This past Shabbos we read Parshas Zochor, the parshah designated as a biblical commandment for all to hear on the Shabbos before Purim. The essence of Parshas Zochor is to remember and never forget the attack of the nation of Amolek on the Jewish people after leaving Egypt. The Torah tells us that one of the special reasons for this important remembrance is more than just the war. The Jewish people had the fear of all the nations of the world after they all witnessed the miracles in Egypt and the splitting of the Yam Suf. There was a certain aura of “Don’t mess with us” that Amolek breached. We are told that Amolek “cooled the water” of fear and respect that the Jewish people had held before this war. We read this parshah the week before Purim, as Homon was a direct descendant of Amolek, who wanted nothing more than the destruction of the Jewish people.
Zikoron, remembrance, is an important part of our culture as Jews. In fact, an entire section of the Rosh Hashanah Musaf is the section of zichronos, memories, of our rich history and all that Hashem has done for us over the years. Homon erred in his understanding of Hashem’s power and believed that Hashem was already too old to continue to help the Jews. The Midrash tells us that when Mordechai heard of the evil decree, he stopped a few Jewish children on their way back from school and asked them to repeat the pesukim they had studied at school. They answered with three pesukim: 1. “Utzu aitzoh vesufor dabru dovor velo yokum – Homon will have evil decrees that will be abolished.” 2. “Al tira mipachad pisom – don’t be afraid of the fear of the moment.” 3. “Ve’ad ziknoh, ani hu – Hashem is never too old to help His people.”
Mordechai understood from these verses that Homon’s decree would never come to fruition. He gathered all the Jewish people for three days of fasting and praying. The Jewish children were at the forefront of this gathering and the survival of the Jewish people is attributed to their prayers.
This past week, the first graders at PHDS, under the direction of Rabbi Avraham Jakubowicz, presented their annual Siddur Party, drawing deep upon our rich history of the importance of tefillah from the siddur that our students will use for the rest of their lives.
We pointed to the fact that remembrance and mesorah – “passing the torch” – of tradition is crucial to us as a nation. This week was an important week, as I had the opportunity to host – together with alumnus Michael Bohnen and Zamira Korff – an international Zoom gathering of New England alumni, who currently live all over the country, as far away as Costa Rica. Each of the alumni had a chance to reminisce about the lessons of Jewish tradition that were passed down to them at school. All had very fond memories of Rabbi Nachman Cohen and Rabbi Egozi, who all served as heads of school and had a meaningful impact on students in the early days of PHDS. Represented at the meeting were children of founders of the school, and to some extent it is imperative that we as parents and a community realize the humble beginnings of the school and the many families who worked together to procure a site and fundraise for the school. Kol hakovod and thanks to Michael, Zamira, and all the attendees.
In the weeks prior to Purim, our classes and halls were decorated as the spirit of Purim was in the air and halls. Although our celebrations were limited due to COVID, I was still so impressed at the creativity of the student administration and students. These expressions of simchah all enhance the spirit of Purim and help to create that “memory” of the miracles that Hashem performed for us just as He did in the days of Amolek – and then to his direct and evil descendant, Homon.
Best wishes for a Purim same’ach to the entire PHDS/NEAT family.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman
P.S. Please remember that Tzippy and I will be away for Purim, fundraising in Lakewood. We therefore ask that nobody send us mishlo’ach monos, although we appreciate your good wishes.