Remembrance Is the Key to Preventing Recurrence

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by R. Eliezer Simcha Weisz

On the Shabbat before Purim, two Torah scrolls are taken from the ark – one for the regular weekly portion and another for the special maftir reading of “זָכוֹר אֵת אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה לְךָ עֲמָלֵק, Remember what Amalek did to you” (Devorim 25:17). This Shabbat is called Shabbat Zachor (The Shabbat of Remembrance) due to this added reading about Amalek.

The Torah commands us to “remember what Amalek did” when unprovokedly attacking the Israelites after the Exodus.

“Remember what Amalek did to you on the way, at your going out from Egypt, how he  they chanced upon you     (אשר קרך בדרך) on the way.”

Rashi offers various interpretations to the word “קָרְךָ” korcha on how Amalek “chanced upon” them:

1)  The root “kor” relates to cold – Amalek “cooled” the Jewish people’s aura of invincibility, allowing other nations to attack – like a scalding bath that became accessible after one scoundrel jumped in and cooled it.

2)  Amalek’s attack when the Jews seemed invincible after G-d’s miracles made Israel vulnerable by breaking down the spiritual “dams” and “walls” protecting them in the world’s eyes.

After the Holocaust, the “aura of untouchability” around Jews was shattered by Hamas’ butchery and murder of innocent civilians, solely for being Jewish, despite the Jewish people having just experienced attempted genocide by the Nazis and their allies. This opened the “floodgates of hate” – antisemitism flooding the world again, even among the intelligentsia and elite universities considering themselves enlightened. While called “anti-Zionism,” it remains a virulent hatred denying Jewish rights to existence and self-determination.

Amalek’s legacy is this ongoing war against Jews, cloaked in modern rhetoric but rooted in ancient hatred, setting the stage for bigotry to endure across generations after their attack on the newly-freed nation.

Naivety and forgetting benefits the aggressors, especially Amalekite mentalities. Forgetting allows them to attempt to accomplish this unfinished task. Being naive leads to letting one’s guard down, encouraging repeated attempts. A common excuse for naivety , is claiming Amalek no longer exists. Only “primitive” people or those controlled like Hitler would commit such cruelty. The commandment “זָכוