Thursday, March 27, 2014


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – ASHAR/ Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch

                                  Birds are chirping; delightful spring day
We bid our farewells; we’re moving away[1]

Boxes are loaded; Truck ready to go
Time to depart; 3 Landau Lane ho!

Movers are busy packing boxes galore
Squeezing our stuff through the front door

One final look; a last glance around
The walls are all bare; nary a sound

In the palpable silence; we suddenly hear
Influx of memories; times we did share

Menorah on Chanukah; candle’s warm glow
Purim in costume; winters in snow

Special neighbors that always surrounded
At our Shabbos table - friendship abounded

Our children’s first steps; the first words they said
Shema every night as we tucked them in bed

Watching our children growing so fast
Trying to hold on to moments of past

We realized then that we were leaving behind
A part of our souls; a piece of our mind

We walked away slowly; sun blinding our eyes
With a new understanding; bittersweet goodbyes

We are turning a page; Continuing down the track
On the journey of life, there’s no turning back

Birds are out chirping; A delightful spring day
We’re moving on; but memories forever stay

          Parshas Hachodesh is the fourth and final special Torah portion read during the Shabbosos prior to the holiday of Pesach. Parshas Hachodesh is primarily a detailed listing of the laws involving the Paschal sacrifice commanded to the Jews in Egypt just prior to the exodus. However, the title of the parsha is modeled after the introductory verse, (Shemos 12:2) “החדש הזה לכם ראש חדשים ראשון הוא לכם לחדשי השנה – This month (i.e. Nissan) shall be for you the beginning of the months; the first for you of the months of the year.”
          The holiday of Pesach is analogous to the birth of the Jewish nation.[2] Therefore, during the Shabbos before Rosh Chodesh Nissan we remind ourselves that this juncture of the year is a time of renewal and rejuvenation.

          The gemara[3] relates an fascinating story about the great sage Rabbi Elazar ben Aruch[4]. The wines of a certain village called Pargoyasa and the waters of a village called Dadyomeses were extremely pleasurable. One who would drink that wine and bathe in those waters would feel tremendous enjoyment.
The gemara relates that Rabbi Elazar was enticed by the pleasurable wine and bathing water and it caused him to forget his Torah learning. It affected him so much that when he returned to the study hall and began reading from the Torah the verse, “החדש הזה לכם - This month shall be for you”, he inadvertently read it, “החרש היה לבם – Their hearts were stuffed up.” The Rabbis prayed for mercy on his behalf and Rabbi Elazar was able to remember his learning.
In order to appreciate the perplexity of the aforementioned story, one must understand the extent of Rabbi Elazar’s greatness. Following are a few Talmudic passages describing Rabbi Elazar ben Aruch:
·        “If all the sages would be on one pan of a balance-scale… and Rabbi Elazar ben Aruch would be on the second pan, he would outweigh them all.”[5]
·        “Rabbi Elazar ben Aruch is like a wellspring flowing even stronger.”[6]
·        “Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai stood up and kissed him on his forehead and said, ‘…Praised are you our patriarch Avrohom that Elazar ben Aruch is your descendant.”[7]
How is it possible that someone as righteous and erudite as Rabbi Elazar ben Aruch could be so affected by a few physical luxuries, that he couldn’t read a simple verse properly?  

The exodus from Egypt was accomplished in two distinct stages. The first stage involved the ten plagues that ravaged Egypt, and culminated with Pharaoh imploring the Jews to leave the physical confines of the country. The second stage was accomplished at the splitting of the Sea of Reeds.
The miracles that transpired at the sea are well-known. The waters split and the Jews descended into a miraculous path between the walls of water. When the Egyptians tried to follow suit the waters of the sea caved in and drowned them.
Tosafos[8] states that the sea did not split across from one side to the other. Rather, it split in the shape of a semi-circle so that the Jews emerged from the sea on the same side that they had entered, albeit a few yards over.[9]
If they didn’t traverse the sea, what was the purpose of the whole miracle? G-d could have just as easily decimated the Egyptian army in a plague, as indeed occurred after the final plague before the exodus?
Sefas Emes explains that at the time of the physical exodus the nation did not undergo any internal change. At the slitting of the sea however, there was a national metamorphosis which was integral to their development into nationhood.

