Sedra of the Week: Terumah and Zachor

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Sedra of the Week: Terumah and Zachor

Rabbi Alex Chapper looks ahead to this week's portion of the Torah

Rabbi Alex Chapper

As this Shabbat precedes Purim, in addition to the portion of Terumah we read Zachor in which we recall how Amalek was the first to attack the Jews. “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you departed from Egypt… you are to erase the memory of Amalek from beneath the heaven. Do not forget.”

It is a mitzvah to hear the words of parshat Zachor; however, the double expression: “Remember – Do not forget” is puzzling; it appears to be an oxymoron, and one of these phrases must be superfluous.  

If we remember something we have not, by definition, forgotten it – and vice versa. Perhaps an insight into the subconscious will help us understand. It has been shown that if someone is nervous about falling over and all while they are walking they say to themselves: “Don’t trip over”, the likelihood is they will eventually trip over. The reason is that the unconscious mind does not hear the negative “don’t” but only the positive “trip over”.

If the Torah had only said: “Do not forget”, we would probably forget Amalek but, by emphasising the need to remember, it highlights passive connection is insufficient. We have to actively remember and that is why Zachor is read publicly at least once a year. This applies in all aspects of Jewish life as illustrated in Terumah when it says: “You shall make a sanctuary for Me.” 

The Sefer HaChinuch explains that spiritual achievement is made, not by contemplation alone, but through engaging in the performance of mitzvot. When we focus our minds on the positive, when we are active and say to ourselves: “I can, I will and I’ll do”, it’s the best way to ensure we always remember who and what we are and never forget.

  •   Rabbi Alex Chapper serves Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue

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