This week is Shabbat Zachor, one of the 11 “special shabbatot” of the Jewish year (outside of Rosh Chodesh). the Shabbat in which we are reminded to forget. What exactly are we supposed to forget again? I forgot! Oh, glad you asked. We are supposed to remember to forget Amalek - the archnemesis of the Israelites in the Torah.
But who is this Amalek, you might ask (I did)?
In Genesis 36:12, the original Amalek was a boy born to Eliphaz, son of Esau, son of Isaac, son of Abraham, on his dad’s side. On his mom’s side, all we know is his mother, Timna, the daughter of the chief of Seir, the hill lands east of the Jordan. According to midrash was denied conversion (entry into the community) by Abraham himself and, according to the ancient rabbis, Abraham was actually punished for this exclusion, telling us that she was indeed someone who genuinely wanted into the community and should have been allowed in. This exclusion mirrors the exclusion of Esau, Amalek’s grandfather as well.
For Amalek, to be from excluded ancestors, we may end up with a different take on him and his descendants being cast as the villains of the Israelites. Jews have been using this trope (which we can resist) for a long time to do terrible things, including on Purim itself in 1994 which garnered international solidarity, despite a lack of nuance or actual connection to the character or lineage of Amalek.
As such, we need to again learn from the lessons of the Book of Esther and flip the script. How might, as we lead up to Purim next week, see those who we were taught to think of as enemies, and perhaps even have lived experience with as antagonists against us and our values, as perhaps something more. Using a trauma lens, using transformative justice and abolitionist teachings, perhaps this Purim we can shift our perspectives and what we can do
And also, we get to say f*ck no to sh&t that isn’t working for us, in the meantime.
Purim Same’ach - see you for a helluva party on Saturday night/motzei Shabbat and for megillah reading on Wednesday evening! And, if you missed the signups for treat sharing, bring a few neighbors some treats anyway, and don’t forget to redistribute your wealth on Purim!