Defining Amalek by Willie Roth


Devarim 25:17 states, “Zachor Et Asher Asah Lecha Amalek Baderech Bitzeitchem Mimitzrayim,” “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way out from Egypt.”  Then in Pasuk 19 the Torah says, “…Timcheh Et Zecher Amalek Miachat Hashamayim Lo Tishkach” “Erase the rememberance of Amalek from beneath the Heavens, do not forget.”  These few pesukim are the source for the Mitzvah known as Zechirat Amalek, which has two integral parts: remembering Amalek and erasing Amalek.  However, the definition of this Mitzvah is not so clear. 

According to Rashi, the aspect of erasing Amalek can be defined as completely wiping out Amalek so that no one remembers that they existed. This is true to such an extent, that Rashi even says that a person cannot point to an animal and say that it once belonged to Amalek.

Even with Rashi’s explanation, the definition of this Mitzvah still seems perplexing.  How can we completely wipe out a nation, especially in today’s society?  If the Jewish people start killing a nation, the rest of the nations around the world will start killing Jews!  Also, how do we know who is a member of Amalek?

Rav Moshe Feinstein ,z”l, answers that the Mitzvah of Zechirat Amalek is to recognize that every single person has the ability to bad things.  Although, for example, a person will probably not steal something, he still has the ability inside of him to steal.  Amalek shows us that this potential that people have to do bad things because they are human just like we are, and if they can sin we also have the ability to sin.  Therefore, it is not enough, says Rav Moshe, to just work on oneself to do good things, but one must also set up barriers and shields to prevent him from doing bad things. Although a person may not being sinning right now, there still is the possibility that he may sin.  That is why on Yom Kippur, during Neilah, we say “Lima’an Nechdal May Oshek Yadeinu,” because it is ourselves that we must prevent from doing Aveirot.

In this month of Elul we must try and find that evil potential inside of us and disarm it and not let it take control of our lives.  Hopefully then we will be completely forgiven and will be able to concentrate on doing good things.

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