Last week at the CTeen Shabbaton, I was sitting in shul with hundreds of teens, listening to the reading of Parshat Zachor.
Definition: Parshat Zachor is an additional Torah portion, which is read on Shabbat before the holiday of Purim. It follows the story of the Israelites encounter with the nation of Amalek in the desert.
I love Parshat Zachor. I love going to shul to hear it; it’s one of those times of the year that brings people from all walks of life together under spiritual circumstances, to remember and experience something as a community.
…which brings me to a confession. I don’t know about you, but it’s really hard for me to find myself in the Parsha (the daily Torah portion).
We are taught that each portion has a direct lesson for us to hold by, a guideline of sorts. Look into the Parsha, and you will see your life. While it’s great in theory, sometimes (most times) it just doesn’t happen for me.
Trying to live with the Parsha feels like trying to plant my feet on two different continents at once—my life is in Philadelphia, and the weekly Parsha is in Spain.
To be fair, there are sometimes (usually when I am focused and caffeinated), where I see myself in the Parsha; I recognize the lessons as ones I should apply to my own life.
Deep down, I know that the Torah is the blueprint and guideline which I can use to forge a wonderful and deeply meaningful life, but sometimes, the effort of having to find the spark feels too hard.
You know what else is really hard? Finding the strength to pick yourself up when you’ve been knocked down.
We’ve all been there. Each of us has had those days where nothing makes sense about ourselves, our lives, our mission. Those days, where cancerous self doubt spreads like a wildfire, rendering us immobile, making it impossible to overcome even the most foolish and painful thoughts.
On the worst days, doubt eats me for breakfast. It is on those days that fear and worry takes hold of me with the firmest and unrelenting grip. It feels like a foreign entity has taken over my brain; all I see is pain and fear. In those moments, I can’t help but feel cynical and uncertain about who I am.
The protagonists in Parshat Zachor are the nation of Amalek. Amalek is described as a psychological enemy, one that planted distrust, cynicism, and doubt in the mind’s of the Israelites.
Huh. Let’s unpack this.
The Israelites were moving through the desert on their way to Mount Sinai; they had seen countless miracles up until that moment, with many more about to unfold. And yet. They still didn’t really believe that Hashem had their backs. They struggled to have faith. They doubted that Hashem was going to provide for them. Though they had already come so far, they were still waiting for everything to go wrong.
Ahhh. I have your ‘living with the times’ right here, mister.
If you make room for doubt to take over, it will take over.
Amalek—when failure becomes the defining factor of who you are.
Amalek—when fear tells you that you’re not good enough.
Amalek—when cynicism shows you that there’s no point in trying.
The buzzword in Parshat Zachor is Remember: “Remember what Amalek did to you.”
Remember that doubt and fear are not a part of you. If you make room for them, they will appear, but they do not define who you are.
Listen, it is hard to have faith. Doubt is easier. Fear is familiar. There’s a sense of surrender in cynicism. It’s comfortable.
In the war against doubt, remember what you have: faith in Hashem, and Hashem’s faith in you.
In the ‘desert’ of life, believe that Hashem has your back; you’re here, and you have a purpose. Arm yourself with the right tools—with compassion, kindness, and knowledge—and you’ll always be prepared for when doubt tries to sneak back in.
When you make room for faith to take over, it will take over.