By nature humans thrive on innovation and newness. In a room packed with people filled with the drone of conversation if one shouts “did you hear the news?” the room will instantly quiet down and everyone will turn to hear the exciting news.[10]
We are curious beings, always seeking some information that we were not yet aware of or acquiring something that we did not yet have. Stores often post signs stating, “ראה זה חדש –See this new thing”. We thrive on chiddush (novelty); it makes us excited and fills us with a spirit of life.[11]
There are two distinct ways for one to seek “chiddush” in life: External chiddush and internal chiddush.
Most of the world seeks external chiddush. We look for new trends, styles, fashions, and news. We try to keep up with the Joneses[12] and we want to know what kind of car or house we can purchase that will impress others and make us feel important.
The deficiency of external chiddush is that it is fleeting and transient. No matter how eccentric and original something is today, within a short time the novelty fades. Something that is this week’s fashion and craze may be trite and banal next week.[13]  
The other form of chiddush is internal; it comes from within ourselves. It is a constant process of revival and regeneration of what we already have. Not only does this entail developing an appreciation for what we already have, but also tapping into the vast greatness within us which usually remains dormant.

Rabbi Yochanan described Rabbi Elazar ben Aruch as, “a wellspring flowing even stronger”. A wellspring is a fountain of water which perpetually replenishes itself. The greatness of Rabbi Elazar was that he found chiddush within himself. He was not interested in the external “chiddushim” of the world around him. Rabbi Elazar personified the words of the verse, “החדש הזה – This (process of) renewal[14]” is “לכם – for you”, i.e. from you. Rabbi Elazar’s renewal came from within!
When Rabbi Elazar allowed himself to indulge somewhat in pleasurable wines and waters, his sense of internal chiddush was enervated. On his great level he became drawn toward the enjoyment of earthly pleasure and it detracted from his lofty spiritual greatness. Although he surely did not lose his ability to read a verse from the Torah, a philosophical transformation had occurred that obfuscated him. Now instead of the renewal coming from within the words “החרש היה לבם – Their hearts were stuffed up” were more applicable.[15]

When the Mirrer Yeshiva was making the onerous journey from Shanghai to America via ship after the conclusion of World War II, there was one point when a stunning sunset was visible from the boat’s deck. Someone called to Rabbi Shmuel Berenbaum zt’l - a student of the yeshiva at the time - and told him that it was worth putting down the gemara he was studying for a few moments to see the extraordinary view. Rabbi Shmuel refused and continued learning. To him the gemara he was learning possessed far greater novelty and excitement than any sunset.

The exodus of Egypt was a physical departure from the land of bondage and servitude. Still, it was more of an external event than an internal change. For a nation poised to become the Chosen People the events of the exodus were severely lacking. At the splitting of the sea however, that deficiency was rectified. When they emerged from the sea on the same side they entered, they realized that the greatness of the event was internal. “Yisroel saw the great Hand that G-d inflicted upon Egypt; and the people revered G-d, and they had faith in G-d and in Moshe, His servant.”[16]
That event triggered the development of deeply rooted faith within the people. That transformation was more seminal than the exodus itself. They went nowhere physically but they became a different people, spiritually and psychologically. The splitting of the sea impressed upon them the message of internal chiddush and finding novelty within!

Parshas Tazria commences with a discussion of the laws of feminine purity. A woman naturally possesses a biological time-clock; an internal cycle of renewal. The parsha continues with a discussion of another spiritual malady that effect one physically, i.e. tzara’as. It is an internal impurity which espouses the need for change.
On Pesach we undergo national rebirth. Perhaps, we do not change physically but Parshas Hachodesh reminds us that change is a psychological process too.
We may never reach the level of internal chiddush that Rabbi Shmuel Berenbaum zt’l had, but on our own level we must not lose track of the internal greatness we inherently possess.
When one walks out of a hospital after being a patient (G-d forbid) or going to visit others he has a temporary appreciation of his health. A person who is able to maintain that appreciation and sense of internal chiddush constantly develops an appreciation of life that fills him with joy and gratitude for all that he has and all that he is.  

