The Maftir of Parashat Ki Teitzei is Parashat Zachor, the Parashah that discusses how we should remember Amaleik. By reading Parashat Zachor, we fulfill our Mitzvah of remembering Amaleik. The question that arises is whether or not we fulfill the mitzvah of “Zachor Eit Asher Asah Lecha Amaleik,” “Remembering what Ameleik did to you,” (Devarim 25:17) by simply hearing Parashat Zachor, or do we have to understand it? Additionally, we also have the obligation of erasing Amaleik’s memory! How do we reconcile the apparent contradiction between the Mitzvah of remembering Amaleik and erasing its memory?
In order to answer these questions we need to fully understand the nature of Amaleik and its horrible characteristics. When Amaleik first attacked Bnei Yisrael fresh out of Egypt in Refidim, the attack was unprovoked and the fight was entirely unnecessary. Bnei Yisrael were vulnerable and clearly posed minimal threat to the mighty Amaleik. The notion of “kicking someone when he is down” is one that Amaleik strongly embodies.
In the second Pasuk of Parashat Zachor, Amaleik is described as, “VeLo Yarei Elokim,” “And did not fear God” (25:18). While some may say that this is understandable because the nation of Amaleik is not Jewish, the Netziv takes a different approach. The Netziv explains that when “fearing God” is mentioned throughout the Torah, it is not mentioned in a sense of religiosity, but in one of basic human morality. Thus, according to the Netziv’s interpretation, Amaleik was a people that was very deficient in moral boundaries. Another example of Amaleik’s wicked qualities is the juxtaposition of the Pesukim of Parashat Zachor to the discussion of financial honesty, being honest and not cheating in economic transactions. This juxtaposition leads many Mefarshim to say that Amaleik was corrupt and full of cheating.
These demonstrations of Amaleik’s malicious qualities are the key to answering our original questions. While we are supposed to remember Amaleik and all the terrible things it has done to us, we must simultaneously forget and push away its qualities such as taking advantage of those who are vulnerable, lacking basic ethics and decency, and operating businesses in untrustworthy and duplicitous fashions. It is for this reason that Rav Moshe Shternbuch argues that we must concentrate and listen carefully to the Pesukim of Parashat Amaleik (Mo’adim UZemanim Cheilek Bet Simanim 165 and 167). He believes that we must fully understand the Pesukim that we hear in order to fulfill our obligation. If we do not truly comprehend the magnitude of Amaleik’s actions and the terrible personality traits that it tried to impose on Bnei Yisrael, we cannot recognize how important it is that we forget and dispose of such attributes and ensure that Amaleik has no place in our lives. In order to forget these qualities and guarantee that they are not incorporated into Jewish life, our only option is to remember the people of Amaleik.