Parshat Zachor

The month of Adar has begun, and we are commanded to increase our happiness! As stated in the Talmud:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת תענית דף כט/א

אמר רב יהודה בריה דרב שמואל בר שילת משמיה דרב  משנכנס אדר מרבין בשמחה

“When the month of Adar commences, we must increase our happiness.”

Rashi offers the reason that because Adar was a month of miracles for the Jewish people, i.e., Purim and Pesach, we should be more joyous during this time.

As soon as Adar enters, we already have our thoughts on the festive holiday of Purim. Preparatory to Purim is the immediately preceding Shabbat called Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat on we remember how Amalek warred with us and tried to destroy us as we left Egypt. This is the Torah’s 603rd and 605th Mitzvah, and every male Jew is obligated to fulfill them.  Remember what Amalek did to you on the way when you were leaving Egypt, and don’t forget it! To fulfill this commandment, this Shabbat we will take out a second sefer Torah and read the portion with this commandment in it, thus remembering what Amalek did to us.

The story of Purim took place in the year 363 BCE, towards the end of the 70 year exile between the First and Second Temples. Actually, tradition tells us that it was Ester’s son Darius, who granted permission to rebuild it.










The Purim story took place when prophets were still commonplace among the Jewish people, and both Mordechai and Esther were prophets. When they recorded the story in the Megillah, they wrote it with prophetic vision, and, thus, every detail and nuance is significant. Dwelling on every word, the Sages extract from the Megillah many facts and interesting tidbits hidden in the text. One of them concerns the anomaly in the way in which the Megillah was written, which has perplexed the Sages for centuries. We see it in the way that Haman’s ten sons are written in the Megillah:

Here is a listing, by name, of Haman’s ten sons who were hanged, and this is how every Megillah needs to be written. In addition to the unusual columned format, four of the letters are sized differently than the others: (1) the ת  of the name פרשנדתא , (2) the ש   of פרמשתא , (3) the ז  of  ויזתא , which are smaller than the rest, and (4) the ו  of ויזתא  , which is enlarged.

What could be behind these unusual letters? Based on recent Jewish history, the following explanation has been offered.

Haman, the Megillah’s villain, descends from Agag, king of Amalek when King Saul ruled as Israel’s first king. The history of the Jewish nation and the people of Amalek began just after the Jews left Egypt, when Amalek attacked them for no apparent reason.

This is what the Torah says (Deuteronomy 25):

ספר דברים פרק כה

(יז) זָכוֹר אֵת אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לְךָ עֲמָלֵק בַּדֶּרֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶם מִמִּצְרָיִם:

(יח) אֲשֶׁר קָרְךָ בַּדֶּרֶךְ וַיְזַנֵּב בְּךָ כָּל הַנֶּחֱשָׁלִים אַחֲרֶיךָ וְאַתָּה עָיֵף וְיָגֵעַ וְלֹא יָרֵא אֱלֹקים:

(17) Remember what Amalek did to you on the way when you were leaving Egypt. (18) That he happened upon you on the way, and he struck those of you who were hindmost, all the weaklings at your rear, when you were faint and exhausted, and he did not fear G-d.

Five reasons support a country going to war: (1) To defend their land from an approaching threat, (2) To conquer new territory, (3) To show off their might, (4) If a nation started up with them, and (5) To wage a holy war. The above verses show that none of these reasons applied. (1) We were on our way to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, we were not a threat to anyone, (2) We had just left Egypt and had no land, (3) They attacked the weak stragglers, not a way to show off one’s might, (4) We did not start up with them, and (5) They were not fearful of G-d, so there could be no holy war.

So why did they do it?  Their goal was to extinguish the wave of fear that had been created throughout the region with the miracles that Hashem did for the Jewish people. The Torah tells us that the surrounding nations were quaking in their boots because of the might and control that Hashem had displayed. Amalek was out to disprove Hashem and to show that it was all a hoax, that it was just Moshe’s magical powers.

