On the Sabbath just before the Jewish holiday of Purim, Jews around the world read a short story from Deuteronomy 25:17-19 about remembering the ancient people of Amalek who attacked the Jews as they left Egypt:
Therefore, when the LORD your God grants you safety from all your enemies around you, in the land that the LORD your God is giving you as a hereditary portion, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!
The beginning of the reading and the end have seemingly conflicting commandments. At first we are commanded to remember what Amalek did, however, the end of the reading instructs us to block the memory of Amalek. Further, the final instruction is reinforced by “Do not forget” to wipe out the memory, another layer of conflicting commands.
Are Jews ordered to remember or to forget?
A closer reading of the verses reveals how to satisfy each commandment and the important unifying message.
The first sentence is a command to remember “what Amalek did,” their ACTIONS. Those people committed a horrific attack and that assault should not be forgotten.
The latter verse is to “blot out the memory of Amalek,” to block the IMPACT ON THE PYSCHE that the attack left on the Jewish people. The Jewish people were just getting to know the first tastes of freedom after generations of slavery, and were set upon by Amalek. The emotional and physical scars left on the Jews would be carried for the rest of their lives. But God made them victorious and He does not want the memory of the pain to overshadow that victory. More specifically, once Jews are situated in “safety from all your enemies” in the land of Israel that God gave “as a hereditary portion,” it is important that past victimhood not continue to negatively color the Jewish outlook on the world.
The message of Parshat Zachor is to remember past atrocities of evil nations but to not let the scars from those encounters cloud the vision of the peaceful present which God has provided.
Over the past few decades, there has been a growing trend in many Jewish communities to enhance the tradition of shaloch manot, sending gifts to their friends and neighbors on Purim. The enhancement comes in the form of creating a “theme” for the gifts of food and candy, and including a poem.
This year, 5776 in the Jewish calendar and 2016 in the secular calendar, had various people using themes that included the US presidential race; recent movies; and popular singers. Here is mine, that celebrated the infrequent occurrence of enjoying a leap year in both calendars.
How often is there a combined leap year
In both solar and lunar calendars?
One would need to look far and near
Measuring time with phased calipers.
Well, the year 2016 in the Gregorian tally
And 5776, in Jewish computation
Have aligned as natural allies,
And generated a special kind of elation.
You see, most of the world just adds a day
To that rump of a month in the frost.
While Jews go in all of the way-
Bringing a month to the front, embossed.
Jews have doubled the month of Adar
A month known as singularly happy.
Where sadness cannot otherwise mar
A people that is oftentimes sappy.
I yelled “Hooray! Two Adars is great!
Can we now celebrate Purim twice?”
But my rabbi set me straight-
“No, but that would have been nice.”
He suggested we double down on gifts-
Particularly, if serving alcohol.
But this shaloch manot has no fifths,
Yet the sentiment is the same, overall.
Happy Purim, Happy Purim!
Is our double exclamation!
Fill your own cup to the brim-
(Since Friday is anyway a vacation.)
Double Bubble, “Two”tsie rolls and Twix,
Are our way of highlighting the double.
Other great candy pairs are in the mix
As two foods get us out of trouble.
A bit more time to partake of the goodies,
In this year with added month and day.
But the shift will be quick for you foodies,
Since Pesach is still just a month away.