Latest update: April 25th, 2013
This column is dedicated to the refuah sheleimah of Shlomo Eliezer ben Chaya Sarah Elka.
This week we read parshas Zachor (Devarim 25:17), which details the attack of Amalek and the commandment for us to destroy any remembrance of them. There is a mitzvah to remember what Amalek did to us on the way when we left Mitzrayim. We fulfill this mitzvah by reading the parshah that describes this incident. It includes the commandment to annihilate Amalek.
Many Acharonim were bothered by the following question: Generally we recite a berachah prior to performing any mitzvah. So why is it that there is no berachah recited prior to performing the mitzvah of hearing the reading of parshas Zachor?
The Kaf HaChaim suggests that we do not recite a berachah prior to performing any mitzvah that is associated with destruction. Since this mitzvah is associated with the annihilation of Amalek, we do not recite a berachah over it. He compares this to the concept in the Gemara that says that when Hashem’s creations are drowning in the sea, we should not be reciting shirah.
Perhaps this solution is dependent on a different machlokes, whether the mitzvah of remembering what Amalek did to us is a prerequisite to the mitzvah of annihilating Amalek. Or is it independent? For example, in the time when all of Amalek will be destroyed and the kisei of Hashem will be complete, perhaps there will still be a mitzvah to remember what Amalek did to us. However, if the mitzvah is only a prerequisite to enable one to build up his hatred for Amalek in order for one to be able to fulfill the mitzvah of annihilating Amalek – at that point in time when Amalek no longer exists – the mitzvah of remembering what Amalek did to us will become unnecessary and should cease. It seems that the Kaf HaChaim is taking the position that the mitzvah to remember is a prerequisite to the mitzvah of annihilating Amalek, and he therefore rules that the mitzvah of remembering is a mitzvah of destruction that does not require a berachah.
The Sdei Chemed (2:9) offers another solution why we do not recite a berachah over this mitzvah. He says that in fact we do recite one, namely the birchas haTorah that we recite every morning – a berachah that is effectively said on this mitzvah.
This solution is very perplexing, for how can the berachah that we recite in the morning over the mitzvah of learning Torah affect the mitzvah of reading and remembering what Amalek did to us? What is the connection? The mitzvah to remember what Amalek did to us is not a mitzvah of learning Torah. The preferred method of performing the mitzvah of remembering what Amalek did to us is accomplished by reading the parshah in the Torah that discusses this mitzvah. However, it is not a mitzvah of learning Torah. So how can a berachah that only mentions learning Torah be applied to this mitzvah?
The Ramban in parshas Zachor quotes from the Sifra: there is one mitzvah to remember and another mitzvah not to forget what Amalek did to us. The Sifra says that when the Torah says zachor, perhaps one might think that it refers to remembering in one’s heart. But this cannot be the case since we already have a pasuk that commands us to remember in our hearts. Therefore we must conclude that the pasuk of zachor is teaching us that it must be fluent in our mouths. The Ramban then quotes the Sifrei that also says that zachor is to be accomplished by speaking out something, and that the pasuk of lo tishkach is referring to remembering in one’s heart.
The Ramban asks the following: What is the nature of the obligation to fulfill the requirement of zachor with our mouths? If the idea that the Sifrei is teaching us is that the Torah is commanding us to read from the Torah about Amalek, this may then be a source in the Torah that we should read Megillas Esther, which deals with Amalek. Since there is no source from the Torah, this cannot be the indication of the Sifrei.
The Ramban concludes that the lesson that the Sifrei intends to teach is that we must speak about the attack of Amalek to our children. The Sifrei or Sifra did not intend to obligate us in min haTorah to read from the Torah about parshas Zachor.
The Ravad, in his commentary to the Sifra (at the beginning of parshas Bechukosai (1:3), explains that the obligation to remember what Amalek did to us that we must fulfill with our mouths is accomplished by learning the halachos that pertain to this mitzvah.
Based on this we can explain the answer that the Acharonim suggested, namely that the berachah on the mitzvah of reading parshas Zachor is the birchas haTorah that we recite in the morning (or before reading the Torah). This is because the mitzvah of remembering what Amalek did to us is fulfilled by learning the halachos that pertain to the mitzvah. The learning of these halachos begins with the reading of the parshah in the Torah that discusses this mitzvah.
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