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Shabbat Zachor 5771: Can we forget Amalek?

”Remember what Amalek did to you by the way, when you came forth out of Egypt;
How he met you by the way, and struck at your rear, all who were feeble behind you, when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God. Therefore it shall be, when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your enemies around, in the land which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance to possess, that you shall blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget it.

Deuteronomy 25:17-19

We are commanded to remember what Amalek did to us.  Alas, it’s not very hard to remember what Amalek did to us.  We have many reminders of Amalek all around us.

In the Jewish tradition, “Amalek” is used as the term for unbridled evil, based on the passage above.  They attacked from the rear, where the women and children are, they attacked when we were tired.

All of the real “Amalek-ites” are long gone, they do not exist any more as a people.  So while we remember the original Amalek, the purpose is to focus our attention on the metaphorical Amalek — which can be either the evil within ourselves, or just the wicked people in the world around us.

And there is a lot of wickedness in the world around us.  The terrorists who murdered the Fogel family last week being a prime example.  Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas all want to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.  Qaddafi bombing his own people.  Bahrain importing Saudi troops to put down people who want to live in a democracy.  We have no shortage of contenders for the throne of Amalek.

Why a commandment to “remember Amalek?”  I suggest it’s because we should not put our heads in the sand when it comes to evil.  We should not ignore it and hope it will go away.  

Knowing what to do about it, however, is another question all together.  Evil sometimes seems like Hydra, cut off one head and it grows two more…

But Shabbat Zachor is always followed by Purim — when we eat, drink, and be merry, and celebrate the fact that we prevailed, we survived Amalek and we’ll survive the other evils around us as well.  Don’t forget Amalek: and don’t forget, don’t drink and drive!

Happy Purim!

Reb Barry

Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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