I hope everyone is happy. Because… it’s Adar, and remember, if you’re not happy, fake it. Lest we forget, we must remember that during this month, joy increases. And no matter what happens…. Don’t forget. In fact, these are the two focal points of the special Torah reading this week. This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat of Remembrance, because we have an extra reading this Shabbat before Purim which begins with the call to remember, and says:
זָכוֹר, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה לְךָ עֲמָלֵק
Remember what Amalek did to you when you went forth from Egypt.
For those who don’t remember, the Amalakites were a people who attacked the Jews when we were wandering in the wilderness of Sinai, but they didn’t just attack us. They attacked from the rear, which was the weakest point. And then the text says something a bit disturbing. It says to utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Basically, commanding us to commit genocide. And the passage ends with an imperative:
Now, you might think there is no connection to the water in this passage, but let’s look at it in a bigger context, namely its connection to Purim. As was mentioned a couple weeks ago, on Purim, we read the Megilat Esther (מְגִלָת אֶסְתֵּר) the Scroll of Esther. However, if we change the vowels to the name of that book, it becomes Migalet Asteer (מְגַלֵת אָסְתִּר) which means “the Revelation of that which is hidden.”
Hide and Seek
Purim is all about seeing wonders that are hidden. When we celebrate and read the Megillah, we wear masks and costumes to hide our identity. We are supposed to drink until we can’t tell the difference between “Blessed be Mordechai'' and "Cursed be Haman.” Throughout the whole Book of Esther, nothing is as it appears. Esther even tried to hide her identity as a Jew.
The ultimate hide and seek is the fact that nowhere in the entire Book of Esther does God appear even once. It’s the only book in the entire Tanakh (the Hebrew bible) in which the name of God does not appear. How is it possible that God would not be present during the events which were so momentous that we still celebrate it to this day? Either God is not present at all or God is merely hidden from us. While on the surface it might appear that God is not present in the Megillah, it has been said that when the Megillah uses the phrase “HaMelech Achashverosh” (King Achashverosh) it is telling us about events which took place during the time of Esther. But when the text says simply “HaMelech the King” it is actually speaking about God, and hints to future events that we cannot know. So, to see the connection between Purim and water allow me to invoke the command
Remember – Purim is all about revealing that which is hidden.
Remember – The Ocean, and water in general, represent Olam HaNistar, the Hidden World.
Remember – The month of Adar is represented by the water sign of Pisces.
Remember – Pisces is symbolized by two fish. One representing the Revealed World in which we humans live, and the Hidden World in which we cannot live but contains wonders beyond our imagination.
Remember – Psalm 95 says “The Sea is God’s.”
Remember – God is HaMelech, the King.
Remember – That Gematria is the teaching which says when two Hebrew words share the same numerical value, it reveals a deeper connection which is hidden.
So, let’s reveal something that isn’t really that hidden, but which is hiding in plain sight if we but only look.
The Gematria of המלך (the King) is 95.
ה-5 מ-40 ל-30 ך-20= 95
The Gematria of המים (the Water) is 95.
ה-5 מ-40 י-10 ם-40 = 95
Remember How It Was
On Purim we commemorate the victory of the weak over the mighty. On Shabbat Zachor we recount the Amalekites who attacked the weakest and most vulnerable of our people.
Today, the ocean and water of the world is being attacked by the powerful, the wealthy, the greedy and the arrogant while the most vulnerable, the sea life and the water itself cannot fight back.
Remember – Before the era of industrial fishing, the Ocean teemed with fish.
Remember – Before the era of commercial whaling, whales kept the marine ecosystem in balance. The blue whale population today is only 10% of what it was just 250 years ago.
Remember – Before the industrial revolution the Ocean was quiet and ships sailed on the wind.
Remember – Before the discovery of oil, there was no such thing as an Exxon Valdez disaster or Deepwater Horizon. Billions of gallons of oil were not regularly spilled into the ocean.
Remember – Before plastic, people ate with real cutlery or wood, not with trillions of disposable plastic forks and knives made from petroleum.
Remember. Remember. Remember.
And now we come back to that difficult command to blot out the memory of Amalek. But like HaMelch and HaMayim, we must look for a deeper connection. It’s unimaginable that we Jews, who have known more attempts at our extermination than any other people in history, should be commanded to commit genocide. So, what is the text telling us when it commands us to blot out Amalek?
Here’s the deeper connection:
עמלק (Amalek) = 240
ספק (Doubt) = 240
The Torah would never command us to commit genocide. If we understand Shabbat Zachor in the context of water, or in just about any challenging situation, we can see that the Torah tells us to remove doubt.
If any of us doubt that we can make a difference… blot out that thought.
If any of us doubt that a single person can affect change… blot out that thought.
If any of us doubt that through the combined efforts of people who care, we cannot turn back the hands of time and restore the Ocean… blot out that thought.
As a movement and as individuals, I have no doubt that we can have an impact and make a difference to repair the Sea.
Remember… Don’t Forget.