Amalek had in his genes a deep seated hatred for Hashem and His people inherited from his ignoble grandfather, Esav. But Amalek, was the distilled essence of Esav, and was even more evil than he.  How did Amalek become so evil? The Torah tells us that Amalek’s mother, Timna, was the illegitimate daughter of his father Elifaz (Esav’s son) from the wife of Seir. When she reached adulthood, he took his own daughter Timna, as his concubine and from her fathered Amalek. With this lineage, Amalek’s raison d’etre is to oppose anything holy, including the holiness of the Jewish people and to try to bring them down at every opportunity. Amalek is the enemy of G-d.

The Talmud in tractate Megillah (6a) tells us of a prayer that Yaakov our forefather submitted to Hashem. It was a prayer that Amalek, Esav’s descendant, be unsuccessful in his attempt to take over the world. Yaakov’s prayer is recorded in Psalm 140:9:

ספר תהילים פרק קמ

(ט) אַל תִּתֵּן יְדֹוָד מַאֲוַיֵּי רָשָׁע זְמָמוֹ אַל תָּפֵק יָרוּמוּ סֶלָה:

9) Hashem please does not grant the aspirations of the evil one, his designs do not permit, and may they be removed forever.

The Talmud then records:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת מגילה דף ו/א

ואמר רבי יצחק מאי דכתיב אל תתן ה’ מאויי רשע זממו אל תפק ירומו סלה אמר יעקב לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא רבונו של עולם אל תתן לעשו הרשע תאות לבו זממו אל תפק זו גרממיא של אדום שאלמלי הן יוצאין מחריבין כל העולם כולו

Rabbi Yitzchak said: That which it says in the verse – (the one quoted above) Yaakov prayed to the Almighty, “Master of the Universe, do not grant the aspirations of the evil one, this refers to Germany the descendant of Edom, for if they succeed, they will destroy the entire world.”

Rashi identifies the evil one referred to here as Amalek, linking Germany to Amalek. But are we talking about the same Germany? The Talmud immediately resolves this question for us.

תלמוד בבלי מסכת מגילה דף ו/ב

ואמר רבי חמא בר חנינא תלת מאה קטירי תגא איכא בגרממיא של אדום

Rabbi Chama the son of Chanina said, “There are three hundred crown toting princes in this country Germany of Edom.”

The following quote is from “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” W. L. Shirer, p.121

By the end of the middle-ages, which had seen Britain and France emerge as unified nations, Germany, remained a crazy patchwork of some three hundred individual states. 

The Sages’ prophetic statements made over 1,500 years ago, clearly connect Germany to Amalek and provides us with a new insight to the events of the Holocaust. First, it reveals the source of the deep hatred inside these evil people and how they were able without qualms to commit the atrocities that they did.

Second, we see that this effort was a fulfillment of their purpose in this world – to eradicate every single Jew from the face of the earth. They would finally accomplish the mission at which Haman failed.

Hitler (י״ש) stated:

“The war for world domination will be fought entirely between us – the Germans and the Jews. All else is façade and illusion…

“The Jews have inflicted two wounds on mankind – circumcision on its body and conscience on its soul. These are Jewish inventions…

“It is true we are barbarians. It is an honorable title… I free humanity from the shackles of the soul, from the degrading suffering caused by the false vision called conscience and morality…”

Excerpts from H. Rauschning The Voice of Destruction

    This is the essence of the epic battle between Esav and Yaakov: are we here for this world, or for the next? Hitler says we, the Germans, are the superior race, cultured and polite, yet we are barbarians and proud to be so. We have the perfect balance and know how to live life to its fullest in this world. Yaakov says it’s not about this world at all. This world is only a passageway to the world to come.

Perhaps, this sheds some light on why the Nazis tried so hard to dehumanize their victims in the camps. They wanted to show that under difficult conditions, even the Jews would break down. In fact, they proved just the opposite. The nobility of the Jewish soul shone forth in full glory. The heroism of the truly holy Jewish people in the camps is the subject of countless stories throughout those horrific years, that continue to inspire us to strive for their greatness.

