Zachor-Tetzaveh - 5778/2018~ “Let’s Not Fuhgeddaboudit”
I’ve asked many of you this question before-and even offered answers, but it seems I still struggle with this question every time we reach Parshas Zachor and Purim time. Shopping at a Kosher mart on La Brea this morning, I saw a kid holding the “Purim Mask” he was planning to wear this coming Wednesday night to Shul-and the answer to my persistent problem hit me smack in the face. I believe it’s the true answer.
Here is the issue: The Torah commands us to erase and blot out the memory of Amalek-the ancient “Haman” and the modern day Hitler, yet practically in the same breath the Torah tells us “Remember what Amalek did”…and “NOT TO FORGET”. How can this make sense? How do we remember something the memory of which we are commanded to blot out and erase? How are we to “never forget” Amalek if we stand for making it a crime to mention the words Holocaust and Poland in the same sentence? (yes, voice your concerns-and loudly!) If we actively seek to blot out any vestige of the monstrous evils wrought upon us, how will we ever be able to say “Never Again”? Yet it seems this is what the Torah demands. Who gets this?
Then I saw the kid with the Purim mask . An Arafat mask. Quite accurate. No special effects were needed to depict Arafat’s grotesque visage. And I instantly understood the quandary I have been carrying around with this hard-to-“get” Mitzvah. Hashem is saying that if you want to make sure you never ever forget what an Amalek looks like, what true evil is, then you must make sure that you never resemble that same evil you oppose so greatly. The logic is simple. If it is at all ever possible that one of us, the “good guys” can end up looking, thinking, talking, feeling, acting even a little bit like an Amalek, if we “borrow just a little” from the world of evil and incur some “charges” on the “Devil’s credit card”, then how can we really know when the real Amalek shows his face? How will we know to believe the boy when he starts crying about the real wolf? Maybe that’s just one of us using an Arafat mask for a day? Indeed, it’s a challenge: the world that is the opposite of Judaism has much that is not always so obviously ugly and evil looking, especially when we act like Haman when looking like pious Jews, and doing Haman-like things under the guise of a “Mitzvah”. Unfortunately, too often it takes the secular media to eventually notice and air these truly Jewish atrocities: Orthodox Jews busted by the government for financial shenanigans where the ill-gotten funds are used to fund Torah and Religious projects; Rabbinic Court rulings being overruled when Secular judges find blatant bribery and open bias towards the “charity-giving” wealthy in Bet Din proceedings throughout the country; Covering up domestic/child/sexual/other abuse in the religious community to protect the “honor” of Torah; Orthodox Jews doing all they can to destroy one another in the non-Jewish and very public secular courts (as an attorney I’ve seen many a judge aghast at finding “Shaitel”/Wig and Kippa-wearing litigants perjure themselves shamelessly in the name of “fighting for what’s right”)…the list goes on.
For our eternal survival, the Torah wants us to in an instant be able to identify who and what is evil. What we are NOT and what we should never be. To oppose it, to rid the world of it, and to be that ever inspiring light to the nations. For that to occur we must do all what we can to make sure we are not mistaken for a Haman, an Amalek, a friend of one-or even a resembling distant relative of one. Let the wolves and the sheep keep their own wardrobe, says Hashem—there are plenty Superman and Wonder Woman costumes we can wear on Purim-and hopefully keep on all year!
With blessings that we merit this Shabbos, in which the Torah discusses those beautiful and holy wardrobes of the Temple, and on this Purim, in which we will be joyfully celebrating the survival of our uniquely Jewish identities, to not only be our true selves, but to look, and shine as the bright and gorgeous Neshamot that we are. Shabbat Shalom and Chag Purim Sameach!!!
Shabbat Shalom Umevorach!