200-year old Megilat-Esther (Scroll of Esther) on Parchment, passed down from Norma Gelman Sarvis’s ancestors in Belarus.
THIS WEEK WE LOOK AT SHABBAT ZAKHOR, WHICH TAKES PLACE THIS WEEKEND, AND PURIM, WHICH WILL OCCUR NEXT WEEK ON MARCH 21
(Since we will be traveling, an Update will not be sent out on March 18th)
SHABBAT ZAKHOR – “REMEMBERING WHAT AMALEK DID.”
This coming weekend Jews in synagogues around the world will be attending an observance intended to obey a command given them by the LORD through Moses over 3,500 years ago. On this Sabbath before Purim, in addition to the regular reading from the Torah, Deuteronomy 25:17-19 will be read: “Remember that which Amalek did to you when you came out of Egypt…Therefore, when YHVH your God has given you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that YHVH your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget!”
And substituting for the usual closing reading will be I Samuel 15:2-34, which begins, “Thus says YHVH of Armies: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them.” The passage goes on to recount how Saul failed in carrying out God’s command—and brought back the king Agag alive. In the end it was the Prophet Samuel himself who was required to “hew Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal” (I Samuel 15:33).
Next week (March 21) is Purim. We will read the Book of Esther—in which is recorded how, during the 4th century BC, another Amalekite—a direct descendant of this Agag (Esther 3:1)— initiates an evil scheme to annihilate all of the Jews in the realms ruled by Persia, a scheme which is thwarted by God through Mordechai and Esther. Also on Purim, we will read Exodus 17:8-16—which points back to when the Israelites found themselves in their first battle after leaving Egypt. That battle was with Amalek. After defeating this enemy, Joshua in the valley with the troops and Moses, Aaron and Hur on the hill holding up the Rod of God, Moses “built an altar and called its name, YHVH Nissi—’The LORD is my Banner’; for he said, ‘Because the LORD has sworn: The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”
We have had reason often in these Updates to make mention of this evil power, whose activities God has commanded Israel not to forget. The Amalekites were a real people—who throughout the Hebrew Scriptures epitomize and symbolize a covenant-hating spirit, typically manifest in anti-Semitism. One of God’s names is Elohim Haim—the “God of Life.” As such, His covenants insure Life on behalf of all the children of Adam who trust in Him. “All the paths of the LORD are loving kindness and truth to such as guard His covenant and His testimonies…The secret of the LORD is for those who fear Him, He will make them know His covenant” (Psalm 25:10, 14; Emphases ours). Through His Covenant with Abraham He promised blessing to all families of the earth (Genesis 12:3). Belief in a covenant in opposition to those which the God has established is belief in a covenant of death. This Life-God will therefore grant “no quarter” to those who threaten His covenant purposes; their remembrance must be “blotted out from under heaven.”
We see a covenant-hating “Amalek” spirit at work behind the religious system of Islam. Genesis 17:19-21 records that although God promised blessing to Ishmael, He plainly declared, “My covenant I will establish with Isaac.” Yet, the spirit working behind this system hates the covenant with Isaac, and has deceived its followers into believing that God did in fact release His covenant through Ishmael. This spirit therefore deceives its followers into clinging to a false covenant, and consequently hating the covenant of life established through Isaac and Jacob (thus releasing hatred against the Jewish people). If they hate that covenant, then they are bound also to disbelieve and hate the “New Covenant” which was released through that covenant people, the Hebrews, to the whole world through Yeshua/Jesus, the Messiah.
The influence of this spirit extends throughout Islam—both within the Shia and the Sunni streams. This is demonstrated in the Iranian Shi’ite leaders’ repeated calls for the annihilation of Israel, the “Zionist enemy” (i.e. Hatred of God’s covenant binding the descendants of Isaac to His land, Zion). It was also seen in the Sunni ISIS’s slaughter of Christians in Libya, northern Syria and Iraq (i.e. Hatred of God’s Covenant through the Blood of Jesus—who came through Isaac, not Ishmael—along with all who embrace that covenant by placing their trust in Him). And both of these streams desire the covenant-city of Jerusalem, where the God of Israel has said that His Son will reign forever.
Our victory is the banner that our God of Life has given us for the battle—the banner of His Promise that it is His war and we are not alone—and He will be at war with Amalek, from generation to generation until it is “blotted out of remembrance under heaven” (Exodus 17:14-16). It is interesting that in Exodus 17:14, God vows to blot out the remembrance of Amalek—but in the Deuteronomy 25 passage, it is Israel who is commanded to blot it out. Obviously, He is working together and through us—even as He did through Joshua and Moses, and Mordecai and Esther. For our part, it is the very Blood of the New Covenant in His Son (Matthew 26:28, Revelation 12:11) which will carry us through.
*That as Jews around the world are reminded this weekend of the evils “which Amalek did”, they would also receive understanding of Who it was Who delivered Israel from his power—and Who has vowed to pursue Amalek with and through them until he is eradicated.
*That there will be revelation among the Jews in and outside of Israel of the deep meaning of the Covenants God has made with them—including the New Covenant made in the blood of His Son (Jeremiah 31:31; Matthew 26:28).
*For Muslims who have been deceived by the Amalekite spirit to be freed from its power—to come out from under it and into God’s Covenant of Peace with all Humankind in Yasuah/Jesus.