Friday, February 26, 2010

Remembering Amalek and alcohol abuse


12th of Adar, 5770
 
1. ZAKHOR: On the Shabbat that precedes Purim, two Torah scrolls are taken from the ark; one for the regular Parasha and one for a special Maftir from Debarim 25: 'Remember what Amalek did to you".
This text describes our obligation to remember what Amalek did to us during our departure from Egypt. Amalek attacked us without a reason and without a purpose. Amalek and his ideological descendents (which are called "Zekher Amalek") can be identified by two key factors:
1. Amalek’s hatred toward us is not motivated by greed, territorial claims or revenge. It is pure disinterested hatred.
2. Amalek does not want us to surrender or to change our religion.

He just wants us to disappear.

The Torah urges us not to forget –also in the sense of forgiving- Amalek because our mere survival is at play. Our war with Amalek is an existential war. Unfortunately, it is extremely obvious to see who is (are?) playing the role of Amalek in our days.

Our Chakhamim prescribed the public reading of our first encounter with Amalek, once every year, on the Shabbat which precedes Purim – Haman being a descendant of Amalek. This Parasha has the special status of being the only Biblical text which reading is a direct Torah commandment. The other Parashiot are of rabbinical status.
Women are also obligated to attend and listen to Parashat Zakhor.


2. SEUDAT PURIM: During the day of Purim, this year Sunday February 28th, we participate in a festival meal, Seudat Purim. In this banquet we celebrate, sing songs and express our happiness and thanks to HaShem Almighty for our deliverance. At the end of this Seuda we say BIRKAT HAMAZON adding the special text AL HANISIM.

In this Seudat is customary to serve alcohol.


A few words of warning about alcohol abuse,

Purim should not be used as an excuse for drunkenness. "Our tradition is against drunkenness,"declares Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union and Purim is a day which is "especially vulnerable to alcohol abuse". NCSY, a leading orthodox Jewish organization in America ordered a "zero tolerance" policy on alcohol at their Purim events. "In these days," declares Rabbi Weinreb "when so many of our young people are prone to experimentation with dangerous substances, it behooves us to warn against the dangers of alcohol, especially on Purim."Quoting from the Mishna Berura (sec. 695) on the laws governing the Purim SEUDA, the festive meal, Rabbi Weinreb emphasized that we are not commanded to become drunk, to look foolish and to lose self-control; rather, he said, we are commanded to become joyous "in a manner that results in love of God and thankfulness for God’s miracles."