The Parsha this week is Parshas Tetsaveh. Being the Shabbos before Purim, it is also known as Shabbos Zachor – that is, the Shabbos once a year when we read the special haftorah in the Torah that talks about the mitzvah of eradicating Amalek. Amalek was the first nation to attack the Jews when they left Egypt. Hashem instructed us that we must eradicate this nation in its entirety. Aside from the mitzvh of actually wiping out Amalek, there is a seperate mitzvah that must be done once a year of remembering about Amalek. We fulfill this mitzvah by reading the Torah portion in which we are commanded to remember what Amalek did to us. Although this mitzvah of remembering what Amalek did to us could be fulfilled any time during the year, our custom is to do this on the Shabbos before Purim. This is because Haman, the main character who tried to destroy the Jewish people in the story of Purim, was a direct descendant from Haman.
While reading or listening to the reading of the Torah during all other weekends of the year is only a Rabbinical obligation, listening to the reading this week in Parshas Zachor is actually a Torah commandment.
When the Torah describes to us what Amalek did, the Torah says “Asher karacha” – “that he (Amalek) ”happened to meet you” (Deuteronomy 25:18). The word “karacha”, our Sages explain, is related to the word “Kor” – “Cold”. That is, because Amalek “cooled down” the Jewish people. Until Amalek came, there was a fear among the nations of the world to start with the Jews. After what had happened to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians, most people were simply too scared to start a war with the Jewish people. When Amalek came and fought a battle, even if he lost, but he “cooled down” the fear of fighting with the Jews. It now became a possibility for others to start wars with the Jews.
Our commentaries point to a lesson of utmost importance in this description of “karacha” – cooling down. When we have a chance to do a mitzvah, the feelings that we have in doing them are a very important part of the mitzvah. A person who is doing mitzvahs in a healthy way, will have many different feelings when he or she is doing them. There are feelings of love and fear of G-d, feelings of joy at having the opportunity to do the mitzvah, feelings of care and concern to do the commandment in the best way possible,... If a person is doing mitzvot the way he or she should, then each time we do it, we go through a whole slew of different emotions. These emotions we can call warmth, radiance, excitement,…
On the other hand, if a person just does a mitzvah as a matter of rote, with no feeling, then the action remains a dry physical act, with no real life to it. The mitzvah can be called cold and lifeless.
When Amalek heard about the miracles that Hashem did for the Jewish people, he remained cold and unmoved. This lack of emotion was not just a one time problem that Amalek had. It was his essence – lack of feeling, cold and indifferent,… The danger Amalek threatens us with was not just this physical threat. “Asher karacha” – that the Jew may have had some coldness rubbed off onto himself or herself, that his relationship with Hashem is not alive, vibrant, exciting,… If that is the case then we must revive our emotions, warm them up, and keep the feelings of connection to Hashem. In this way we can make sure to eradicate Amalek in its entirety, both the physical threat from outside, and the spiritual one that threatens our essence.