“This month shall be for you the beginning of the months”

We are turning a page; Continuing down the track
On the journey of life; there’s no turning back

[1] In 5768 when this was originally written, we moved from the Blueberry Hill condominium where we had lived for 4 years to our current home at 3 Landau Ln.
[2] See Maharal (Gevuros Hashem)
[3] Shabbos 147a
[4] The following thoughts are based on a discourse by Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman at Bais Medrash Shaarei Tefilah, 7 Adar I 5768/February 12, 2008
[5] Avos 2:12
[6] Avos 2:11
[7] Chagiga 14b
[8] Arachin 15a, K’shaym
[9] If asked why the Jews crossed the sea, the answer is not ‘to get to the other side’!
[10] The Yiddish phrase “Vos iz neais- what’s the news” is almost a Jewish mantra, not to mention a Jewish news blog.
[11] Any time a new placard is hung up in a shul or yeshiva, a crowd will invariably gather shortly after to see the new posting.
[12] Or Goldbergs
[13] Any child who has leafed through his parent’s wedding album has had that feeling of pity for the outdated and out of style clothes they wore in those days. Little do those children know that one day their children will look at their wedding album in the same manner.
[14] the word hachodesh is from the same root as chiddush
[15] [היה is stated in the past tense, because when one seeks chiddush externally his personal greatness and untapped potential seems to be things of the past.]
[16] Shemos 14:31

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Social Worker, Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch/ASHAR


“Out, out brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then, it is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”
(William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act V, Scene 5)

  In the Fall 2003 edition of Spirit Magazine[1], the feature article was authored by Rabbi Baruch Rabinowitz, a noted lecturer and rebbe from Long Island, NY.  The article was entitled, “What are we davening (praying) for?” and was written as a reflection on the devastating tragedies of September 11th, 2001.
  Rabbi Rabinowitz wrote that as everyone was reeling from the horrible events, he was invited by various groups to speak and provide insight into what had transpired. But he himself did not know what to say. At a complete loss, he contacted his rebbe, the legendary Rabbi Moshe Shapiro shlita in Yerushalayim and asked if he could join him for Shabbos. Rabbi Shapiro agreed. Before and after Shabbos the two spent numerous hours in deep philosophical discussion.
  At one point Rabbi Shapiro asked Rabbi Rabinowitz if he thought people had changed because of the tragedy. Rabbi Rabinowitz replied that people indeed seemed more patient and tolerant of each other. They seemed more compassionate and generous and there was a refreshing sense of unity.
  Rabbi Shapiro then asked Rabbi Rabinowitz if he felt people were praying differently and what he thought people were praying for. Rabbi Rabinowitz stuttered, “I guess for world peace, and for an end to the pain.”
  Rabbi Shapiro replied, “Perhaps. But I am afraid that people are praying that things return back to the way they were. They want the world to return to the level of equilibrium and calm that existed before the attacks. They want to return to what was familiar, and what was comfortable. They are uncomfortable with the wellspring of unfamiliar emotions…They may even be praying that the whole thing should be one bad dream that never happened.
  “That type of prayer is a big mistake! The Holy One guides the world in a very specific manner. Through the events of history G-d takes us from here to there. There is a beginning and a purpose for it all and G-d is guiding us there. The whole world is structured this way.
  “The word shomayim (heaven) contains the word ”shom- there”. The word eretz (earth) – according to the Radak- is comprised of two words, “ani ratz- I run”. The world is a place of running and moving. But it’s not enough just to run. One can run in place and go nowhere. We must run in this world with a purpose, there must be ‘shom’ – a destination. If there is shom then the running has meaning. If there is no shom then we are running without direction.
  “The Creator is sending us a message that we have to move away from what was to a new place where he wants us to be. G-d has a plan; He has a purpose for us. We must accept that life will no longer be what it was. “Mir darfen zich tzushtelen tzu ratzon haBorei- We must connect to what G-d wants of us!”  
  “I think people are afraid of the future and are fearful of the unknown, and, therefore, they are not praying to go forward but to return to what is familiar.” 

