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Haftorah for Shabbat Zachor

The haftarah for Shabbat Zachor comes from Shmuel Aleph, Perek 15, and tells the story of King Shaul's failure to completely destroy Amalek, as commanded by God. As a result of his disobedience, Shaul is rejected by God, and loses his position as king. The timing of this haftarah is obvious. In Parshat Zachor, we read about the commandment to destroy Amalek, the very commandment that Shaul ultimately did not obey. Of course, this is the Shabbat before Purim, and the tie-in is obvious, as Mordechai & Esther, the heroes of Purim are descendants of Shaul, and the evil Haman is a descendant of Agag, the king of Amalek in this week’s Haftorah

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עַתָּה֩ לֵ֨ךְ וְהִכִּֽיתָ֜ה אֶת־עֲמָלֵ֗ק וְהַֽחֲרַמְתֶּם֙ אֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־ל֔וֹ וְלֹ֥א תַחְמֹ֖ל עָלָ֑יו וְהֵמַתָּ֞ה מֵאִ֣ישׁ עַד־אִשָּׁ֗ה מֵֽעֹלֵל֙ וְעַד־יוֹנֵ֔ק מִשּׁ֣וֹר וְעַד־שֶֹ֔ה מִגָּמָ֖ל וְעַד־חֲמֽוֹר:

Now, go, and you shall smite Amalek, and you shall utterly destroy all that is his, and you shall not have pity on him: and you shall slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.' (Shmuel 1 15:3)


Shmuel HaNavi tells Shaul of God’s commandment to Shaul to completely destroy all of Amalek, man, woman, and child, as well as all their animals. This is to fulfill the commandment in Sefer Devarim to wipe out any trace of Amalek, in response to their vicious surprise attack on Bnei Yisrael just after leaving Egypt. Shaul and his army win the war against Amalek, but spared many of their animals, and kept king Agag alive, in direct defiance of God’s commandment. When confronted by Shmuel, Shaul initially defends his actions, by stating that he spared these animals in order to sacrifice them to God. But Shmuel continued to chastise him, since God clearly did not want these animals as sacrifices, and Shaul went directly against the command of God in sparing them. Shmuel then announced that the Kingdom would be taken away from Saul and his family. Finally, it was Shmuel who demanded that king Agag be executed, despite Shaul’s leniency towards him.

המרחם על אכזרים - מתאכזר על רחמנים

“He Who is Compassionate to the Cruel Will Ultimately Become Cruel to the Compassionate”


The Midrash Tanchuma states:


R’ Elazar said: One who becomes compassionate to the cruel will ultimately become cruel to the compassionate, as it is written, “And Saul and the nation spared Agag and the best sheep and cattle.”, and it is written (Ibid. 22:19) “And Nov, the city of priests, he smote with the edge of a sword.”


Thus in contrast to Shaul’s compassion towards the evil Agag, he would eventually be cruel to the innocent and pious Kohanim (priests) of Nov, whom he slaughtered in Perek 22 of Sefer Shmuel Aleph. Additionally, Shaul later tormented and tried to kill the future King David, one of the greatest Tzaddikim in Jewish history.


In addition to teaching us the importance of following God's commandments exactly, the Haftorah has an important lesson in eradicating evil from the world. Evil societies, like Amalek, deserve no mercy. We cannot compromise with those who seek to destroy the Jewish people, be they Amalek, Nazi Germany, or any other historical or modern enemies who vow to destroy us.


עם ישראל חי - Am Yisrael Chai


Purim Sameach & Shabbat Shalom!

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