This week, the Maftir we read is Parshat Zachor, which is the second of the four special Parshiot we read prior to Purim and Pesach. This Torah reading is a Biblical obligation to listen to, unlike the regular Torah reading, which is only rabbinic in nature.
The Torah teaches us in this Parsha that Amalek “killed among you all the weaklings at your rear” (Devarim 25:18). Who were these “weak” people, who were the only ones Amalek was apparently able to kill? Rav Dovid Feinstein (SHLIT”A) explains that they were those who did not have enough merit to be saved. Amalek knew that they could succeed only against these spiritual weaklings. It was their hope, however, that by attacking these people, they would cause the rest of the nation to question the presence of Hashem in this world, thereby spiritually weakening the nation. It is this spiritual weakness that the Torah in Parshat Zachor warns Bnei Yisrael to avoid: “Do not forget,” it instructs, “what their evil design was. Be aware of their plans and guard against them.”
Rav Dovid also explains that the word Tishkach (in 25:19), forget, is a contraction of the words “Tash Koach,” weakened strength. The Torah commands us, “Lo Tishkach” – do not allow your spiritual strength to weaken; remain strong and Hashem will be with you.
What did the Jewish people do wrong to deserve Amaklek’s attack? Tosafot in Masechet Kiddushin (33b s.v. Ve’Eima) quotes a Midrash that states, “The Jewish people were not honest with their weights and measures, so as a punishment for this dishonest behavior, Amalek attacked. This is shown by the Torah’s writing about keeping honest weights and measures (25:13-16) immediately before writing, ‘Remember what Amalek did to you’ (25:17).”
Rav Moshe Feinstein ZT”L, in his Sefer Bastion of Faith, poses several questions on the Mitzvah to remember what Amalek did. First, we do not know today who Amalek is. Second, even if we did know, we would still be powerless to do anything about it, as any action on our part would jeopardize the survival of the Jewish people. Third, this commandment seems contrary to the rest of the teachings of the Torah, particularly the commandment not to bear a grudge. How, then, can we understand and fulfill this Mitzvah?
Rav Moshe answers that this Mitzvah is intended to produce internal changes rather than external results. We are therefore called to always be on the alert, never becoming too confident of our righteousness. The Mitzvah is thus actually to kill, i.e. to destroy, the Yetzer Hara, which resides in each and every one of us.
May we learn the message of this Biblical commandment – to have no doubts about the existence of Hashem in our daily lives, to be honest in our dealings, and to try to annihilate the evil which each of us has in his heart and mind. May we merit seeing the completion of the throne of Hashem when Amalek is destroyed (see Shemot 17:16) and the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days.