I have always been intrigued by the commandment ‘you shall blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget it’ (Deuteronomy 25:19). Simultaneously we are told to ‘blot out the remembrance’ and to ‘not forget it’; two instructions which appear to be contradictory. This challenge is further compounded by the fact that the commandment appears in the Torah ensuring we are reminded to blot out and not forget.
Amalek is a recurring feature in our people’s history, assuming a position as the archetypal villain. And on Shabbat Zachor, it is the original story of Amalek that we are remembering. On Shabbat Zachor (as with most of the other special Shabbatot) outside of the special readings for the day there is no special ritual for the service.
Following a tradition my dear colleague, Rabbi Danny Burkeman, started , and which we adopted for Bet David two years ago, we will read also this Shabbat Zachor from our Czech Memorial Torah scroll (saved from Europe after the Shoah) .
This Torah itself symbolises the very fulfilment of the commandment to never forget; it emerged from the horrors of the latest Amalakite persecution, as the Nazis sought the destruction of European Jewry. The survival of this Torah scroll, and its use in a Synagogue for worship and prayer, is evidence of the fulfilment of the commandment to ‘blot out the remembrance of Amalek [the Nazis] from under heaven’. And simultaneously, as we honour the scroll as our Czech Memorial Torah scroll, always remembering its story of survival out of the ashes of destruction, we guarantee that we ‘shall not forget it’.
Rabbi Adrian M Schell