Prologue:        It is a most personal Mitzva. Remember what Amalek did to YOU. Recall it, experience it and be prepared to obliterate the Amalekite name from the world. And, as such, we read Parshat Zachor once a year. But why is the command given to the individual? Why does the Torah not recall what Amalek did to the collective (Lachem) Jewish nation and choose to
focus on the personal attack (Asher Asa Lecha)? After all, wasn't Amalek's deed one that affected the entire nation?

Rav Yitzchak Meir of Gur once noted that the difference between Lecha and Lachem is the group you find yourself in. When a person is in a strong group committed to strong Jewish values, then it is difficult to pull him out and attack him. When threats to the Jewish soul have lingered, they have begun by attacking the fringe, those members of the community who feel that they do not belong. When a person was within the Israelite camp, he was protected from Amalek by the Ananim and by the people he was with. When he was alone, he was open to attack.

The lesson of Amalek is one that cuts to the heart of the Jewish community. When we reach in and unite with our people then our whole is greater than the sum of its parts and we are indestructible. However, when we use an exclusionary policy of relating, we lose those on the fringe. Hence, the antidote to Amalek is Purim. When Amalek attacks, we declare,
as Esther did, Leich Knos Et KOL HaYehudim, gather all Jews together, even the ones who do not normally come to Shul. We respond with gifts to one another and to the poor in order to bring our community closer together. When we stand united we are strong. When divided, we might not be able to
withstand the fall.  

Women and Zachor

    In one of the most interesting debates in Jewish law, the Rabbis differed as to whether women have an obligation to hear the Parsha of Zachor or not. As this week is Shabbos Zachor, it would be appropriate to review the mixed opinions.

    The Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzva 603) notes that women are not obligated in the Mitzva of Zachor as they are not the ones who regularly go to war. Thus, if they are not obligated to obliterate Amalek, their role in Zechira, in remembering is unnecessary. The Minchas Chinuch challenges the comparison of the Mitzva of Zachor to the issue of wiping out Amalek. As he exclaims: "who revealed (to the Sefer Hachinuch) the secret of Hashem that the whole purpose of the Mitzva of Zachor is due to the command to obliterate Amalek?" Perhaps these are two separate distinct Mitzvos with different obligations. (In truth though, the Rambam (Sefer HaMitzvos, 189) notes that the Mitzva of Zechira is to arouse the people through words in order to fight the battle with Amalek.)

    The Minchas Chinuch further questions whether women would not fight the Amalek battle. After all, the battle with Amalek is a Mitzva and when it comes to a Milchemes Mitzva (a war predicated on a Mitzva) even a Kalla must leave the Chuppah, implying that women too, have a role in such a war (See Rambam Hil. Melachim, 7:4; Shut Avnei Nezer, O.C. 509) thus obligating them in the Zachor part as well?

    The Radvaz (Hil. Melachim 7:4) notes that women are also exempt from Milchemes Mitzva. When the Talmud tells us that the Kalla also leaves the Chuppah for a Milchemes Mitzva what the Gemara wants us to know is that the Chosson is not exempt from the war. Once he leaves to battle, why should a Kalla stay under the Chuppah? Moreover, Rashash (Sotah 44b) suggests that even a Kalla would work KP duty to feed her husband even if he went to war during the Sheva Berachos. However, one still has no proof that women are obligated to obliterate Amalek.
    Shut Toras Chessed (37) examines whether women should be exempt from Parshas Zachor for a different reason. Namely, Zachor is a time-bound positive commandment (Mitzvas Aseh She'HaZman Gramma) and perhaps women should be exempt on those grounds. He entertains this possibility and concludes that for whatever reason, "we never heard or have seen women come to Shul to hear Parshas Zachor."

    The Torah sage, Maran HaGaon Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita (Taama D'kra) notes that according to the Chazon Ish, women are exempt from the commandment. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Kovetz Kol Torah, Nissan 5763) too, is quoted as being of the opinion that women were not obligated to hear Zachor.

    At the same time, the Minchas Chinuch obligates women to hear Parshas Zachor. The Aruch LaNer (Shut Binyan Tzion II: 8) too, quotes Rabbi Nosson Adler who held that the women in his home had to go to Shul to hear Parshas Zachor. Dayan Weiss (Shut Minchas Yitzchak IX:68) notes that the majority of Poskim feel women should hear the reading. (It remains unclear how he came to the definition of majority in this matter.)

    Maharil Diskin (Shut Maharil Diskin Kuntrus Acharon, note 102) felt that there were two reason why women should be obligated in Zachor. The first reason was that the Mitzva of remembering is NOT time bound. The Rabbis merely established this Shabbos as the one within which to fulfill the obligation. Additionally, he argued that women were included in the Amalek attack. Therefore they should be included in the obliterating obligation.  Maran Hagaon Harav  Asher Weiss Shlita (Kuntres Minchas Asher, Titzaveh, 5769) challenges both arguments: To the point about the timing of the obligation, Rav Weiss argues that although the women might be obligated in Zachor (the act of remembering) they should be exempt from hearing this parsha this week in shul because that aspect is a Mitzvas Aseh SheHazman Gramma. To the second point, he notes that although women were included in the intent of Amalek, this does not obligate them in Zachor. After all, women also benefited from the Ananei HaKavod yet they are exempt from the obligation of sitting in the Sukkah. Still, Rav Weiss concedes, the Minhag in Yirushalayim is that women do go to Shul to hear Zachor  probably as a tribute to the Psak of Maharil Diskin who was one of Yirushalayim's Poskim.

    Rav Weiss adds that in his opinion, it is better for women to come to Shul to hear Zachor together with the men since there are many Poskim who hold that they are not obligated and if so, it is better not to remove a Sefer Torah without purpose. To be Chosheish for both sides of this debate, the women's hearing the Kriya in Shul assists in not obligating the removal of a Sefer Torah an additional time.

Shabbat Shalom
Purim Sameach