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Parshat Hashavua

Parshat Vayikra

Shabbat Zachor

Devar Torah – 03/12/2022

Strategy versus tactic

On Shabbat Zachor, we bring out two Sifrei Torah (Torah scrolls). From the first, we read the weekly Parasha and from the second we read Parashat Zachor. In Parashat Zachor, we read the verse:

“Remember That Which Amalek Did To You.”

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What is so unusual about the story of Amalek that we must remember? After all, in the grand scheme of things, Amalek had been a secondary enemy when comparing them to the many worse enemies that Bnei Israel had encountered. One might conclude that Pharaoh is a more formidable enemy since he had enslaved the Jews. Or perhaps Bilam is worse for he had wished to curse the Jewish people. Even Lavan can be viewed as a true adversary for he had sought to uproot all Jews. Why do we emphasize the battle with Amalek?

The Torah reading on Purim tells us of Amalek and in its conclusion, we learn Amalek contains not only a physical dimension but a spiritual aspect as well. As thus, the Torah commands us in the book of Devarim to remember that which the Amelek did.

The Purim Megillah brings the narrative of individuals, intriguing plots and tactics, essential to achieve the personal agendas of Haman the Aggagi, Mordechai, Esther and Achashverosh. All while a war between kingdoms looms in the background, between Amalek and the Jews. Between Haman, a hateful foe and enemy, and Mordechai. The Megillah recites a military battle known to all.

Every successful strategy is destined to be measured and assessed according to specific tactical events, and at times even a particular tactical move. The royal garments that Esther wears symbolize the garbs of the kingship of the House of Shaul. By donning these garbs, she connects and ties the tactical narrative to the strategic one. And, even though they progress jointly in the Megillah, from that moment on, their designation and destiny are one.

Haman’s strategy stems from his Aggagi origin – the king of Amalek – as well as their strategy to annihilate the people of Israel. In contrast, Esther’s strategy stems from being descendant from the House of King Shaul. As Mordechai stated her:

If you persist in keeping silent at a time like this, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place, while you and your father’s house will perish

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Mordechai had clearly referred to the House of King Shaul.

Strategy defines one’s long-term goals as well as the means to achieve them. In other words, a strategy carves out the path needed to achieve one’s goals. Tactics, on the other hand, are much more real and often aim at smaller steps and short-term goals. Tactics can also be viewed as initiatives. They are the methods of execution, such as specific plans or goals.

One’s approach to strategy and tactics should be the following: Think strategically and act tactfully. Without a strategy, one risks going through life hesitant and confused as to whether we are advancing towards our goals or not. Without tactics, we always remain chronically wanting or unsatisfied.

In connection to this topic, it is known that three days had passed between Avraham receiving the command to sacrifice Itzhak and the sacrifice itself. Why had there been such a long gap? The reason for that gap is because Avraham couldn’t find the mountain which Hashem has specified for the sacrifice. This answer leads to another question. Why couldn’t Avraham find the mountain? The answer is that Hashem had obscured the mountain from Avraham for three days, causing Avraham to wander in the desert for the three days between the command and the sacrifice itself.

Hashem had done this in order to prevent people from thinking that Avraham was so startled by Hashem’s command that he mechanically agreed to sacrificing his only son. Therefore, Hashem forced Avraham to wander in the desert and truly ponder the commandment which he was about to fulfill. Hashem had wanted to avoid people’s assumption that Avraham had absent-mindedly made a decision without carefully considering the consequence.

This explanation is clearly shows the difference between withstanding a momentary trial and a prolonged one. For a momentary hardship does indeed demand a person to fortify his emotional and physical strengths, however it is only momentarily. In contrast, a prolonged hardship, such as Avraham sacrificing his only son, will demand a complete change in one’s nature, philosophy and way of life. Had Itzhak been killed, Avraham would have lived his life in a constant state of self-sacrifice for Hashem’s sake.

Similarly, the battle between tactics and strategy explains the relationship between the trials of a single battle and a full-scope campaign. To win a single battle requires a good tactic, a sequence of actions based on accurate and instant decisions. But, even though tactics might win a single battle, it cannot be victorious against a full-scope war, for the latter demands an organized strategy with clearly defined goals.

The reasons for this can best be explained with this midrash: When the Satan appeared to Avraham disguised as a river, Avraham had attempted to gauge how deep the water is and almost drowned in the process. However, Avraham lifted up his eyes to Hashem to be rescued and Hashem immediately stopped the Satan and Avraham found himself standing back on dry land. This midrash describes Satan’s attempt to prevent Avraham from the trial of the Akedah by disguising himself as a river to interfere in Avraham’s journey.

One might wonder what the Satan had attempted to gain from this. After all, by merely walking to Har haMoriah, Avraham had expressed willingness to obey Hashem and bring his beloved son to be sacrificed. How can a simple river prevent this? It would seem that the Satan perceived Avraham was confronting this trial as a momentary occurrence by employing all of his spiritual strengths in order to reach a state of exaltation. Facing an external difficulty threating to delay Avraham on his way could fail him. But the truth is that Avraham was driven by a worldly perception – which had been established for a long time – uplifting him to a level of loving Hashem to an extent greater than love for his only son. Therefore, the Satan’s scheme to fail Avraham was foiled and Itzhak our Forefather was brought to the altar for sacrifice.

The quote “Remember That Which Amalek Did To You” is our call to remember Amalek who has a sole strategy, and in doing so we shall awake to recall our strategy: To love Hashem, to love the Jewish people, and to love Torah. Therefore, the Purim reading depicts the clear connection between the name Hashem and Amalek, and that is the purpose of bringing sacrifices in Parashat Vayikra, to remind us that a sacrifice is merely a tactic while doing the will of Hashem is the strategy.

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