Community Rabbi Corner, March 11, 2022

Rabbi Abigail Treu
Oheb Shalom Congregation
South Orange, New Jersey
Parashat Vayikra

The Shabbat before Purim is always Shabbat Zachor, when we read a special maftir pulled from Deuteronomy:
Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt— how, undeterred by fear of God, he surprised you on the march, when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear. Therefore, when your God YHVH grants you safety from all your enemies around you, in the land that your God YHVH is giving you as a hereditary portion, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget! (25:17-20)
The paradox of the mitzvah – to blot out the memory of Amalek, but also not to forget him – feels oddly perfect to me this week. We are living in paradox right now. The pandemic on the wane – for now, hopefully for good – with masks cautiously taken off in various public spaces and anxieties tentatively calming. The month of Adar here, inviting us to focus on joy and carefree living on the way into Purim. And yet, the war in Ukraine casting a heartbreaking and terrifying new shadow over our lives. How do we hold two (or more) things at once?
Psychotherapist and “soul activist” Francis Weller’s poem comes to mind:
The work of the mature person
Is to carry grief in one hand
And gratitude in the other
And to be stretched large by them.
How much sorrow can I hold?
That’s how much gratitude I can give.
As we head into Shabbat Zachor, may we be blessed with hearts stretched large to hold all of the paradoxical and conflicting emotions life holds in a week filled with uncertainty, much to fear, and also so much to celebrate.