Thursday, March 9, 2017

Going Beyond

Print Version 
All Tetzaveh Articles
Parshas Zachor, which is about Amalek, is always read on the Shabbos before Purim. The Haftora is about the war against Amalek and its king, Agog, waged by King Shaul.

The obvious connection to Purim, is that in the story of Purim, the wicked Haman, who was the descendant of Agog, sought to kill all of the Jewish people (Heaven forbid), and the miraculous victory over Haman, through Mordechai and Esther, the descendants of King Shaul.

What other connections are there in the Haftora to parshas Zachor and to Purim? What lessons are to be learned from this Haftora?

The Haftora begins with Shmuel our prophet giving Hashem's command to Shaul to utterly wipe out Amalek. "So says Hashem..., 'I remember what Amalek did to Israel..., when they were going up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and destroy all that they have...'" What is interesting about this verse, is how it varies from the verse in parshas Zachor, "Remember what Amalek did to you..., when you were going out of Egypt." In the parsha it says, "going out" from Egypt, and in the Haftora it says, "going up." Going out and going up express two different purposes in leaving Egypt.

Going out refers to getting away from the negative influence of Egypt. Going up refers to the positive purpose of going out of Egypt, receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, and becoming Hashem's nation.

The main idea of receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, was that we were raised above nature, connecting with Hashem, and that Hashem would bring himself into the physical, allowing the world to be infused with G-dliness, through our study of Torah and doing of mitzvahs.

The Haftora brings to the fore the nature of Amalek. When does Amalek attack? When we are on the way up, when we are reaching to be who we are meant to be, above the natural and one with Hashem. This is what Amalek can't stand, this is where their hatred lies.

This is the war we wage against Amalek every day. When we are inspired to rise above, to be Jewish, above the natural, inevitably an Amalek comes to cool down our inspiration and fervor.

The war against Amalek coming out of Egypt was necessary. Overcoming Amalek was part of what set the stage for receiving the Torah. And the same is true today. We should not see our battle with our personal Amalek as a negative, but rather, as a necessary struggle, that prepares us to rise above.

The Haftora continues to tell us, how Shaul went to war and destroyed Amalek. However, he didn't do what Hashem wanted. He "took pity on Agog and the best of the sheep, the oxen and cattle," and kept them alive.

Hashem told Shmuel, "I regret that I appointed Shaul to be king, for he has turned away from Me and has not performed My word."

Shmuel went to confront Shaul. Shaul said, "I have performed Hashem's will." Shmuel asked, "What is the sound of the sheep in my ears, and the sound of the cattle...?" Shaul answered, "From Amalek..., to sacrifice to Hashem." Shmuel asked him, "Why did you not listen to Hashem's voice..." Shaul said, "But I did listen to Hashem's voice... And the people took the... sheep and cattle... to sacrifice to Hashem..." Shmuel replied with the famous words, "To obey (Hashem) is better than a sacrifice, to listen (to Him) is better than the fat of rams... Because you have rejected the word of Hashem, He has rejected you from being king."

Our great sages explain the verse, "Shaul was a year old when he reigned," to mean that like a one year old, he did not experience the taste of sin. From this is understood that the fact that he allowed Agog and the animals to live, was not because he intended to go against Hashem's words, rather he had a logical and holy reason for doing so. He thought that he was doing what Hashem wanted. What was his reasoning?

Shaul understood the idea of sacrifices, taking a physical and mundane animal, and transforming it into holy, revealing the light that is hidden in the darkness. The lower the object, the greater the transformation, and the greater the light that is revealed. Anytime we transform darkness into light it gives pleasure to Hashem. Shaul reasoned that Amalek's animals, the lowest of the low, would be an amazing transformation, and a great pleasure to Hashem.

But reasoning, even holy reasoning has its faults, and in this case, it caused Shaul to go against Hashem's words. As mentioned above, a Jew is meant to rise above, even beyond his reasoning, to do Hashem's will. This doesn't mean that he shouldn't use his intellect to serve Hashem. Rather, that even his intellect should be used, because that is what Hashem wants.

In other words, he humbles himself and is subservient to Hashem's will, even when it is beyond his reasoning.

It was Shaul's reasoning that kept Agog alive long enough to sire a child, and Haman is a descendant of that union. This one error in judgment, brought about the whole decree of Purim, to kill all the Jewish people in one day (Heaven forbid).

The key to the miracle of Purim, was Shmuel's words, "To obey (Hashem) is better than a sacrifice, to listen (to Him) is better than the fat of rams..." It was the Jewish people's self sacrifice beyond reason and their steadfast commitment to Hashem's will that brought the miracle of Purim.

This is also why, from all of the mitzvahs of Purim, the only one that is an obligation the entire day, is to have a festive meal, in which "A person is obligated to drink, until he doesn't know the difference between cursed is Haman, and blessed is Mordechai." To get to a point where our service to Hashem goes beyond our reasoning. Whether it be, "going out" from the negative influences, represented by "cursed is Haman," or whether it be "going up" doing positive and connecting with Hashem, represented by "Blessed is Mordechai," should be "until you do not know," beyond your understanding.

Through taking our service to this higher level, going beyond our intellect to do Hashem's will, we will once again merit great miracles, like the miracles of Purim, with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

1 comment:

  1. Happy Purim!
    We loved the videos you posted and, as always, enjoy your inspiring and uplifting divrei torah!
    Keep them coming!
    All the best,