I had been debating on whether or not to post this on "A Jewish Grandmother." That's not because Torah and Parshat Shavua belong more on my other blog. It's just that I wanted my Israeli Elections 2019 posts to stay on top. But my messages/commentaries about "Zachor" really belong here.
Zachor is read to us twice a year in the synagogue. The first time is the Shabbat before Purim as preparation for that holiday. Zachor זָכ֕וֹר means "Remember!" Haman, the totally evil anti-Jewish person in the Purim Megillah narrative is descended from Amalek, and he schemes a scheme to kill/destroy all of the Jewish People after the destruction of the First Holy Temple, when our leadership was exiled by the Persians.דברים כה Dvarim 25זָכ֕וֹר אֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂ֥ה לְךָ֖ עֲמָלֵ֑ק בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶ֥ם מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃
Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt—
אֲשֶׁ֨ר קָֽרְךָ֜ בַּדֶּ֗רֶךְ וַיְזַנֵּ֤ב בְּךָ֙ כָּל־הַנֶּחֱשָׁלִ֣ים אַֽחַרֶ֔יךָ וְאַתָּ֖ה עָיֵ֣ף וְיָגֵ֑עַ וְלֹ֥א יָרֵ֖א אֱלֹהִֽים׃
how, undeterred by fear of God, he surprised you on the march, when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear.
וְהָיָ֡ה בְּהָנִ֣יחַ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֣יךָ ׀ לְ֠ךָ מִכָּל־אֹ֨יְבֶ֜יךָ מִסָּבִ֗יב בָּאָ֙רֶץ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יְהוָֽה־אֱ֠לֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵ֨ן לְךָ֤ נַחֲלָה֙ לְרִשְׁתָּ֔הּ תִּמְחֶה֙ אֶת־זֵ֣כֶר עֲמָלֵ֔ק מִתַּ֖חַת הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם לֹ֖א תִּשְׁכָּֽח׃ (פ)
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!
A half a year later, we read Zachor זָכ֕וֹר again, since it's part of the Torah Portion Parshat Shavua that comes up a few weeks before Rosh Hashanah, just before we complete the annual Torah Reading cycle. In the Jewish Year of 5779, this year, it was this past Shabbat.
So last week, as I was preparing myself, doing homework, before attending our Senior Citizens' Women's Parshat Shavua Class, something new hit me about what's written. The standard conventional commentary about Amalek is that they make a point of attacking the weak, those who can't defend themselves. When I reread the verses for the umpteenth time, a few words suddenly stood out:
"וַיְזַנֵּ֤ב בְּךָ֙ כָּל־הַנֶּחֱשָׁלִ֣ים אַֽחַרֶ֔יךָ"The general principle when taking a group of people on a hike, or whatever, is to make sure the weaker participants are surrounded by the strong ones for protection and so that they won't stray, stop or get lost. In this Biblical narrative, the stronger ones were tired, so the weaker ones were unprotected, perfect fodder for Amalek, who wouldn't dare attacking anyone capable of fighting back.
"all the stragglers in your rear"
Not to "blame the victims," this important Torah Lesson is to remind us, make it clear that it's a Mitzvah, Torah Commandment to protect the weaker in society. Leaving them exposed, whether on the trail or geographically, by government policy is forbidden by Torah Law.
In the early days of the State of Israel, the government used new immigrants, almost exclusively those from "Arab lands," North Africa to settle the more isolated and vulnerable locations of the new country. Newly constructed "Development Towns" weren't populated by the elite veteran European Israelis. New immigrants from Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq etc were literally dumped straight off the boat or plane, and given tents to share, until small substandard apartments could be built for them. If they requested to live in Holy Jerusalem, they were told that their new home was a nearby neighborhood of the long dreamt for city, even when hours away. And the lucky ones who did get housing in Jerusalem, were placed on the border and had to endure the dangers of Jordanian snipers. Security was also horrendous in the Development Towns and small isolated agricultural settlements where some were dumped. Besides the short-term government appointed administrators, only desperate newcomers lived in those new places.
Over half a century later, the residual resentment is still strong in many Eidot Mizrach families.
Gd willing the scars of past policies will fully heal, and today's elections will result in a wise and caring government, which is the only protection from modern Amalek.