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Terumah 5781 ~ Feb. 19

This Shabbat is Shabbat Zachor, which is observed the Shabbat before the holiday of Purim. We are commanded; Zachor, Remember, va’al tishkach, do not forget.

This directive to “remember” is much different from the zachor that we are commanded to observe in the Aseret Hadibrot, the Ten Commandments. The zachor in the Ten Commandments instructs us to remember the significance and the holiness of the Shabbat day in our own personal realm. The second type of zachor, remember, directs us to keep guard:  to ensure that whatever happened in the past will not happen again.

We are reminded to zachor, to remember the likes of Amalek, a nation that ambushed the young and weak Israelite nation, having just been freed from Egyptian bondage.  That attack from behind was quite strategic. First, they attacked the easy prey, the weak stragglers in the camp. Then their warriors moved on to attack the stronger and the more fit who, having seen the attack from behind, would become frightened at a loss of heart themselves. Such an attack was considered unconscionable and heinous by G-d.  It is brought to our attention on this Shabbat to raise our conscience and to remind us that we have a responsibility, as ones who have experienced hatred, bigotry, victimization, subtle and violent attacks on person and property throughout the generations.

We are commanded that throughout time, we, as Jews, must be mindful of the anti-Semites who are said to be the descendants  of Amalek from that of Haman and Hitler, Yemach Shemam, (may their names be blotted out). It is our responsibility to be the conscience of the world, clearly for the Jewish world and for Israel. Today, however, that responsibility is to speak out and protect others as well when bias, bigotry, intolerance and acts of violence are apparent and are perpetrated.

This week’s podcast from the Hartmann Institute discusses the question: “Does Anti-Semitism needs a legal definition?” I encourage you to listen to the podcast as  antisemitism expert Stacy Burdett joins host Yehuda Kurtzer to dig deeper into the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition that she helped craft, which is currently causing waves in the American Jewish community – what it is, what it isn’t and where it came from – on the Identity/Crisis podcast.

Stacey Burdett maintains that "We have a grave responsibility not just to protect our community, but to help governments and police and officials and educators understand how to keep us safe because most of them want to."

Stacy Burdett helped to create the Working Definition of Antisemitism (also called the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism (IHRA definition)) on what antisemitism is:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Accompanying the definition are eleven illustrative examples, of which seven relate to Israel.

President Joe Biden so poignantly stated at his first town hall meeting this past Tuesday evening, how we must not let our guards down for the resurgence of the white supremacists in our country.  President Biden stated domestic terrorism was the “greatest threat” in America and white supremacists are the “most dangerous people.” He pledged to focus his Justice Department on the rise of white supremacy. That is the beginning of the focus of  the commandment: Zachor.  Then again, the President’s grandchildren and daughters-in-law are all Jewish. It is why his response  might be to white supremacy in the Joe Biden vernacular is: “I get it.”

As I read Zachor, I am mindful not only of those who perpetuate the hatred; I am reminded that perhaps the Israelite nation left the stragglers behind without much thought. There were no warriors there to protect them. Perhaps the Zachor is to remind us of the mistake of those who were in the army that was supposed to protect the entire group… and did not!  

Zachor reminds us to remember, or as Moredechai reminded Esther… that is your purpose… be mindful of what might happen to you if you do not fulfill your purpose and position that has now become your responsibility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sat, June 25 2022 26 Sivan 5782