Another striking parallel obtains between the Nazis and Amalek. The Torah tells us that Amalek “happened upon us.” The word that means this is קרך from the word קרי  , which means a coincidence.  The word קר  in Hebrew also means cold. This brings out a second nuance of what Amalek did to us. They made us cold, or cooled us off. Before the war with Amalek, the surrounding nations who heard of the miraculous exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt and Hashem’s might, were petrified of the Jews and would never have attempted to start up with them. Now, however, that Amalek fought with us, they cooled us down giving others the courage to jump on the bandwagon. Rashi asks us to imagine a hot tub whose water is so hot that nobody can enter. One yo-yo goes in saying, “I know that I’ll get burned, but at least I’ll cool it off for the others.” Amalek hates Hashem and the Jewish people so much that, to destroy us, it is worth it for him to suffer.

Towards the end of WW II, when the Allied forces were closing in on Hitler, he continued using the Wehrmacht’s trains and precious fuel to send Jews to the death camps instead of using those vital resources to win the war.

On August 8, 1945, the charter of the International Military Tribunal (IMT) was announced. The International Military Tribunal comprised judges from the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union, and it indicted and placed on trial leading Nazi officials. The trials were held in the Nuremberg Palace of Justice, Nuremberg Goal, Germany.

On October 6, 1946, 11 Nazi war criminals were sentenced to death by hanging, for war crimes that they had committed. The executions took place on October 16, 1946. Let’s look at that date on the Jewish calendar.


It falls out on the 21st of Tishrei, Hoshaana Rabba, 5707. Let’s look more closely at that year. How would we write that year in the format that we use for the Hebrew date? We are now in the year 5778, which we write asתשע”ח . Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet also has a numeric value, called its Gematria. The numeric value of ת  is 400, ש  is 300, ע  is 70, and ח  is 8, for a total of 778. The millennium we are in is understood since we know we are in the 6th millenium, hence the 5 is not part of the date. How would we write the year 5707? Well the 5 is understood, so we will just write the 707. ת  – 400, + ש  – 300  +ז  -7. Do these letters look familiar to you? These are the three small letters that we saw in the names of Haman’s ten sons. What about the largeו ? Its numeric value is 6. The enlarged ו  indicates the 6th Millennium. The hanging of the 10 Nazi war criminals, the grandsons of Haman,  in the year 5707, was hinted to in the Megillah, thousansds of years ago!

This answers another perplexing question in the Megillah’s  text. In the paragraph following the list of the Haman’s hanged sons, it says:

And the king said to Esther, In Shushan the capital, the Jews have killed and destroyed 500 men, and the ten sons of Haman have been hanged. What now is your request, and it shall be done? 

Esther replied: If it pleases The King, let it be given that tomorrow also the Jews of Shushan can do as they did today, and the ten sons of Haman will be hanged on the tree. And The King said, “Let it be done.”

Why is Esther speaking in the future tense? They were already hanged!

Megillat Esther, the Book of Esther, is one of the holy books that comprise the written Torah, the Tanach. Yet it is quite unusual in that it does not contain Hashem’s name written in it even once. This plays well with the theme of Purim, that although there were no open miracles, Hashem’s fingerprints, so to speak, are all over it. (More about this next week.) Our Sages teach us, that Hashem is really being referred to in the Megillah many times, and that is in the capacity of “The King.” Whenever the Megillah says king, without “the” in front of it, it is refering to Achashverosh, the human king. When , however, it writes, “THE king, is the reference is to “THE ulitimate king,” the king of all kings, Hashem.

Using this information, let’s substitute Hashem for “the king” in the passages above. It comes out that “The King” – Hashem, asked Esther what else she would like? Esther  responded by requesting of “The King” that in the future, tomorrow, Hashem will also hang Haman’s ten sons, the ten Nazi war criminals, the descendants of Haman the Amaleki. To this Hashem said, “Let it be done!”

One more thing. A blow by blow account of the executions was written by Kingsbury Smith of the International News Service. He was chosen by lot to represent the American press at the executions. This is his discription of the last of the Nazi war criminals to be executed, Julius Streicher.

Guards then started moving Streicher up the steps. As he mounted the platform, the beady-eyed Jew-hater called out:

“And now it goes to God.”

Streicher was swung around to face the audience in front of him. He glared at the Allied officers and the eight Allied correspondents representing the world’s press who were lined up against a wall behind small tables directly facing the gallows.

With burning hatred in his eyes, Streicher looked down at the witnesses and shouted:

“Purim fest 1946.”

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