Purim for me was always the reading of the Megillah, noise at the mention of Haman’s name, and hamantaschen. I learned something new this week, that the Shabbat before Purim has a special name – the Shabbat of Remembrance - where Jews traditionally read a particular section of the Torah, Deuteronomy 25:17-19, to remember what Amalek, the enemy of the Israelites, did to us on our journey from Egypt. He attacked us, the weakest among us - the children, women, and the elderly at a time when we were most vulnerable. Therefore, Shabbat Zachor is a time not only "to remember" but also not forget.
Now, as we move into our most joyous season of the calendar, Purim and Pesach, we begin with Shabbat Zachor, the remembrance of what Amalek did to us and that we were saved. We then joyously celebrate Purim with our costumes, groggers and reading of the Megillah while "remembering" how we were saved from Haman’s intentions to destroy us.
Embedded in our tradition as Jews is "to remember," as we share a collective memory and history. We "remember" the bitterness of slavery in Egypt during Passover. We "remember" the triumph of the Maccabees at Hanukkah, and we "remember" that Amalek attacked us when we were coming out of Egypt. We "remember" Queen Esther saving the Jewish people from the hands of Haman. And, on Yom Hashoah, we "remember" the lives lost in the Holocaust, and "remember" life lost in Israel in wars and terrorist attacks on Yom Hazikaron.
We remember lest we forget. It is this memory that ties us together and ensures Judaism continues into the future. We do this by living rich and vibrant lives so that Judaism is not simply about surviving but rather fostering Jewish identity through education and ritual.
During this past year, we have lost over 500,000 lives to COVID. The numbers are staggering and although we are encouraged with the vaccines, the numbers are still increasing. There is the suffering in Texas due to ice storms and loss of electricity last week. And, antisemitism and hate groups are on the rise. It seems that the challenges continue to surround us.
However, we can make a difference by being vigilant for ourselves and others. Let’s learn from the lessons of our past. We need to remember from where we came and who we are. We must continue to come together to contribute our time, energy, resources, and experience to our community as we are all needed.
Don’t let the grayness of the weather and the mounting tragedies around the world pull you away from seizing the opportunity to do good. Although there may be ups and downs or the odds seem against us, we will get through these adversities together. For together, we are stronger.
Let’s glean insight from our collective memory while adhering to our commandment "to remember" so we can use this knowledge to propel us into the future. We are a resilient people. Let’s learn from our history. We need to remain focused on the good and not forget our past so we may continue to lead and make a difference in our community.