Parshas Zachor – A Congrats Can Go a Very Long Way

This week, the Shabbos before Purim, is Shabbos Zachor, on which we fulfill the Torah-level mitzvah of Remembering Amalek. We do this during the maftir Aliyah where we read about King Shaul’s command to fulfill the mitzvah of wiping out Amalek, which he himself failed to do  by having too much mercy and saving the king of Amalek, Agag’s, life, as well as by giving in to the people’s demands for keeping their livestock. For this folly King Shaul lost the opportunity to bequeath the kingship to his children.
The Ralbag in fact says: “It appears to him that the intention when wiping out Amalek was in a fashion that Hashem commanded the Jews not to get any benefit at all from their possessions in this way to show that Hashem’s intent was to exact revenge on what Amalek did to the Jews on the way out from Egypt, when he struck from behind those who were the weakest in order to show others who want to come and do the same bad thing. The intention of this war was not to take booty and benefit from their possessions. Now when Shaul and the Jews did take the booty they showed that their intentions were not for the sake of revenge but for their own benefits and this was the opposite of Hashem’s intent. It would seem for this reason the Jews had to restrain themselves in the times of Mordechai and Esther from the spoils of their enemy who were Amalek as the megila tells us, that they didn’t take any of the spoils.”

Amalek confronted us from behind, at our weakest point, in order to cause us harm on the way out of Egypt; therefore they are deserving of revenge and total annihilation, down to the last man, woman, and child, as well as all their possessions. On the flip side, Yisro went out to pay homage to Moshe Rabbeinu, the leader, and the rest of the Jewish people for their great escape from Egypt and Amalek. For this the Navi says in our haftorah: “Shaul said to the Kennim, ‘Go withdraw, descend from among the Amelekim lest I destroy you with them; for you performed kindness with all the children of Israel when they went up from Egypt.’ The Kennim withdrew from among Amalek” (Shmuel Alef 15:6).
It would seem that if not for the kindness the Kennim did for the Jewish people as they left Egypt, they too might have deserved to be wiped out along with Amalek, for the sin of living with them many years later. What kindness did the Kennim do to the Jewish People to deserve to be saved?

The Ralbag answers: “This kindness was when Yisro (The ancestor of the Kennim) came to Moshe in the desert and showed that he was overjoyed over the success of the Jews and he also gave advice to Moshe to set up judges over the nation as described in the Torah portion of Yisro.” (CLICK here, here, here and here for Hebrew text.)

Yisro’s descendants were saved from being destroyed by Shaul when he fought against Amalek because of the two acts of kindness Yisro performed for Moshe and the Jewish people many years before. It is understandable why the kindness of giving advice to set up a court system to unburden Moshe from all the daily questions and cases that came to him is a tremendous chesed. Also, the Jews didn’t have to wait in long lines to be answered by one Judge. That’s an incredible chesed (kindness) that obviously affected everyone. But what was the big deal about showing joy over the success of the Jewish people? What did it add? They were already ecstatic about leaving the clutches of Egyptian bondage. What does congratulating them on their success do for an already joyful group of people?

We see from here how important it is to share in the joy and success of another. It is a chesed which adds to the recipients’ joy, and makes for a difference. It deserve reward no less than the impact of relieving the burdens of responsibility on others. Indeed, it resulted in saving the lives of his descendants.

We can’t underestimate the impact we can have on a person when giving them a hearty yasher koach or mazal tov after one got an aliyah to the Torah, davened, or just had a baby, wedding, bar mitzvah or even a birthday. Congratulating someone is a chesed! It’s an opportunity to enhance someone’s joy. That, like any other kindness is one of the pillars of the world which deserves much reward.

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