Parshios Vayikra & Zachor
Fate and Purpose
Sefer Vayikra is all about purpose. It reduces our view of the world to
within the walls of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the Bais Hamikdash
(Temple). What took place there was the purpose of creation. Every
service, function, item, person, action, and thought was orchestrated to
reflect singular belief and devotion. Service to G-d and humanity was that
As we have explained in past issues, the Mishkan and the Bais Hamikdash
were microcosms of the world as it should have been. Had Adam and Chava not
sinned with the Eitz Hadaas (Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil), had
the Bnai Yisroel (Jews) not sinned with the Golden Calf, the world would
have been G-d’s Mishkan and Mikdash (sanctuary). That does not mean that
the world would have been reduced to the physical structure of either the
Mishkan or the Bais Hamikdash. What it does mean is that the world would
have reflected the same singular purpose, the same orchestrated belief and
devotion, the same service to G-d and humanity. Unfortunately, because we
did sin, Hashem (G-d) restricted His overt, undeniable, clarity of purpose
to the space of a mountaintop in the center of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem).
(And the world wonders why we will never give it up.)
Purpose in the universe reflects upon the unlimited power of G-d as Creator
and Maintainer of the universe. It means that all things big and small fit
into the exactitude of G-d’s intentions. Whether world events or personal
moments; whether the international or the interpersonal; whether universal
upheaval or personal illness; G-d was, is, and will always be in charge.
Whether we understand or not, whether we agree or not, what happens happens
because G-d so decreed it to happen. For some, this view of the Divine is
liberating and comforting and for others imprisoning and disturbing;
regardless, it does not change the reality of G-d’s absolute control.
G-d is most discernable in the realm of time and events, and His purpose,
both short term and long term, can be ascertained from studying the scope
and sequence of history. Far beyond individual destinies will emerge the
destinies of nations, and most prominent and mysterious of all will be the
destiny of Am Yisroel (the Nation of Israel). A prime example of G-d’s
presence in the scope and sequence of history is the upcoming story and
celebration of Purim. It’s a story whose design spanned almost 1500 years
and demands our acknowledgment of G-d’s absolute dominion.
This Shabbos we also read Parshas Zachor. The Torah recorded Amalek’s evil
design against the Bnai Yisroel in two places. The first is the end of
Parshas Bshalach (Shemos 17:14-16). The second is the end of Parshas Ki
Seitzei (Divarim 25:17-19). To fulfill the requirements of “remembering
that which Amalek did to the Bnai Yisroel,” we read the verses in Divarim.
In and of itself, there is no special reason to read Zachor this Shabbos;
however, Chazal (the Rabbis) ordained that we should do so on the Shabbos
preceding Purim because of the connection between Purim and the destruction
Haman was a descendent of Amalek and in the end he and his ten sons were
all killed. However, there is much more to the story. A study of its scope
and sequence reveals G-d’s absolute control in the realm of time and
Amalek was the son of Elifaz and grandson of Eisav. He was Yakov’s
great-nephew and our cousin. His development as a nation paralleled the
developmentof the Jewish nation. Unfortunately, the focus of his upbringing
was hatred against G-d and Israel. He hated goodness with the same
intensity that Yakov and his children hated evil. Because of his hatred,
Amalek attacked the Bnai Yisroel as they left Egypt. Led by Yehoshua
(Joshua), inspired by Moshe’s raised arms, the Bnai Yisroel were
victorious against Amalek. Amalek’s unwarranted attack against the Jews
resulted in the commandment to always remember the evil of Amalek and to
eradicate their existence whenever possible.
There were many dimensions to Amalek’s sin.
1. Their attack against Am Yisroel was unprovoked and unwarranted.
They were not among the seven nations occupying Canaan. They had nothing
to fear from the Jews.
2. As Yakov’s nephew, they owed him their lives. (Not for now.)
Their attack against the Bnai Yisroel revealed them to be ingrates.
