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FOR DEPOSIT ONLY

by Ariel Shoshan    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

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At the conclusion of this week's Torah portion, we are told of the initial story of our eternal battle with Amalek. As the Jewish people traveled from the land of slavery, they were attacked from behind by a nation that did not fear the Almighty. After defeating Amalek militarily, Moses proclaimed, "For a hand has touched G-d's throne, Hashem wages war on Amalek from generation to generation" (Exodus 17:16).

Generations later we hear from the prophet Samuel, "So said Hashem, Master of legions, I have remembered (pakadti) that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid in wait for him on the way, when he came up from Egypt" (Samuel I 15:2). The prophet continues by commanding King Saul to "Go and strike Amalek." The Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 53:5) comments on this verse that Hashem states, "I am a man of deposits (pikdonos). Amalek deposited with me bundles of thorns, and I returned to him bundles of thorns. As it is stated, 'I have remembered (pakadti) that which Amalek did to Israel. . . .' Sarah, the matriarch, deposited with me mitzvot and good deeds, and I remembered and gave her the reward for her mitzvot and good deeds. As it is stated, 'And Hashem remembered (pakad) Sarah'."

Rav Shimon Schwab, the late spiritual leader of Congregation Adas Yeshurun in Washington Heights, New York, questioned the connection between two seemingly distant concepts discussed in this Midrash. On the surface, deposits and remembrance are not at all related. However, it is both striking and clear that the shoresh, etymological root, they share is evidence not to a passing relationship, but to a fundamental one. On the one hand, the Hebrew word pakad is the verb stating "deposit and entrusting." Yet, at the same time, it describes a remembrance that leads to action. Their shared theme teaches us beautifully how Hashem's decisions are perfect.

A pikadon, deposit, has a clear distinction from a loan. It is not a gift, nor is it for the recipient's use at all. A pikadon's essence is to be safeguarded and then returned. The depositor trusts that he will receive his article back in the same fashion in which he gave it. He hopes that the item's time in storage will not be evident. Conversely, a memory often fades. With its time spent "in storage," it wanes and loses clarity. In fact, we all regularly question if a certain episode happened in the exact way that we report it. Its anecdotal form sometimes bears little resemblance to its truthful reality. The usage of the verb-form pakad, however, explains Rav Schwab, implies a perfection of memory. When Hashem remembered Sarah, it was with ultimate clarity. She had deposited with Him bundles of mitzvot and good deeds, and they remained with Him in the precise form in which they were received.

Similarly, the Almighty's memory of how Amalek craftily treated our ancestors never dulled. Therefore, they received, and will continue to receive just punishment at Hashem's hand. This is the implication of the use of the word pakad in describing G-d's memory. His memories are as sharp as the moment they were experienced, just as the depositor would expect.

In our daily lives, we can sometimes lose sight of the Almighty's perfection. Perhaps we even question His judgment, and would prefer things a different way. What Rav Schwab is teaching us, based on the Midrash, can be a source of strength for us at all times. The Omniscient and Omnipresent One is the greatest of recorders, and His encoding and retrieval are indeed flawless. Moses, in Parshat Ha'azinu, tells us that "The Rock (Hashem) is perfect in His ways" (Deuteronomy 32:4). When we receive bounty and happiness from Hashem, all are acts of loving-kindness. When, G-d forbid, the opposite happens, we are also benefactors of Hashem's never-ending love.

When used to describe memory, the word pakad describes only that of Hashem's memory, as well as its incredible perfection. Fortunate is the person who can trust that all that his Master gives him is with love and justice. As King David has sung (Psalms 33:4), "For the word of Hashem is straight, and all of His actions are done in faithfulness."

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Ariel Shoshan writes from Baltimore.

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