On this Shabbat Zakhor, this Shabbat of remembrance, we remember what Amaleq did to the Israelites as traveled through the desert, and vow to blot out his name in preparation for the raucous festival of Purim.
The world is rife with tragedy this week: Amaleq struck in the Israeli settlement of Itamar, and of course there is the ongoing crisis in Japan.
As often happens, tragedy is bracketed with happy occasions, and ready or not we celebrate Purim tomorrow night.
The four mitzvot of Purim are:
1. Hearing Megillat Esther (the book of Esther) read from a kosher scroll
2. Delivering mishloah manot (gift packages) to friends and neighbors
3. Having a Purim se’udah, a festive meal
4. Giving matanot la-evyonim (charitable gifts to those in need)
It is this last one that has a special valence at this moment. Sunday will bring the perfect opportunity to fulfill two mitzvot at once - matanot la-evyonim and the more routine, garden-variety mitzvah of helping somebody in need. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is collecting donations to help people in Japan, and there are certainly many other charities as well. You can find them online, and donation is simple nowadays thanks to the Internet.
This Shabbat Zakhor, we remember not only those who died cruelly and unnecessarily in Israel and Japan, and we also remember that we have the power to change the lives of those struck by tragedy.
On Sunday, find a few dollars to give for the tens of thousands of people who lost their homes, businesses, and family members; thus we may ensure that our celebration does not come at the expense of those who are suffering today.