  In the introduction to his commentary on the Torah, Rabbi Yeruchom Levovitz zt’l, the Mirrer Mashgiach, discusses the reality of the world for one who lacks faith and belief in G-d. A faithless person believes that the forces of entropy take their natural course and set the world on a random path, which can best be described as a stroke of luck.[2]
  Faith in G-d is the only concept that can give life direction (כוון) and purpose תכלית)). Without faith life lacks those vital qualities and one will be compelled to search for meaning and purpose in other areas in order to quell his yearning spirit. That is why people develop hobbies, including becoming passionate sports fans or developing ardent ties with political parties. These ideas and concepts become their complete focus and sometimes consume them completely. It is their replacement for their natural need to connect with something greater than themselves.
  The challenge develops when the world stops appreciating one’s interests and no longer cares for his contribution. When this happens the person is left with a painful void in his heart; his existence may feel empty and overbearing. He may come to a bitter realization that he is coasting though a purposeless life. Often people resort to alcohol and drugs to numb the unbearable horrible pain that they feel. They may feel that if they have no worthy focus in their lives it is easier to just remove all focus altogether.
  Our generation is particularly challenged with numbness. We set our lives on cruise control and continue to drive down life’s highway without hitting the breaks to search for meaning and insight.
      The absolutely most painful realization of all is when one begins to think his life has no meaning; “A walking shadow…Signifying nothing.”
  Secularists claim that one must counter that inner void and numbness with any means possible. In the words of famous American singer Frank Sinatra: “I’m for anything that gets you through the night, be it prayers, tranquilizers, or a bottle of Jack Daniels.” We believe however, that the void stems from an inner calling, the soul within pining for meaning and connection with its eternal roots.

  “It was on the eighth day”[3]. The construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was complete and the seven days of “practice” were over; it was time for the Service in the Mishkan to officially commence. The gemara[4] relates that the day of the coronation of the Mishkan was as joyous before G-d as the day of the creation of the world. It was to be a day of unparalleled grandeur and significance.
  In a sense, it was Aharon’s big day. When the celestial fire consumed the offerings that Aharon offered on the Altar, Aharon was vindicated as everyone saw that he was forgiven for initiating the sin of the golden calf. “A fire went forth from before G-d and consumed upon the Altar…the people saw and sang glad song and fell upon their faces”[5]
  Just as the joy of the inauguration reached its crescendo however, tragedy struck. Aharon’s two oldest sons, two of the most elite leaders of the nation, performed an unauthorized service and were instantly killed. “The sons of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, each took his fire pan, and they put fire in them, and placed incense upon it; and they brought before G-d an alien fire than He had not commanded them. A fire came forth from before G-d and it consumed them, and they died before G-d”[6].
  The death of Nadav and Avihu, especially at such an unpropitious time, was a catastrophic tragedy. Suddenly the intense joy was transformed into shock, mourning, and grief.  One can only imagine how personally devastating the loss was to Aharon. Yet, the verse relates his incredibly controlled reaction, “וידם אהרן – Aharon was silent”[7].

  By nature, man has a penchant to find meaning and significance in all that occurs. We have a sense of security when we feel that we have a logical perspective of the mechanics and occurrences of the world around us. Thus, when something happens that defies logic and rationale, it shakes us to the core, and fills us with anxiety, apprehension, and angst.
  The extent of true belief in G-d is achieved when one is comfortable with the notion that we do not, and cannot, comprehend the Divine Plans. One who possesses real faith is secure with the knowledge that ultimately there is a Master who controls everything and only acts out of justice and goodness. The man of faith – even with tears falling from his eyes and reeling from the magnitude of painful events that occurred – is able to maintain a sense of internal security and peace of mind. He may be deeply pained and full of questions; however, he takes solace in knowing that there are indeed answers though he may not be privy to them.
  In describing Aharon’s reaction of silence the Torah uses the word “vayidom” and not the more common word “vayishtok” because the word ‘vayidom’ is similar to the word ‘domem- inanimate’. The Sages say, “עשה עצמו כדומם- Aharon made himself like an inanimate object.” A stone cannot comprehend anything that occurs in front of it because it lacks the mental capacity for understanding. Aharon realized that he was unable to grasp the depth of the precision of the Divine Justice meted out here. He recognized that, in relation to the celestial, he was analogous to an inanimate, lifeless, and clueless pebble. Aharon was able to submit to that existential understanding despite his incredible personal pain because of his unwavering faith in G-d.
  The prophet[8] speaks of the challenges of the end of time. Just prior to the Messianic era everything will be perplexing and enigmatic. The Divine Plan will be obscure and faith will be severely tested. But, “ המשכיל בעת ההיא ידום - One who is wise, at that time he will be silent.” In the face of adversity and dubious events the man of faith adopts the attitude of Aharon, as an inanimate object who cannot grasp what is beyond it.

