Rabbinic Reflections: Issue 203

March 22, 2024 - 13 Adar-2 5784

Parashat Vayikra - Removing the Energy of Doubt

Dear Friends,

This is going to be an amazing weekend at CBIOTP!

We start with Shabbat morning services, at 10 am, to which we are pleased to welcome Cantor Joe Flaxman back to the Bimah to help beautify our musical liturgy. As always, the services will be followed by a festive Kiddush luncheon. Then, Saturday evening, we will have our traditional Purim Megillah reading at 8:15 pm. Dr. Avi Yacobi will lead the reading, giving it an authentic sound by incorporating Persian trope. Both of Saturday’s services will be broadcast over the same Zoom link.

On Sunday morning at 11:00 am, we will host the remarkable New Jersey debut of the Budaixi Purim Puppetshpeil, a Chinese culture-inspired Purim puppet show. This is a production for children of all ages, so please join us, in costume or not, and bring a friend or two.

As always, CBIOTP is the place to be!

This Shabbat is the second of four special Shabbatot leading up to the Pesach holiday. (Yes, it is that time of year again!) The four weekends are often referred to as the Arba Parshiyot, or four portions. On each of these Shabbatot, we read an additional Torah portion and a rabbinically designated Haftarah that mirrors the theme of the Maftir Torah readings.

This week, on the second of these Arba Parshiyot, we read of the admonition to remember Amalek, the nation that surprised the Israelites after the Exodus from Egypt. Amalek ruthlessly pounced upon the weak, elderly, and compromised, employing an unexpected aggression from behind. Thereafter, Hashem commands the Israelites, “You shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”

The portion of Devarim 25:17-19 is read the Shabbat before Purim because Haman, the arch-villain of the Scroll of Esther, is himself a descendant of Amalekite. The Torah instructs Jews throughout the generatons to Zachor (remember) Amalek and then Timcheh (wipe out) Amalek, commandments fulfilled each year by publicly reading this passage.

Needless to say, the idea of remembering and then wiping out the descendants of Amalek resonates strongly today with every Jew in the world, many of whom properly perceive Hamas as part of that lineage of evil incarnate. While this is not necessarily an extensive enough platform to discuss political, military, and religious options for dealing with the current crisis, I would like to share with you a mystical interpretation of the word Amalek (and here you can substitute any historical enemy of the Jews, including Hamas).

As many of you know, in Jewish tradition, Gematria is the practice of assigning a numerical value to a name, word, or phrase, by reading it as a number. The letters of the nation of Amalek (ע = 70, מ = 40, ל = 30 and ק = 100) add up to the same total as the Hebrew word for doubt, Safek (ס = 60, פ =80 and ק =100): two hundred and forty.

When we realize that the Nation of Amalek (read Hamas) has the same Gematria as the Hebrew word Safek, everything becomes clear. Doubt is the antithesis of HaShem. It is the calling of the enemy of the Jew to cause us to doubt our worth, our presence, our mission, and our very existence.

HaShem, however, has a plan that we call the Plan of Creation. Hashem has entered into an eternal covenant with us. This plan has absolutely no room for doubt within it. The plan is certain. The essence of HaShem is certain. The value of the Jewish people thriving in the Holy Land is certain.

Psychologically, Amalek is the aspect of doubt within each and every human being. The purpose of this Shabbat’s special reading is to help remove the energy of doubt from within us.

Confronted by doubt, Jewish people across the generations have always fought back with renewed faith, dedication, lovingkindness, charity, learning, and brandished belief against those external forces intending to impose uncertainty upon us.

May this Shabbat offer us the opportunity to double down on our faith as a community through prayer and song, and on Purim, let us celebrate the victory of goodness over hate. May our belief lead us to action and commitment and bring the world one small step closer to the elimination of evil throughout the world.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Purim Sameach,

Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD, Hon.DM
Tel: 201-562-5277

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