His Strength, My Weakness

This Shabbat we read Parashat Zachor, the second of four special readings interspersed throughout the seasons of our salvations — Purim and Pesach. The parashah speaks of our first battle with the arch-enemy of Israel, Amalek. Many generations later, a descendant of Amalek, Haman, came to power and decreed genocide on our people. Hashem saved us from Haman’s evil plan and Chazal established this annual reading on the Shabbat preceding Purim.

The passuk says, “And Amalek came and warred with Israel in Rephidim” (Shemot 17: 8). Our Sages explain the name Rephidim intimates that the cause for the attack was the refeh yadayim — “weak hands” — of the Jews in their adherence to Hashem’s Torah. The question is: Why should the result of our weakness be a strengthening of the power of Amalek?

The origins of Haman reveal the answer to our question. King Shaul was commanded to eradicate Amalek. He successfully killed all the people of Amalek but spared the life of their king, Agag. Due to Shaul’s misplaced mercy, the line of Amalek continued through king Agag to ultimately bring forth our arch-enemy, Haman HaAgagi.

Had Shaul adhered to the command wholeheartedly and to the letter of the law as Hashem commanded, Amalek would have been eradicated forever. However, he did not, and the result of the weakness of Shaul in executing Hashem’s command was the continued existence of the nation of Amalek.

Hashem, in His wisdom, has set into the Creation a spiritual principle. Whenever the Jews weaken in adherence to mitzvot and study of Torah, Amalek will rise in strength and attack our vulnerable condition.

The salvation from this enemy is an opposite reaction. In the times of Mordechai and Esther, the Jews gathered together in prayer for 72 consecutive hours. They fasted the entire three days and cried out in repentance. They strengthened themselves and their efforts to return to Hashem and do all that they could to adhere faithfully and totally to His Torah. The result was the miracle of Purim.

Not coincidentally, at this time of year we read the parashiyot that deal with the design and construction of the Tabernacle in the desert. The phrase most oft repeated is “As Hashem commanded Moshe.” The people were careful to fulfill the commandments in regard to the construction of the Tabernacle enthusiastically and precisely. The result was the return of the open manifestation of Hashem’s presence and protection to our people. So, too, we read this parashah to reignite our current state of spiritual staleness and return to precise, enthusiastic service to our Maker and Protector. May we get the message and rise to the task at hand so that in the way we were redeemed at this time of year in the past we will be redeemed speedily in our days, amen.

Shabbat shalom.