  Most people live with an attitude of blame and pointing fingers at others. The American mentality is that as soon as something goes awry we ask whose fault it was[9]. In reality, this is a defense mechanism protecting us from our fear of facing the true meaning behind events and the ramifications it should have on our lives.
  Because our faith is so flimsy, when a tragedy occurs, Heaven forbid, our faith can be shaken. The root of the crises of faith stems from the fact that our faith was too fragile to begin with because it was built on false presuppositions and ideologies. In a sense, we sugarcoat our faith and tailor it to fit with our own agenda; “That could never happen to me! G-d would never challenge me in that manner!” Because of that attitude, when tragedy strikes, Heaven forbid, it catches us off guard and our faith is immediately challenged.
  It behooves us to build our faith with proper understanding before we are faced with the inevitable challenges that arise in life. “עשה עצמו כדומם” was Aharon’s attitude about life generally. That was why when tragedy struck his intense sorrow and grief did not shake his faith.

  The Jewish philosophy of purity and holiness does not entail abstinence and cessation[10]. In fact, Judaism espouses the belief that holiness is ubiquitous and can be generated wherever and whenever one strives to do so. One also becomes holy, not despite his pitfalls, setbacks, and errors, but because of them. The future must be built on one’s past and present, on one’s accomplishments and failures.
  In the words of Rabbi Shapiro: “The Holy One guides the world in a very specific manner. Through the events of history G-d is taking us from here to there. There is a beginning as well as a purpose for it all and G-d is guiding us there.”
  The holidays of Purim and Pesach are predicated on this idea. The pains that we suffered at the behest of Pharaoh and Haman were the keys to the national spiritual growth that occurred when we were saved from their evil clutches.
  The Jews who lived through Haman’s rise and fall at the time of the Purim miracle did not pray that things revert to how they were before Haman came on the scene. They realized that it was only through that difficult encounter that the great story of Purim, with all of its positive spiritual ramifications, could occur. The same held true at the time of the exodus from Egypt.
  The reading of the Red Heifer - Parshas Para - which discusses the process of purity is strategically read between the great holidays of Purim and Pesach. This reminds us that purity emanates from one who takes their past into the future and strives to grow from it all. The past and the present are the roots of the future!

  Rabbi Kokis concluded his lecture with the following story:
  I knew a simple yet holy Jew, a ba’al teshuva[11], who went rowing out on a lake with his son one summer’s day. While they were out on the water the boat capsized and the man helplessly watched his son drown.
  Despite his anguish the man was somehow able to come to terms with the harsh decree with love. He was a generally happy person who lived without complaints. About fifteen years ago I went to visit him. He was lying in bed dying from the cancer that was ravaging his body. During our conversation he smiled and said, “I always wondered why my son was taken from me in such a tragic manner. Now I am going to find out!”

  “Aharon was silent”
  “Mir darfen zich tzushtelen tzu ratzon haBorei

[1] “Spirit: Exploring family issues and developmental disabilities” is published quarterly by Yedei Chessed, an affiliate of Bikur Cholim of Monsey.
[2] The following thoughts are based on a lecture given by Rabbi BenZion Kokis, Mashgiach of the Bais Medrash of Yeshiva Shaarei Torah, to the members of the Yeshiva’s Kollel during the week of parshas Shemini 5765
[3] Vayikra 9:1
[4] Megilla 11a
[5] Vayikra 9:24
[6] Vayikra 10:1-2
[7] Vayikra 10:3
[8] Amos 5:13
[9] “Did you sue?”
[10] These concluding thoughts are my addition
[11] one who became religious later in life

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Social Worker, Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch/ASHAR


