Midrash brings a parable to describe Hashem's command to build the Mishkan. Once there was a king whose only daughter was getting married. He told the new royal couple, who were planning to move to another country, that he found it very hard to part with his daughter. He told them, "To tell you to stay, I cannot do, but to see you go is difficult.
Therefore I ask you to build me a room in your house wherever you go so that I may visit you." The lesson is that the daughter is the Torah that was kept with Hashem until it was given at Mount Sinai. Hashem told the Jewish people that it was difficult to part with the Torah that He loved. Therefore, build for me a Mishkan, a dwelling place among you. This parable is attempting to explain a major difficulty. What is the need for the Mishkan - Temple? Hashem is everywhere. Why must Hashem, so to speak, squeeze His Shechinah into a physical house?
Rabbi Nissan Alpert explains that there is a popular saying that can help us understand our Holy Temple. "Don't lose sight of the forest for the trees." There is a natural tendency for a person to get so involved in the details that the person forgets the goal. Hashem gave us a Torah that is so profound, so deep, so satisfying that we run the risk of forgetting the goal and the reason why Hashem gave us the Torah. It is possible to become attached to the Torah, but not attached to Hashem. The goal is to bring us to do misvot, make teshubah (repent) and fear Hashem. In order to make sure we don't forget this, Hashem commands us to build a house for Him, that Hashem dwells with us in our camp. The Torah is here together with the Giver of the Torah. Now when we learn Torah and we see the house of Hashem we feel we are first receiving the Torah from Mount Sinai every day, as if we hear Hashem's voice! This is the importance of the Temple. Now we can appreciate the importance of the Temple Mount. Shabbat Shalom.
"And you shall put into the Aron the Testimony that I shall give you" (Shemot 25:16)
Rashi explains that this "Testimony" refers to the Torah, which symbolizes the everlasting testimony between Hashem and B'nei Yisrael. It seems strange that the Torah, which represents the essence of Judaism, should be concealed in the Aron Hakodesh (Ark). The Aron Hakodesh, in turn, is placed in the Kodshei Hakodashim, Holy of Holies, which is practically inaccessible. What was accomplished by obscuring the Torah from the public eye?
Rav Zalmen Sorotzkin answered that the Torah was concealed deliberately in order to maintain its pure and unadulterated text, as it was given from Hashem at Har Sinai.
During ensuing generations the fear surfaced that people, because of personal prejudice, would attempt to "rewrite" the Torah according to their "own" perspective. Indeed, we have seen segments of the Jewish community who, because of their personal secularization, have attempted to leave their imprint on the Torah. The Sefer Torah in the Aron is the assurance that the pristine nature of the Torah will endure. There will always be an original untainted Torah.
This is consistent with the Midrash that states that prior to his death, Moshe Rabenu wrote thirteen Sifrei Torah. One was to be given to each tribe, while one Torah was to be placed in the Aron for protection against anyone who would falsify the original text. (Peninim on the Torah)
"All pillars of the court all around shall be banded with silver and their hooks of silver, and their sockets of copper" (Shemot 27:17)
In the Mishkan the pillars were covered with gold and the sockets were of silver. Why in the courtyard were they covered with silver with sockets of copper?
The Gemara (Hagigah 9b) says: "Poverty is a beautiful thing for the Jewish people, just as a red ribbon is to a white horse." Commentaries explain that this seemingly strange statement intends to imply an important lesson. A horse is dressed up only when it is taken out to a fair for show, but not when it is in the stable. Likewise, in our homes we may have riches, but to the eyes of the world, the Jewish people should manifest poverty and appear very modest. Demonstrating it on the exterior would arouse the jealousy and eventual hatred of the Gentile world against us.
Inside the Mishkan everything was lavishly beautiful and extremely expensive. But on the outside, the top was covered with goatskin, the pillars were covered with silver, and the sockets were of copper. There was no show of extravagance, only modest simplicity. (Vedibarta Bam)
Our perashah's subject is the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and its utensils. The regular haftarah for this perashah is from Melachim I, which discusses the construction of the First Bet Hamikdash in the times of Shelomo. However, since this week is Shabbat Zachor, and we read a special maftir discussing the command to wipe out Amalek, we read a haftarah on the same topic. The haftarah tells of the war that King Shaul waged against Amalek. He was victorious, but he had mercy on their king, Agag, and brought him back as a prisoner instead of killing him. The next morning, the prophet Shemuel rebuked Shaul for not fulfilling Hashem's command to completely wipe out Amalek. Shemuel then killed Agag, the king of Amalek.
The Gemara teaches that on the previous night, Agag's wife had conceived and later gave birth to a child. Since Agag was alive that night only because Shaul neglected to kill him on the battlefield, Shaul was held accountable for enabling Amalek to continue. Therefore, it was up to Mordechai, a descendant of Shaul, to correct Shaul's mistake and battle Haman, the descendant of Agag. This maftir and haftarah are always read on the Shabbat before Purim in order to link the story of Amalek to the story of Haman.
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