Sunday, March 8, 2009

Remember, I do

This past Shabbat (yesterday) was Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat we're supposed to remember what Amalek did to us all those millennium ago, because in actuality, Amalek is still active, still attacking us.

Amalek wasn't destroyed by King Saul, even though Saul had been ordered by G-d, via Samuel, to destroy him totally and utterly, even his livestock.

To this very day, we're paying for Saul's sin. Saul was a weak and fearful "leader." When G-d had commanded Samuel to anoint him king, it had been hoped that Saul would accept instructions from Samuel. But free will can be very unpredictable and dangerous. Saul, enjoying his power as king, didn't obey, and for that reason he was deposed in what I consider the Bible's greatest dramatic scene.

Sounding very much like a modern politician, Saul, blamed the people. If you look carefully at the Biblical text, it doesn't say that the people ordered, or urged Saul to disobey G-d. It says:
"...Saul and the people..." Saul is mentioned first. This is not like the sin of the Golden Calf, when the people rebelled and Aaron tried to control it by joining.

The Hebrew makes it even more clear that Saul led, because all verbs in Hebrew are either in singular or plural. " וַיַּחְמֹל שָׁאוּל וְהָעָם עַל-אֲגָג" "Vayachmol" is in singular. Even if it's supposed to mean that Saul and the people were totally united, as one, it condemns him for not struggling to obey G-d.

1 Samuel Chapter 15
ז וַיַּךְ שָׁאוּל, אֶת-עֲמָלֵק, מֵחֲוִילָה בּוֹאֲךָ שׁוּר, אֲשֶׁר עַל-פְּנֵי מִצְרָיִם. 7 And Saul smote the Amalekites, from Havilah as thou goest to Shur, that is in front of Egypt.
ח וַיִּתְפֹּשׂ אֶת-אֲגַג מֶלֶךְ-עֲמָלֵק, חָי; וְאֶת-כָּל-הָעָם, הֶחֱרִים לְפִי-חָרֶב. 8 And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.
ט וַיַּחְמֹל שָׁאוּל וְהָעָם עַל-אֲגָג, וְעַל-מֵיטַב הַצֹּאן וְהַבָּקָר וְהַמִּשְׁנִים וְעַל-הַכָּרִים וְעַל-כָּל-הַטּוֹב, וְלֹא אָבוּ, הַחֲרִימָם; וְכָל-הַמְּלָאכָה נְמִבְזָה וְנָמֵס, אֹתָהּ הֶחֱרִימוּ. {פ} 9 But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, even the young of the second birth, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them; but every thing that was of no account and feeble, that they destroyed utterly. {P}

Saul's blaming the people was even worse than when Adam blamed Chava (Eve) for eating the forbidden fruit.

Today we are caught in a situation very much like the Haftara of Shabbat Zachor, but today is much, much worse. Saul and his sinful advisers dominate the government, the media and even our religious leadership. The voice of Samuel is gagged and muffled. Even worse are those who speak in his name confusing us.

In a couple of days, it will be Purim, the Holiday which reminds us that even when G-d seems to be absent, He is always with us, Hester Pannim. Let's pray that G-d will once again bring us miracles, even if we don't deserve them.


Anonymous said...

A few weeks ago, Rabbi Beryl Wein commented in his d'var Torah in his shul that too many Jews both out site & in Israel have forgotten what Amalek has done to us both in the distant past and in the very recent past (15 years).
I always found it most interesting that not only does the Torah say "Zachor" when dealing with the mitzvah of destroying Amalek, but knowing the future Jewish propensity to be overly humanitarian (& liberal), Hashem warns 'al tishkach'.

Batya said...

That's a very good point. Thanks

So many people refuse to remember.