A young student, sporting a beard, wearing a long black coat, and a large brimmed hat boarded a subway train in New York. He sat opposite a well-dressed businessman who looked at him scornfully. For the first ten minutes, the businessman kept eyeing the student as though he wanted to tell him something. Then he could no longer contain himself.
With passion in his rising voice, the businessman began. "You know I'm sick and tired of Jews who think that they are still in the Middle Ages! You are a disgrace! I'm Jewish too, I even speak Yiddish. Do I wear a long coat? Must I let my beard grow or wear an over size hat? No! Why do you wear those clothes? It's time people like you realized that this is the twenty first century and joined the rest of us here in America."
The startled student looked at his accuser in confusion. In a perfect New England accent he replied:
"Jewish? I'm sorry sir but I'm Amish. I apologize if my mode of dress had caused you offense, but we keep the traditions which were passed down to us from our families in Europe. This is part of our heritage and culture. I'm sorry if I have offended you.”
The business man was stunned. “Please, please forgive me. I didn't realize. I was insensitive and offensive. I actually think that it's wonderful that you maintain your traditions and culture with real pride and enthusiasm. I hope you will forgive me"
The student looked at the business man as a grin spread across his face. In perfect Chassidic English he asked the reeling business man one simple question......
"For a Gentile to maintain his traditions it is wonderful but for a Jew it’s a disgrace?"

The reading of Parshas Zachor, which recounts Amalek’s savage attack against Klal Yisroel shortly after the Egyptian redemption, is Biblically mandated[2].
Our custom is to read the three verses on the Shabbos before Purim after the weekly Torah reading. The reason for the reading of the Amalek debacle just prior to the holiday of Purim is because Haman, the instigator of the whole Purim story, was a descendant of Amalek and followed his ancestor’s example.
The fact that the obligation to read Parshas Zachor is specifically on Shabbos symbolizes that the eternal battle against Amalek is inextricably bound to the sanctity of Shabbos. What is the connection?

Chumash Vayikra commences with a detailed exposition of the many different Korbanos[3] brought on the Altar in the Mishkan. Many of the offerings were brought by individuals to atone for sins they committed inadvertently.
As any educator can attest, when a child is called to task for hurting another child, he will often excuse his behavior by claiming that, “it was just an accident”. The fact that an act was committed without malicious intent is a sufficient excuse to absolve the offender of considerable guilt.
Why was Klal Yisroel held so accountable for inadvertent sins as to be obligated to bring an offering to the Mishkan for atonement?

The entire parsha of Vayikra discusses different classifications of offerings, i.e. Olah (elevation offering), Shelamim (Peace offering), Chatas (sin offering), and Oshom (guilt offering). The parsha concludes with the Oshom-offering brought by one who swears falsely. “Or anything about which he had sworn falsely – he shall repay its principal and add a fifth to it…the Kohen shall provide him atonement before G-d, and it shall be forgiven him for any of the things he might do to incur guilt.”[4]
 Sefas Emes[5] notes that there is a fundamental difference between the way a Jew and a non-Jew serve G-d. The nations of the world have a responsibility to subjugate themselves before G-d, as a servant subjugates himself before his master. G-d is the Supreme Power of the world and therefore His Will must be adhered to. The nations possess certain requisite requirements that they are obligated to fulfill. However, beyond the seven Noachide laws they are free to choose whichever path of life they desire.
A Jew on the other hand, is more than a servant of G-d. A Jew has the status of a witness. His very existence, as well as his conduct and example, bear testimony to the Omnipotence of G-d. This idea is clearly expressed by the prophet “It is I who foretold, I who saved; I made it known, not any strange god among you; You are my witnesses, says the Lord. I am G-d.”[6] The very survival of Klal Yisroel as a people as well as our continued uncompromising infallible commitment to Torah and mitzvos is a testimony that, “נצח ישראל לא ישקר -The eternity of Israel will not falter”[7].
A witness has far greater responsibilities than a servant. A witness must have sterling character and a reputable name as an honest G-d-fearing individual who can be trusted to preserve and uphold the testimony which he bears. It is for this reason that a Jew is held to such a high standard that he is even accountable for inadvertent sins. A Jew has a responsibility to be vigilant that he not falter, even accidentally. If he does he must bring an offering to make amends for his lackadaisicalness.
It is for this reason that the parsha concludes by recording the required offering of a witness who swears falsely. The concept of bearing testimony as a witness is at the core of the entire idea of korbanos and atonement. It is because we have the status of witnesses that we are liable even for relatively ‘benign wrongdoing’.