3. The only motive they had to attack the Jews was their inbred
hatred against G-d, goodness, and the nation He had chosen to be His
4. Their actions revealed a level of arrogance that denied G-d’s
dominion over the world. They believed that they could destroy G-d by
destroying good and they were prepared to die in order to do so. This is
why the commentaries explain that although the nation Amalek no longer
exists; their inherent evil does. Therefore, whenever a person expresses
unwarranted hatred against the Jews for no other reason than the fact that
they are Jews, he or she must be a descendent of Amalek. It also begs from
us that we look inside ourselves and identify the elements in our
character that might be akin to Amalek. That too must be eradicated!
The story of Purim and the remembrance of Amalek’s evil is all about fate
and purpose. Decisions that were made 150 years before set in motion a
scope and sequence of horrific proportions and potential disaster. Yet we
once again celebrate the majesty of G-d’s dominion through the survival and
growing strength of His chosen people. It is a holiday of recommitment and
expressed thanksgiving to G-d for the opportunity of serving His design and
The following questions are for you to think about…
The record in Shemos states, “…For the hand is on the throne of G-d; Hashem
maintains a war against Amalek from generation to generation.” Rashi
referenced the Medresh Tanchumah that explains the unusual spelling of
“throne.” The word is missing the “aleph” to show us that “G-d’s throne is
not complete so long as Amalek exists in the world.” (Rashi, Shemos
What does it mean for the “throne of Hashem not to be complete?”
How does the destruction of Amalek relate to the coming of Mashiach?
Mashiach must come from the Davidic line of the tribe of Yehudah, why was
Shaul (Saul) from the tribe of Binyamin the first king of Israel?
Why is the Holy of Holies within the boundaries of Binyamin while the rest
of the Bais Hamikdash is situated within the boundaries of Yehudah?
Shaul lost his kingdom over his failure to destroy Amalek. Why was that
moment in history so important? How did Shaul’s failure affect the future
of Am Yisroel?
Obviously, it is not by coincidence that almost 500 years later, Haman of
Amalek would be destroyed by Mordecai of Binyamin. How does that event
relate back to the relationship between Binyamin and Yehudah, Dovid and
Why is the relationship between King David and Yonatan (Saul’s son) lauded
as the quintessential love between two individuals?
Have a wonderful and joyous Purim!
This week, in addition to the regular Parsha, we read Parshas Zachor.
Parshas Zachor is the 2nd of the four special Shabbosim preceding Pesach
when additional portions are read from the Torah. The first special Shabbos
was Parshas Shekalim. This week we read Zachor, and in a few weeks we will
read Parah and Chodesh. There are set rules which determine when each of
these additional Parshios is to be read. Parshas Zachor is always read on
the Shabbos before Purim.
On Parshas Zachor, we read the additional Parsha found in Divarim, 25:17.
As a nation, we were commanded to destroy the nation of Amalek. This nation
came into existence at the same time as we did. Eisav's son Elifaz had a
son Amalek. Eisav and Elifaz's legacy to Amalek was an undying hatred
against the children of Yakov.
At the time of the exodus from Egypt, Amalek traveled hundreds of miles to
ambush the newly freed nation in the hope of destroying them. We, as a
nation, did not pose any threat to their sovereignty. They lived to the
east of Canaan and were not among the Seven Nations occupying Eretz
Yisroel. Nevertheless, their irrational hatred against Hashem and us
compelled them to attack a harmless and seemingly defenseless nation. In
the aftermath of their attack we were commanded to always remember the
evil that is Amalek. It is the reading of this Parsha that is the
fulfillment of this Biblical commandment. This mitzvah, according to most
authorities, is not restricted by time and must be fulfilled by men and
The Rabbi's selected the Shabbos before Purim for the fulfillment of this
Mitzvah because Haman was a direct descendent of Amalek, and Mordecai was a
direct descendent of King Saul. The entire story of Purim is directly
linked to this Mitzvah and the missed opportunity of King Saul that we read
about in the Haftorah.
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Aron Tendler and Torah.org
The author is the Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, Valley
Village, CA, and Assistant Principal of YULA.