Wiping Out Zecher Amalek by Tani Greengart


The Shabbat before Purim, we read Parashat Zachor, the annual reminder of the mitzvah to wipe out the nation of Amalek. We are commanded, “VeHaya BeHani’ach Hashem Elokecha Lecha MiKol Oyevecha MiSaviv BaAretz Asher Hashem Elokecha Notein Lecha Nachalah Lerishtah, Timcheh Et Zeicher Amalek MiTachat HaShamayim; Lo Tishkach,” “When Hashem gives you respite from all your enemies in the land that He gives you [the land of Israel], wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens; do not forget” (Devarim 25:19). On Purim itself, we read the portion of Parashat BeShalach that deals with Amalek. There, the Torah says that this commandment regarding Amalek is a “Milchamah LaHashem BaAmalek MiDor Dor,” “war between Hashem and Amalek throughout the generations” (Shemot 17:16). This Passuk teaches us that the commandment to wipe out Amalek is eternal. Presumably, Amalek received this harsh decree because they attacked Bnei Yisrael right after Yetziat Mitzrayim (Shemot 17:8). Three questions arise from this mitzvah. First, how is it morally right to kill people for a sin that their ancestors committed thousands of years ago? Second, why must we wait until we are living peacefully in Israel to destroy Amalek -- would it not be better to dispose of them as soon as possible? And third, how are we supposed to fulfill this Mitzvah nowadays, when we have no idea who is descended from Amalek? One could suggest that these questions can be answered with a meticulous reading of the Pesukim. The Torah does not command us to wipe out “Am Amalek,” the nation of Amalek; Rather, we are commanded to wipe out “Zecher Amalek,” the memory of Amalek. In the modern day, the mitzvah is not to kill Amalekites, but to wipe out their memory, to erase the values they endorsed. Which values did Amalek endorse? The Torah reminds us in Parashat Zachor: “VaYezaneiv Becha Kol HaNecheshalim Acharecha VeAta Ayeif VeYagei’a VeLo Yarei Elokim,” “[Amalek] cut off all the stragglers at your rear, when you were faint and weary and not fearing God” (Devarim 25:18). Amalek is so wicked because instead of attacking the Jewish soldiers who were prepared for battle, they attacked the weakest Jews, the ones who were lagging behind the rest -- the ones who did not believe in Hashem and would not be saved by Him. Amalek did not attack the Jewish army like a normal nation would; they attacked innocent civilians. Sadly, though the nation of Amalek is long gone, their legacy lives on. There are people living today who attack innocent civilians, just as Amalek did thousands of years ago. The Torah refers to this practice of terrorism by “Zecher Amalek.” Though we may not be able to truly eradicate Zecher Amalek because we are dispersed throughout the world and constantly attacked by our enemies, Hashem has given us the  land of Israel, and it is our duty to wipe out terrorism, the legacy of Amalek, from the world. 

Fulfilling Our Torah Potential by Rabbi Joel Grossman

Raiders of the Lost Aron by Zachary Greenberg