FMT – Parashas Zachor 5781 – Fear of Hashem

This week, which is the week preceding Purim, there is an obligation for all to hear the Parasha of Zachor, which is added at the end of the reading of the weekly Parasha. One of the reasons is that Haman was a descendant of Amalek. However, this reason lacks substance, as we do not add a portion for every nation that attacked us. Let us analyze the Verses to understand the fundamental reason. In Parashas Ki Seitsei [25:17-18] the Torah states: “Remember what Amalek did to you, on the way when you were leaving Egypt; that he happened upon you on the way. and he struck those of you who were hindmost, all the weaklings at your rear, when you were faint and exhausted, and he did not fear Hashem.” Why was Amalek singled out in such way that it is the only time that even women are obligated to hear the reading of the Torah? Additionally, the end of the second verse raises an even bigger question. Is a gentile supposed to fear Hashem? Is this trait not exclusive to Jews? Where is it mentioned in the Holy Torah that a gentile must fear Heaven otherwise he must be exterminated? Interestingly, no other trait seems to matter, he could be a wicked or depraved, but as long as he fears Hashem everything else is unimportant? This appears totally illogical. Thus, it makes full sense, as fear of Heaven is like a rail to a blind person, as long as he holds it he is safe and will not go astray. Similarly, a gentile that fears Hashem, will live a moral life, and will be repulsed by wickedness. It is then clear why the Verse only mentioned the fear of Hashem, as without it there is no bottom to the pit, the person is in free fall. In essence, it comes to teach us the vital importance to constantly work on our fear of Hashem, as this is our only protection from evil forces. The Midrash provides a different approach. It explains how Amalek “happened upon us” the Jewish people. The Hebrew word used by the Verse for “upon us” is ‘karecha’. The Midrash explains that the root of this word is “kar”, cold. This reveals that Amalek’s intention was to cool us off from our bondage with Hashem, which was reached through the miracles of the Exodus. As long as we bond to Hashem no evil force or enemy can against us, our mouths turn into a lethal weapon just as it happened in Egypt. The Midrash brings an analogy of a boiling hot bath, that is so hot that no person can go inside. Then, one person jumps inside it. He burns himself but he cools it down and enables others to also jump in. Similarly, the nations feared to attack the Jewish people after all the miracles that they had experienced. Amalek paid no heed to these miracles and attacked. Even though they greatly damaged themselves, they also reduced the fear of the other nations towards the Jews. So, Amalek is the source and our fundamental enemy, hence he deserves to be remembered. However, why is Amalek the only nation that through our exiles we pray to abolish until complete extinction. There is no other time the Jewish people are that extreme, that every soul should be eradicated without any mercy. The Zohar explain that the reason is simple, the world cannot function properly until this mission is fully accomplished. Amalek conflicts with the proper march of the world, leading countless people, and nations to their perdition. Since Amalek has nor fear of Heaven it is the most immoral and corrupt nation in every possible wicked way. Thus, because of their might and wealth they have tremendous influence on weaker and poorer nations and lead them in their wicked path. They antagonize Hashem; therefore, they must be totally abolished. Here is a beautiful story that illustrate the message beautifully: This story about the Holy Kozhnitzer Maggid was first told by the Holy Chortkover Rebbe, Rav Duvid Moshe, (son of the Heiliger Ruzhiner), as reported by his shamash, Reb Tzvi Hirsch Rapaport. In an arrangement once common in 19th century in Poland, a Jew drew a proper livelihood from a kretschma he leased from the local poritz [landowner]. This poritz had a daughter who inexplicably stopped speaking, and the distraught man ran to doctor after doctor, but in vain. No one could help the girl. One of the poritz’s friends told him about a “wonder rabbi” in the town of Kozhnitz who had often helped people with difficult medical problems, after all conventional treatments had failed. The poritz had no experience in dealing with Rabbis, but he had an idea — sensible at first blush, but laden with risk and cruelty for an innocent Jew. “Moshke, I want you to go to that Rabbi and bring me back a cure for my daughter that will let her speak again. If you fail in your mission, I’ll cancel your lease of the kretschma and you will be out in the street” he said angrily. Facing such a harsh and irrational threat, the innkeeper had no choice but to run to Kozhnitz and beg the Rebbe to help the girl, and, and by doing so, keep his family afloat as well. He begged the Rebbe to help, if for no other reason than the Kiddush Hashem that would emerge from a successful cure for the girl. The Rebbe knew just what to do. He took out a precious stone from his desk drawer, known then as “burshteen” but whose identity is no longer known to us. With deep kavonos, he then recited some Kabbalistic prayers while holding the stone, and then hung it on a thin gold necklace. He asked Moshke to take it back to the poritz with the specific instruction: that the girl must always wear it and to never take it off, then she would be able to speak again. Moshke did as he was instructed and went directly to the poritz and delivered the necklace and the message. The poritz did exactly what the Rebbe directed. How could he not? Miraculously, the girl began to speak again, just as she had in the past and her father was beside himself with joy. He sponsored a banquet for all his friends and family. The man could not stop talking about the Rebbe from Kozhnitz being able to cure his daughter while the greatest doctors in the country were powerless to help. Spreading the word created a powerful Kiddush Hashem throughout the entire country. But there was a dark side to this happy story. The local parish priest was a rabid Jew-hater and decided to drive a wedge between the Jews and the poritz, who now enjoyed a better relationship. He was determined to get that charmed necklace off the girl’s neck. Using sorcery, he induced the girl first to take it off, and then to set it aside. In fact, it seemed lost and was nowhere to be found. As the Rebbe predicted as soon as she removed it she immediately regressed and could no longer speak. Her father’s joy disappeared and became hysterical and upset. The priest observed all this from afar, with deep satisfaction in his success in turning light into darkness. But the father still retained his belief in the Rebbe’s powers of healing, because he saw what he had achieved earlier. He asked from Moshke to go back immediately to the Rebbe, on the same conditions as before: bring back a new cure or say goodbye to the kretschma! Moshke was distraught at the thought of repeating his ordeal, but he had no choice. He returned to the Kozhnitzer Maggid, explained what had happened, and begged the Rebbe to give him a new necklace. “That I cannot do, my son” said the Rebbe, “it was a unique piece and cannot be replaced.” Moshke thought he had reached the end of the rope, now his family will suffer severe consequences and find themselves in the street. He could not bear the thought and implored the Rebbe to do something to save his family. With a loving glare the Rebbe assured him “I will help.” I have my way of knowing that this priest actually hypnotized the girl and stole the necklace. He has it in his house in a place which I will describe you exactly. Retrieve the necklace, return it to the girl, and she will speak again. The Rebbe blessed him “Go in peace and with Hashem’s help everything will be fine.” Moske returned to the poritz and recounted everything the Rebbe had told him. The poritz trusted the Rebbe more than he trusted the priest, as the latter was unable to help his daughter, while the Rebbe had proved his powers. The poritz assembled some of his security guards, confronted the priest and found the necklace exactly where the Rebbe said it would be. They returned it to the girl, and it worked its magic. The second miracle glorified Hashem to the eyes of all, even more than the first time. The verse says: “You have caused us to know that Hashem is our G-d and there is none other than him.” [Devarim 4:35] This knowledge and awe of Hashem is what the Kozhnitzer Maggid succeeded in in instilling in the local populace, Jew and gentile alike, and not once but twice.”

By Rabbi Fridmann * rabbifridmann@badatzmiami.com * 305.985.3461

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