The Parsha opens ‘V’atah Tetzaveh’ where Moshe Rabbeinu is commanded to prepare fine oils for the Menorah. Unlike the Korban Menachos or Mincha which didn’t require fine oils according to the Gemara, the Menorah required the best of the best. The Sfas Emes explains that the Lashon Tetzaveh means Zerizus, to do things with a sense of alacrity or enthusiasm. Additionally, the Gemara has in a few places that when we have a Lashon Tzav, it means Mi’yad, immediately, and L’doros, to be applicable for the future generations as well. When we do something with Zerizus, with that passion, and drive, it becomes something everlasting that’s sustained for generations.
Amalek is the antithesis of Zerizus; Amalek is the epitome of that which is temporary, the paradigm of what will fade and be erased and destroyed. The counter to that is our Zerizus. Later, the Sfas Emes explains that V’atah Tetzaveh is also a Lashon of relationship and connection. G-d is telling Moshe to instill within Klal Yisrael the Middah of Zerizus. When a Jew has that approach to Mitzvos, it could potentially catapult him to the highest levels of relationship and service to Hashem. We were coming out of Mitzrayim armed and ready, ‘Va’chamushim.’ Onkeles translates this as Mezarzin, we were on fire, with passion. Amalek wanted to remove that fire from doing Mitzvos with Zerizus and passion.
What distinguishes the Jew who does Mitzvos with Zerizus and the Jew who performs Mitzvos by rote? Simcha. When a Jew is in a state of Simcha, that Simcha stems from the realization as to how important and significant his Mitzvos are, what they can accomplish, and how those Mitzvos can affect the world at large. This realization of the significance and magnitude of Mitzvos motivates him to act with alacrity and excitement.
When Adar, the month where we’re starting the battle against Amalek, arrives, we’re Marbim B’simcha. That Simcha fosters Zerizus and with that Zerizus, we counter Amalek who’s trying to slow us down. However, says the Sfas Emes, just as Simcha and Zerizus go hand in hand, so too laziness and sadness go hand in hand as well. If we want to fight Amalek, it’s imperative to be B’simcha and to do Mitzvos passionately. Amalek wants to slow us down, Asher Karcha Ba’derech.
A cornerstone of Avodas Hashem is Zerizus. The very first page of Shulchan Aruch, where one learns how a Jew should live, writes Yisgaber K’ari, to awake and rise like a lion – with Zerizus – in the service of G-d. In his Introduction to the Lev Eliyahu, Rav Shalom Schwadron writes about Rav Elyah Lopian that Rav Elyah would get up very early in the morning. Later in the day, Rav Schwadron would notice how tired Rav Elyah looked and so he asked him why not sleep a bit later? Rav Elyah answered, eventually, I will go to Shamayim and HKBH will take out the Shulchan Aruch and will begin His ‘Bechinah.’ The first line will read Yisgaber K’ari. Said Rav Elyah, I don’t want to be disqualified right away; at least let me get to the second question before I struggle.
The Sefarim teach that Amalek represents the Koach of Machar, tomorrow; the attitude that there’s always tomorrow to accomplish. A Jew counteracts this notion of Machar with V’kidashtem HaYom U’machar, seize today and tomorrow. This is the foundation of Torah, the Zerizus of HaYom, today, which counters the Machar.
Further, Rashi in Ki Seitzei remarks that Amalek would throw the Orlah (foreskin) up to the heavens and say, is this what you’re really interested in, G-d? They’d mock the Mitzvah of Bris Mila. One of the sources for the concept of Zrizim Makdimin L’mitzvos is Bris Mila. The Shulchan Aruch writes that even though Bris Milah can be performed all day, the goal is to do it earlier rather than later in the day. The Nodeh B’Yehuda has a Teshuva addressing the question where the baby didn’t have the Bris on the 8th day and it was very close to Passover. The father of the baby boy wanted to wait to do the Bris until the Taanis Bechorim to enable those who wanted to eat at the Seudas Mitzvah and consequently not have to fast, in effect, killing ‘two birds with one stone.’ Answered the Nodeh B’Yehuda, the Bris was to take place right away and one of the reasons given was because of Zrizim Makdimin L’mitzvos, even though the baby wasn’t going to have the Bris on the 8th day anyway. (There’s a fascinating opinion of the Dvar Avraham on this topic as well). It’s no coincidence that Amalek tried to interfere with the very Mitzvah in which Zrizim Makdimin is emphasized; it represents that fundamental Zerizus which is so important to Torah and Yahadus.