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Please include Israel's captive soldiers in your tefillot: Zecharia Shlomo ben Miriam Baumel, Tzvi ben Penina Feldman, Yekutiel Yehuda Nachman ben Sarah Katz, Ron ben Batya Arad, Guy ben Rina Chever.



Friday,  8 Adar  5775 –  February 27, 2015             


            The Gemara in Masekhet Megila (18a) establishes that the Biblical command of zekhirat Amalek – remembering Amalek’s attack on Benei Yisrael after the Exodus – requires not merely remembering the event in our minds, but mentioning it verbally.  On this basis, we conduct a special reading each year – before Purim – of the verses which introduce this command (Devarim 25:17-19) to fulfill this obligation. 

            This halakha is mentioned in Torat Kohanim (Parashat Bechukotai), as well, though the formulation is notably different.  Torat Kohanim writes that the Torah requires “she-tehei shoneh be-fikha” – “that you should learn it with your mouth.”  The term used here to describe obligation is “shoneh,” which generally refers to learning and study.  It appears, then, that Torat Kohanim understood the mitzva of zekhirat Amalek as requiring not merely verbal commemoration, but a formal act of “learning.”  This comment of Torat Kohanim might form the basis of the view among the Rishonim that the Torah obligation requires specifically reading the relevant verses from a Sefer Torah and with a minyan (see Shulchan Arukh O.C. 685:7). 

            This premise might also underlie the surprising ruling of the Peri Megadim (Mishbetzot Zahav, 685:2) that one does not fulfill the mitzva of zekhirat Amalek if he neglected to recite the berakha before the Torah reading.  The Peri Megadim makes this comment on the basis of the Tosefot Ha-Rosh (Berakhot 15), which states that if the requirement to recite a berakha before performing a mitzva had constituted a Torah obligation, the berakha would have been indispensable for fulfilling the mitzva.  The accepted halakha is that one fulfills a mitzva even if he neglected to recite the berakha before the mitzva act, but the Tosefot Ha-Rosh claims that this is only due to the fact that the introductory berakha is not required on the level of Torah obligation.  Had the recitation constituted a Torah requirement, any mitzva performed without reciting the required berakha would have been invalid.  The Peri Megadim notes that the Ramban (in his critique of the Rambam’s Sefer Ha-mitzvot) famously views birkat ha-Torah – the berakha recited over Torah study – as a Biblical obligation.  According to the Ramban, birkat ha-Torah is unique among all birkot ha-mitzva (berakhot recited over mitzvot) in that it is required on the level of Torah obligation.  Hence, the Peri Megadim reasons, according to the Tosefot Ha-Rosh’s theory, that a Biblically-mandated birkat ha-mitzva is indispensable to the fulfillment of the mitzva, one cannot fulfill the obligation of zekhirat Amalek without the recitation of a berakha.  Since the birkat ha-mitzva in this case is birkat ha-Torah, which is required on the level of Torah obligation, it is indispensable to the fulfillment of the mitzva. 

            The Peri Megadim’s logic seems, at first glance, fundamentally flawed.  Birkat ha-Torah is recited not over the mitzva of zekhirat Amalek, but over the Torah reading.  Chazal did not, for whatever reason, institute a special berakha over the mitzva of zekhirat Amalek.  Rather, we read it from the Torah scroll, and we thus recite the birkat ha-Torah just as we always do when reading from the Torah scroll.  How, then, can the Peri Megadim claim that the recitation of birkat ha-mitzva is indispensable to the fulfillment of the mitzva of zekhirat Amalek? 

            The Peri Megadim’s comments become understandable once we accept the premise that the mitzva of zekhirat Amalek requires “she-tehei shoneh be-fikha” – a formal act of Torah reading.  If this is the technical halakhic definition of the mitzva, then we can perhaps view the birkat ha-Torah as the birkat ha-mitzva over the mitzva of zekhirat Amalek, which is essentially an obligation to read a section of the Torah. 

(Based on an article by Rav Mordechai Carlebach, as cited and discussed by Rav Ally Ehrman) 


 Rav David Silverberg       


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