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Shabbat Zachor: Celebrating the Belief in Providence

On Shabbat Zachor (the Shabbat preceding Purim), we read a special section in the Torah (Debarim 25:17-19) about the Misva to remember the vicious attack launched by the nation of Amalek against our ancestors in the wilderness. The story of the attack, which appears in the Book of Shemot (17:8-16), is read on the morning of Purim.

Following the war against Amalek, G-d announced to Moshe, "Ki Yad Al Kes Kah, Milhama L’Hashem Ba’Amalek" – "For a hand is raised [on oath] over G-d’s throne, that a war will be waged by G-d against Amalek" (Shemot 17:14). The commentators explain that G-d here is referred to as "Kah" – the letters "Yod" and "Heh" – because His Name is incomplete as long as the nation of Amalek exists. The complete Name, of course, is formed by the four letters "Yod," "Heh," "Vav" and "Heh," but with Amalek in the world, the final two letters – "Vav" and "Heh" – are missing, as it were, from the divine Name.

It has been explained that this teaching is rooted in the verse in Tehillim (96:11), "Yismehu Ha’shamayim Ve’tagel Ha’aretz" – "The heavens shall rejoice, and the earth shall exult," the first letters of which are the letters of the divine Name – "Yod," "Heh," "Vav" and "Heh." This verse expresses the fundamental tenet of providence, that although G-d is in heavens, He is intimately involved in the earth, as He governs, oversees and exerts full control over everything that transpires here in the world. Both the heavens and the earth "rejoice" – because both are under the control of the Almighty. The nation of Amalek battled against this fundamental belief. In the section read on Shabbat Zachor, Amalek is described with the verb "Karecha," which is associated with the word "Mikreh" – which denotes coincidence, or happenstance. Amalek argued that all events are coincidental, unfolding randomly, without any rhyme or reason. They believed in "Yismehu Ha’shamayim" – that G-d is in the heavens, but they denied "Ve’tagel Ha’aretz," that G-d governs the events down here on earth. And thus G-d proclaimed that as long as Amalek exists, His Name consists of only "Yod" and "Heh," representing the words "Yismehu Ha’shamayim," but without "Vav" and "Heh" – the words "Ve’tagel Ha’aretz" – because Amalek denied the belief in G-d’s providence over the events in our world.

The Gemara in Masechet Hulin (139b) raises the question of where we find an allusion to Haman in the Torah. It cites a verse in Parashat Bereshit (3:11) which contains the word "Ha’min," which could be read as "Haman." However, Rav Eliyahu Bahur (1469-1549), in his Sefer Ha’tishbi, brings a different version of the text of the Gemara, according to which the Gemara finds an allusion to Haman in a different verse. In the Book of Debarim (8:3), Moshe mentions that "Va’ya’achilcha Et Ha’man" – G-d fed Beneh Yisrael the miraculous manna in the desert. The word "Ha’man" ("the manna") can be read as the name "Haman," thus alluding to Haman.

In light of what we have seen, we can perhaps understand why specifically in this verse, which speaks of the manna, the Torah chose to embed an allusion to Haman. As discussed, Haman’s nation, Amalek, denied the notion of divine providence, G-d’s direct involvement in this world. In no area of life is G-d’s providence more clearly manifest than in the area of Parnasa – livelihood. All of us have seen how G-d has intervened to ensure that we have our means of sustenance, how He arranged circumstances in such a way that we end up with what we need. The greatest example of this specific form of providence is the Manna which fell from the heavens when our ancestors were in the desert, without any natural ability to sustain themselves. And thus the allusion to Haman, the descendant of Amalek, is found in the verse that speaks of the manna. The clearest rejection of the ideology of Amalek is the Manna, G-d’s clear, direct intervention to provide us with our sustenance at all times.

Purim is a time to reinforce our belief in Hashgaha Peratit (G-d’s providence), how, contrary to Amalek’s doctrine, G-d directly cares for and protects each and every one of us at all times. We celebrate Haman’s downfall by celebrating Hashem’s Hashgaha, and appreciating all that He does for us each day of our lives.

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