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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Zachor

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

There was a boiling hot bath. Everyone wanted to go in but they were afraid. One brazen fellow plunged in. Once he leaped in everyone jumped in after him.

When the Jews left Egypt they were hot, very hot. The surrounding nations heard about all the miracles that occurred to the Jews. The world was in awe of the Jewish people. They were also jealous of our chosenness and wanted to attack. They were all afraid to jump in. One brazen nation Amalek came and plunged in against the Jews and cooled us down. We have since suffered for generations in the hands of ruthless governments and anti-Semitic populaces. None of them were afraid of us. “reishis goyim Amalek” - Amalek was the first, they started. Once they started we became easy prey for the entire world.

Something even worse happened. “Asher Korcho Baderech.” We were hot and Amalek made us cold. With the attack of Amalek we turned stony, frigid and dispassionate about Hashem. Not only were we cooled down in the eyes of the nations for all of history, but even more tragic, our own attitude, in our own minds and hearts became cold.

I’d like to discuss the nu-nu factor.

Once in Buffalo it came to my attention that two of my congregants were involved in an illicit affair. I was beside myself. I didn’t know whether to shoot, excommunicate, scream, or threaten. The standards of my community were being compromised. Chilul Hashem was pending. Olam Haba was being thrown out the window. I called a seasoned Rabbi and described the situation to him. I’ll never forget his response! “Nu-nu”.

One of the great luminaries of the last generation was Rav Yechezkel Levenstien. He was the spiritual leader of Mir Yeshiva in Poland, Shanghai and eventually he came to the Mir Yeshiva in Brooklyn. After a very short time in this country he announced that he could no longer stay in the US and that he will be making Aliya. In his departing talk he spoke about a man who entered a perfumery. As he entered he was overwhelmed with the fragrance. After a few minutes the fragrance became subtle and after an hour he could detect no smell. Rav Yechezkel said that at the beginning he wasn’t used to American society. The things he saw hit him like a ton of bricks. They kept him up at night. After a few weeks the very same society became tolerable until he found himself saying, nu-nu. It was time to leave.

Can you remember how you felt the first time you heard that a Yeshiva student was abusing drugs? Can you remember how you felt when the first SCUD missile fell on Tel Aviv? Can you remember how you felt the first time you heard that there was a child on the street because no Yeshiva or Jewish school would take him in? We were hot. We can’t cool down!

The Torah lists the crimes of Amalek. He stabbed us in the back. He attacked our weakest. He came upon us when we were faint and exhausted. He didn’t fear G-d. But the first and the worst thing Amalek did was that he made us cold. Timche - erase the memory of Amalek. Turn up the heat.

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