Sefas Emes continues that a Jew’s status as witness is most manifest during the holy Shabbos. Gemara Shabbos states[8], “Whoever recites (the paragraph beginning with the word) ‘Vayechulu – And He finished’[9] is accompanied by two angels who say to him, ‘Your iniquity will be removed and your sins will be forgiven’.”
The commentators wonder which sin is forgiven when one recites ‘Vayechulu’?
Shiltei Hagibborim[10] explains that when one recites vayechulu it is a testimony of one’s belief that G-d created the world. For this reason the paragraph is recited while one is standing and with at least two people, in the same manner as testimony is stated in a halachic court. “Were one not to recite vayechulu he would be guilty of withholding testimony and would transgress the sin of not stating testimony. Therefore, when one does recite vayechulu, the angels say to him that his iniquity was removed because he did not withhold testimony.”
Essentially, Shabbos is a day of testimony. “The Children of Israel shall observe the Shabbos, to make the Shabbos an eternal covenant for their generations. Between Me and the Children of Israel it is a sign forever…”[11]. Our very observance of the day is a testimony of our belief that G-d is the Creator.[12]

Based on this idea from Sefas Emes, we can understand why Parshas Zachor is specifically read on Shabbos. Amalek, the great antagonist and nemesis of Klal Yisroel, does not merely seek to destroy the Jewish religion. Amalek seeks to obliterate and decimate the entire existence of every Jew, “להשמיד להרוג ולאבד - to destroy, to kill, and to render obsolete.” Every Jew, by virtue of his pedigree, is a living testimony of the oneness of G-d. Amalek, whose supreme mission is to destroy all sense of spiritual existence and divinity, is at complete odds with that testimony. We bear witness to everything Amalek abhors and detests![13]
Adolf Hitler yemach shemo wrote in Mein Kampf: "It is true we Germans are barbarians; that is an honored title to us. I free humanity from the shackles of the soul; from the degrading suffering caused by the false vision called conscience and ethics. The Jews have inflicted two wounds on mankind: circumcision on its body and conscience on its soul. They are Jewish inventions. The war for the domination of the world is waged only between these two camps alone, the Germans and the Jews. Everything else is but deception."
On Shabbos, the day when our testimony is so candid, the perennial war against Amalek comes to the fore. During the holy day we strive to dedicate our very beings to enhancing our conscience and connecting with our Creator. If Amalek detests us generally their enmity reaches unimaginable proportions on Shabbos. On Shabbos the battleground and the war become even more pronounced, and it is truly, “these two camps alone… everything else is but deception."
Therefore, specifically on Shabbos, we read of the attack of Amalek, for ultimately it is the strength that Shabbos imbues us with that gives us the spiritual courage and fortitude to continue to fight the war against Amalek.  

“Remember what Amalek did to you on the road when you were leaving Egypt
“Remember the holy day of Shabbos to sanctify it”


                                              The following is the conclusion of Stam Torah – Parshas (Vayikra) Zachor as it appeared in 5768:
            In light of the recent traumatic and heinous events of last week’s savage terrorist attack at Yeshivas Merkaz HaRav, I humbly offer an added explanation of the connection between Shabbos and the perennial struggle against Amalek:
          At the beginning of the week, Ilana Dayan, a noted Israeli television personality and reporter, interviewed Rabbi Yerachmiel Weiss, the head of the Yeshiva High School Division of Yeshivas Merkaz HaRav. Five of the eight murdered students in last week’s attack were his students.
          The interview was very intense with Ms. Dayan asking very pointed questions about faith, tears, and mourning. Rabbi Weiss’s responses were impeccable. He answered each question posed with poise, dignity, a measured level of emotion, and patience.
           The following is an excerpt from the interview, as recorded by Hillel Fendel in an article posted on the Arutz Sheva website:

When Rabbi Weiss said that he had returned home from a funeral just a half-hour before the Sabbath, Dayan asked, "What type of Sabbath did you have?"
Rabbi Weiss reflected and said, "Our Sages taught, 'Shabbat hi mi-liz'ok' - on the Sabbath we do not cry.  We try to take leave of pain and sorrow on the Sabbath.  It may seem artificial, but, in fact, it is very deep and gives much strength.  We don't forget what happened, but - there is some type of agreement, of acceptance."

Q. Agreement with what, Rabbi Weiss? With what is there to agree? With the loss of eight young lives? With the futility of life? With what is there to agree?
A. With the 300 students who are alive. With Am Yisrael Chai. Agreement with the hopes of life, with the faith in life, with the health of life, with the progress of life.

