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"Yaakov, Pesach is coming in a few weeks."
"I know, Rachel. I am preparing the korbon that we are bringing to the Beis HaMikdash."
"Are we bringing a big animal this year?"
Yaakov's eyes fell. He spoke hesitatingly, in a low voice.
"I am afraid that we cannot afford an animal this year. We will bring a mincha (grain offering) instead."
"When a nefesh (person) offers a mincha to Hashem . . . He shall bring it to the sons of Aaron, the Kohanim . . ." (Vayikra 2:1-2). The Baal HaTurim zt"l explains the use of the word nefesh, which also means soul. A poor person, who could not afford to bring an expensive animal, brought a mincha offering. Even so, he put his soul into paying for that mincha. Regular animals were sacrificed in public, where everyone would see. The mincha, however, was brought privately, only to the Kohanim. The public would not see that he was too poor to bring an animal sacrifice. This would save him embarrassment.
Kinderlach . . .
Do you see how the Torah is sensitive to people's feelings? This is a model for our behavior. Did your sister get a good grade on her test? Or was it not so good. Let her tell Imma privately. Don't embarrass her in front of the family. Always knock before you open a closed door. Someone may be doing something private in the room. Don't ever make fun of someone's clothes or haircut. These things can be very embarrassing. Sensitivity to other's feelings is the mark of real derech eretz.
"Yes, Avi. Parashas Zachor."
"Zachor means remember, doesn't it, Abba?"
"Yes, Avi. We must remember what Amalek did to us."
"What did he do, Abba?"
"Amalek is the personification of evil, Avi. His entire purpose in this world is to turn people away from Hashem. He tries to show them that Hashem does not exist cholila (Heaven forbid) or does not care about us. He first attacked Klal Yisrael when we left Mitzrayim, shortly after Kriyas Yam Suf. The entire world was terrified of Hashem and His chosen people. Amalek jumped in with tremendous chutzpah, attacked us, and showed the world that we were not invincible. By doing this he lowered the world's yiras (fear of) Hashem."
"That is horrible!"
"Yes, Avi. Therefore, we were given a mitzvah in the Torah, at the end of parashas Ki Seitze, to remember this terrible thing that Amalek did. We fulfill that mitzvah by reading that parasha for this week's maftir."
"Why do we read it this week, Abba."
"Because this is the week before Purim, Avi. Haman was a descendant of Amalek. Like his forefathers, he tried to wipe out Klal Yisrael and disgrace Hashem's Holy Name. We remember Amalek at the time when we rejoice over his defeat."
"What about nowadays, Abba? Who is Amalek? Where is he?"
"He is still here with us, Avi. Rav Zeidel Epstein zt"l shares an insight into Parashas Zachor. Amalek, whose entire purpose in this world is to disgrace Hashem, is the personification of evil. We must hate him and the evil that he brings into this world. Chilul Hashem is revolting! We detest it! We run far away from it! We uproot it from our lives! That is how we remember Amalek. We recognize him in all of his forms, and we stamp him out of our lives."
"I'm ready Abba . . . Zachor!"
Kinderlach . . .
This is the second of the four parshios which prepare us for Pesach. Last week, parashas shekalim, we worked on dedicating all of our gashmius (material possessions) to Hashem. This week we work on hating the evil of Chilul Hashem and uprooting it from our lives. Do not do anything that would make people look down upon Hashem or His mitzvos. Act nicely towards people, with tremendous kovod (honor) and derech eretz (respect). Value the mitzvos and perform them carefully and properly. Fear Hashem and distance yourself from any aveyra (sin). This is how we wipe out Amalek, kinderlach. Zachor!
The end of the book of Shemos dealt with the construction and assembly of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The book of Vayikra begins with the sacrifices that were offered in the Mishkan. "From the cattle or from the flock you shall bring your offering," (Vayikra 1:2). Rabbeinu Bechaye elaborates on the types of animals that are fitting to be offered on the Mizbeach (Holy Altar). Domesticated animals that dwell in inhabited areas are brought as sacrifices to Hashem. They are the hunted ones, not the hunters. These kosher animals serve as a role model for the Jewish people. They are settled and live peaceful lives. Yaakov Avinu, a shepherd, chose to work among them. We are the descendants of Yaakov, Ish Tam, a straightforward person. Like these peaceful animals, and the Mizbeach that they are sacrificed upon, we bring peace into the world. Predatory animals that live in the wilderness are not suitable for sacrifices. They are the hunters. Eisav chose to live among them. He was a hunter who lived in the wilderness. His descendants and their way of live stand opposed to peacefulness. For the same reason, the Torah prohibited the use of iron on the Mizbeach. Iron and the weapons made from it are the instruments of war. They shorten the life of a person. They are the lot of Eisav.
Kinderlach . . .
On Purim, we celebrate the victory of the Jewish people over Haman, a descendant of Eisav and Amalek. Hashem with His Hidden Hand guiding the events, showed that the path of Torah is correct. "Its ways are pleasant, and all of its paths are peaceful," (Mishlei 3:17). Weapons, even if they are toys, are for Eisav and Amalek, not us. How ironic that Purim has become a time when many children frighten people with cap guns and firecrackers. The Torah forbids frightening a person, even if you do not endanger him. Throwing a firecracker or sparkler at someone is very dangerous and a much more serious sin. Purim is a time of happiness. Cap guns and firecrackers do not make anyone happy. This Purim let us celebrate our victory over Amalek by abandoning his ways and seeking only peace and happiness for everyone.
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