We were taught in the Mishna (Megillah 3:4) that on the second of the series of the four special Shabbatot on which an extra portion of the Torah is read (ארבע פרשיות), we read Parshat Zachor.
Given this, the question is asked in today’s daf (Megillah 30a) about what should be done if Purim falls on Erev Shabbat, and on this point we find that Rav and Shmuel disagree. Rav rules that parshat Zachor should be read on the preceding Shabbat, whereas Shmuel rules that parshat Zachor should be read on the Shabbat which immediately follows Purim.
While the Gemara presents argumentation to defend both positions, the halacha follows Rav (see Orach Chaim 685:5) with his rationale being דלא תיקדום עשיה לזכירה – ‘so that the observance not precede the remembrance’ – which is a veiled reference to Esther 9:28 (וְהַיָּמִים הָאֵלֶּה נִזְכָּרִים וְנַעֲשִׂים בְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר) where remembrance (Zachor) comes before observance.
Reflecting on this teaching, Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap explains (in Mei Marom Vol. 9 p. 259) that ‘if the observance precedes the remembrance, then the remembrance will be calibrated according to the observance. However, we are taught that the observance follows the remembrance – from which we can learn that the observance expresses and reveals aspects of the remembrance.’
But if this is so, how does ‘the observance’ (i.e. Purim) reveal aspects of ‘the remembrance’ (i.e. parshat Zachor)? Rav Charlap proceeds to explain that, ‘Purim is the day in which the feeling of hopelessness which Amalek placed upon the Jewish people dissipates, separates and disappears from every Jew’ because it inspires us to ‘rid ourselves of the negative forces of Amalek… and thereby make room for the rising of the soul’. What this means is that, on Purim, we transform the hopelessness of Zachor into the hope of Purim, and notwithstanding what Amalek has done to us, we stand tall as we celebrate the eternity of the Jewish people.
Sadly, ever since the Exodus from Egypt, there have been various Amalek’s who have threatened the Jewish nation and who have unfortunately done great harm to our people. Yet while we must remember such instances, as we do on Parshat Zachor, we must also have days of Purim which affirm our will to live as Jews and which celebrate our tenaciousness as a people to overcome the forces that have sought to harm us. And this is why, if Purim falls on Erev Shabbat, we read parshat Zachor on the preceding Shabbat – ‘so that the observance not precede the remembrance’.