putting on tefillin

Me: “I grew up Reform.”

Any given person: “Oh, so your family is Reform?”

Me: “Uh…well…my mom actually isn’t Jewish. And my dad goes to Chabad every Shabbos and once a week for Shacharis, learns Tanya once a week with a Chabad rabbi, puts on tefillin every day, says the daily portion of Tehillim, and just started learning 1 perek Rambam, but also goes to 2 Torah studies a week at a Reform shul at which he is no longer a member due to disagreement with the rabbi, so….whatever that is.”

Always Remember!

I never cease to be amazed at the capacity of jews to take negative things and transform them into the positive…. To take an insult and transform it into a rallying cry. Things like #Gettlefish, and #extravagantjewishwealth here on tumblr, among many more real-life circumstances, which I’m sure many of you have seen or experienced - situations where jews took the words or actions of antisemites and turned them into something empowering.

That said, this week was parshas Zachor - going into Purim, it’s our job to to remember what Amalek did to us, in order to wipe out Amalek from under the heavens… But who is Amalek, and what on Earth are we supposed to do by remembering him. How do you perform such a mitzvah?!

Amalek was a king… An antisemite, not unlike those today, except that then, there weren’t any laws - or law enforcement - to get in their way. He came to attack the jews in the desert, shortly after the splitting of the sea. How? He came to attack from the rear, attacking the stragglers… Those who were falling behind.

After the splitting of the sea, we were invincible. We were untouchable. We were G-d’s people, who had been delivered from the hands of the Egyptians with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. We knew it… And the nations did as well. They were afraid, and even if they hated us, they respected that we should be left alone, because we had the omnipresent on our side (still do, by the way!). We were compared to a scalding pool of water - we were burning, the flames of our souls searing the sand on which we placed our feet and reached the skies. Amalek was compared to the fool who jumped in first. Much like today’s antisemites, he let his hate rule over him until he had to let go of logic and reason in order to perpetuate it. He got burned, yes. He was defeated. But it cooled us down. It made us vulnerable again, in the eyes of the nations… And even more important, it made us vulnerable in our own eyes.

Sure enough, the perpetrator of the plan to destroy us in the time of Mordechai and Ester - Haman - was a descendent of Amalek, and, of course, of the same stock of logicless antisemite. In the days of Purim, the jews ate gettlefi- I mean, they took the plan of Haman, to destroy the jews, and ultimately, through their taking on of the mitzvos, and being proud of being jewish, they reversed the decree, and it was in the end brought upon those who decreed it, Haman and his 10 sons. Adar was a month that, like Av, was marked for us to be a month of sadness and tragedy… And in the wording of the posuk “נהפך מיגון לשמחה”, it was transformed from sadness to joy!

Who is Amalek now? Amalek (עמלק, 70-40-30-100, gematria of 240) has the same gematria, numerical value as sofek (ספק, 60-80-100, 240) meaning “doubt”. Amalek is the doubt that comes into you when you are excited to do something good. He says to you “Maybe you should cool off. Don’t move so fast. Maybe this isn’t the right thing to do. You’re too tired. There’s always tomorrow”… It is a commandment in the Torah to destroy Amalek. To rise above the doubt, and be a jew, and be proud. I don’t care what these social justice nuts on this website say, the antisemites of our generation, who push off logic for hate. Be proud to be jewish! Light shabbos candles, put on tefillin. In our generation, the real mesiras nefesh isn’t in dying for judaism. it’s in living as a jew. It’s time to stop dying, and to start living proudly in our heritage. And don’t worry, we’ll take all the other months, just like Adar… And we’ll reverse them too. We’ll transform the darkness into light, and the sadness into joy, and there is NOBODY who can stop us.

Shavuah tov!

–Aharon Ephraim