Of Purim, Amalek, and New Zealand
"Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt...you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!" (Deut. 25:17- 19)
At sundown this evening we greet Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat immediately preceding the holiday of Purim. Purim, the joyous holiday celebrating, once again, the survival of the Jewish people in the face of enemies who sought to destroy us. Zachor, remember, is the first word of the quotation above which reminds us that we will always be blotting out evil from the world. It was the Amalekites who, according to the rendition in the Torah, who attacked the camp of the Israelites from the rear, harming the most vulnerable among the population.
The command in Deuteronomy reminds us that every generation will be struggling with Amalekites. Whether it be those who are fomenting this generation's version of antisemitism or the evil perpetrated in many settings throughout the world. Last evening's tragedy in New Zealand in the Muslim community, which saw the death of at least 49 people, is a deep reminder that the divisions of humanity still haunt us on a regular basis. As Jews, we found consolation in Purim's story of the ancient victory over evil in the Persian kingdom. Today we reach for each other in our community and those seek that more peaceful world to stand together in terrible times.
I have had numerous calls and emails encouraging outreach to the Islamic Center of Petaluma, our partners on the fourth Thursday of each month in serving the needy. For now, they prefer the opportunity for prayer and contemplation as they process these events. I have let them know that we at BIJC would be honored to host them in a gathering, perhaps next weekend, to allow all of us to stand together in these difficult times, as they stood with us following the shootings in Pittsburgh last November.
Please note that most of the Rabbis of Sonoma County have issued a statement to the Muslim community of New Zealand expressing our support and prayers of healing. Meanwhile, we will join for services tomorrow morning and in our prayers hope for healing and strength in the face of another human induced evil.
Please note that we will also join together for Purim eve adult oriented experience on Wednesday, March 19 at 6:30 p.m. Our job is still to blot out the memory of Haman, a descendant of Amalek.
On the morning of March 24, there will be a Purim Carnival for J School and for all of our families. It will take place at BIJC from 10-12 that day.
May we rejoice at our survival and seek together the strength it takes to overcome Amalek in all of its forms in our world.
Rabbi Ted Feldman