Q. Excuse me for interrupting, but I would truly like to understand: Isn't there something in this consent that nullifies the sanctity of those who died? Or that minimizes the importance of the individuals who died?
 A. You asked me what I'm happy about on the Sabbath, and I say that I'm happy with life, with the smiles of my grandchildren, with the fact that life continues.  If you ask me if the fact that I accept G-d's decree lessens the value of those who were killed - on the contrary. It could be that they were chosen specifically to atone for the entire nation; can I possibly know these things? All these Heavenly calculations are totally beyond us, they are on a different sphere.  Our Sages said, in a very picturesque manner, that the keys to life and death are in G-d's hands; we have no say.

He then proceeded to discuss the difficult issue of the Red Heifer [Numbers 19], "which is very complex and deep, but in brief we can say that it comes to purify the impurity of death.  Death harms not only the one who dies, but everyone around him.  This loss is called a type of impurity.  King Solomon wished to understand how the Red Heifer purifies the impurity of death, but was not granted this understanding.  Only Moses was allowed to understand it.  Moses is on a different plane; he could communicate with G-d as if through a clear crystal, without losing his normal senses.  He can understand how death is purified; we are not there.  We know that it exists, and that we are on the way there, and the world is getting there, and the world will get there.

                Perhaps, part of the reason why we “remember Amalek” on Shabbos is because the pain and anguish of all that Amalek has wrought upon us throughout the generations is almost too overwhelming to recall. But on Shabbos when we are raised to a different intellectual and spiritual level[14] we are able to view all of the events in a different light. We still surely cannot make sense of them. Yet, somehow on Shabbos, “there is some type of agreement, of acceptance." Shabbos is a window into the blissful future world when all questions will be answered.
When we hear the words read “Remember what Amalek has done to you…” we must remember ALL that he has done. Some of the most striking recent tragedies that we vividly and painfully recall,

Ø Rosh Chodesh Adar II 2008 massacre at Yeshivas Mercaz HaRav Kook
Ø Sbarros Pizzeria bombing, August 19, 2001
Ø Egged #2 bus bombing August 19, 2003
Ø September 9, 2003, Nava Appelbaum- the night before her wedding
Ø Chevron Massacre, August 23-24, 1929 (last week’s attack is most reminiscent of     that attack)
Ø The Toulouse, France massacre in which R’ Yonason Sandler was murdered along with two of his children outside their school
Ø every rocket, terrorist, bomber, and enemy of our people

               Perhaps this all seems too somber to be included in a pre-Purim thought. I feel that the opposite is true. Klal Yisroel survives and thrives based on our national collective memory. We never forget Amalek – and we never forgive! More importantly, G-d in Heaven does not forget!
           “Why should the nations say, "Where is their God?" Let there be known among the nations in our sight, Vengeance for the blood of Your servants which has been shed.”[15] As we recall the brutality and wickedness of Amalek, we include all of the savagery of Amalek throughout the generations.
           On Purim we witnessed the destruction of our enemy and the nullification of his nefarious plots. In that sense, Purim is a window into the Messianic era. Purim gives us the strength and resolve to transcend all of our pain and anguish with the knowledge that just as then “For the Jews there was light, joy, gladness, and honor”, so it will be for us!

"נצח ישראל לא ישקר"

[1] In 5768 when this essay was originally written, the reading of Parshas Zachor coincided with Parshas Vayikra. Although there is much overlap in the topics discussed in parshas Vayikra and Tzav (many of the offerings related in Vayikra are repeated in greater detail in parshas Tzav) the actual verses discussed here are from parshas Vayikra.
[2] See Tosafos, Berachos 13a; Rosh, Berachos 7:20; Terumas Hadeshen 108.
[3] sacrifices/offerings
[4] Vayikra 5:24-26
[5] Vayikra 5646
[6] Yeshaya 43:2
[7] Shmuel I, 15:29- see Radak
[8] 119b
[9] which discusses G-d’s cessation from work at the conclusion of the six days of creation thereby sanctifying the seventh day
[10] 44b dafei haRif
[11] Shemos 31:16-17
[12] See Pachad Yitzchak, Shabbos, chap. 13 who explains the depth and beauty of the bi-faceted testimony of Torah and Shabbos.
[13] Heard from Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer - Adar 5757
[14] See Stam Torah, Ki Sisa 5768
[15] Tehillim 79:10