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Parshat Tetzaveh - Shabbat Zachor

As mentioned in a previous email, this time of year is home to a few special Shabbatot. We have already mentioned Shabbat Shkalim (the census), this week is Shabbat Zachor.

Traditionally, the maftir, "זכור את עמלק" - "remember Amalek" is attended by many people, who make an effort to come to Shule specifically to hear the maftir and to take full advantage of a delicious kiddush.

There are many token events that have become very popular in contemporary Judaism. Why Shabbat Zachor?

Why is the idea of remembrance so important?

An individual is the sum of their experiences. As we grow older and wiser we gain more experience, which in turn allows us to cope better with life. Wisdom is our ability to recall past experience and, depending on the experience, either adjust or reimplement what we did previously. Social norms like respecting one's elders are a direct result of recognising older people as having more experience.

However, not every person can experience everything, we must sometimes rely on the information of others to guide us in life. Not every baby has to touch the fire to know that is hot, not every scientist has to test and retest the theory of gravity. The phenomenon of transmission of knowledge has set homo sapiens apart from all other species. We as a species can grow, rather than relearning the same material.

This does not only count for empirical knowledge (like heat, gravity, maths) but also for emotional knowledge. We learn through the art of transmission what is appropriate and what is kind. Eventually, entire societies are constructed around knowledge that has been transmitted. It binds us together. It becomes our backbone.

And so we can see that remembrance is extremely important. Shabbat Zachor is not unique in that it tells a story, in fact, our Jewish identity is a story. It is a borrowed story from previous generations and a new story which is unfolding in our day to day lives.

May we continue to listen to stories and tell stories to our chanichim. Let us continue an inspiring tradition.

Shabbat Shalom

Ta'anit Esther is tomorrow morning until tomorrow evening.

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