Dvar Torah for Parshat Zakhor/Purim


Based on Likutey Halakhot, Birkhat HaPeirot 5:3-4

Lost Judaism. Can it be found?

We're not talking about just the big picture. We're talking about all the little pieces that make up the mosaic. (Didja get it? No?! Have another glass of wine.) Those little mitzvot, those few extra minutes you could have devoted to studying Torah or praying a little better. Those opportunities lost to a desire or to laziness. Is it ever possible to find them all? Or at least some of them? Rebbe Nachman says, yes.

On Shabbat, God willing, we will read Parshat Zakhor and thereby fulfill the mitzvah of remembering to annihilate Amalek. What are we to learn from this, that we are supposed to remember that which Amalek did to us?

When the Jews traveled though the Sinai Desert on their way to the Promised Land, the Tribe of Dan brought up the rear. Their responsibilities included recovering and returning items that members of other tribes may have lost and keeping an eye on stragglers, those who had been expelled from the area surrounded by the Ananei Kavod (Clouds of Glory). These stragglers had been expelled because they were like many of us nowadays - not circumspect enough in their sexual behavior. This prurient behavior was both instigated and exploited by Amalek. They repeatedly sought to attack the Tribe of Dan so that the Danites would be unable to return what had been lost.

Well, what does one do in order to find what he lost? How did he lose it in the first place? The answer is, he forgot, it slipped his mind. That's how we misplace things. In fact, the mishna calls forgetting "losing" (Avot 5:15). The first step in finding something lost is remembering that you had it and now you don't!

This is why we have to remember well the evil Amalek has done to us. We have to remember all that we've lost due to our lusts and make serious efforts to find them. At the very least we must try our best not to lose any more! For as long as one remembers that he's missing something and is honestly trying to find it, if he hasn't despaired, then there's hope for him. Not only that, but the very search itself is a mitzvah, a find in and of itself.

For God's goodness is unfathomable. He is always thinking of ways to gather in the stragglers, those who have been expelled. And, of course, ultimately everything will be found and set aright. Certainly, the more effort and sacrifice one puts into the search the more handsomely he'll be rewarded. The efforts these include are prayer, associating with like-minded searchers and bearing insults in silence. (The ridicule you suffer "slaughters" your evil inclination which is preventing from finding the lost items. See Likutey MoHaran I, 6:2.)

Queen Esther herself was a "lost item" because every woman starts out life being "lost" from her intended, who must go and search for her (Kiddushin 2b). Her story took place during the Babylonian Exile, when the Jews were lost from the Land of Israel. And Haman thought that the Jews were doomed.

Because Haman was a descendant of Amalek, who, as we said, always tried to keep the Jews from finding what they had lost. Haman even said to Achashverosh, "Let it be written l'abdam," to make them be lost [from the world], i.e., destroyed, God forbid (Esther 3:9). And this danger arose specifically after Esther was taken to Achashverosh's palace.

The forces of evil thought they had won. Esther, the God-fearing woman who is inclusive of all that has been lost, was herself lost! The danger was so real, things looked so bleak, that the Queen alone said, "... and what I have I lost, I have lost" (Esther 4:16). However, God in His kindness turned the situation around altogether, through the agency of Mordekhai HaTzaddik (the saint).

Mordekhai searched. Every day he would visit Esther at the harem to find out how she was (Esther 2:11). His search led to his discovery of Bigtan and Teresh's plot (ibid., :21-23). And, in fact, Queen Esther never despaired for we see that she made the necessary heroic effort to save her people. She also searched for the right plan - and found twelve reasons for it (Megillah 15b)!

So, the Jews were saved. Even the gentiles knew about the miraculous turn of events because it was also international news. Was it "business as usual" afterwards? Not at all. The Jews gained such a tremendous appreciation of what they had almost lost that they reaffirmed their commitment to the Torah to an ever greater degree than they had at Mount Sinai (Esther 9:27)! The miraculous salvation of the Jews instilled such a tremendous fear of God in the hearts of many gentiles realized that they embraced Judaism, an opportunity that they had lost long before (ibid., 8:17). (For prior to offering the Torah to Israel God offered it to the gentiles and they refused.) All these lost opportunities were found. May we make proper use of Purim, to find what we have lost and to never lose it again. Amen!

Please remember to keep your merry-making and drinking 100% kosher. And don't rely on Purim miracles to get any drunk drivers safely home. It's no fun to bury relatives or friends.


agutn Shabbos!
Shabbat Shalom!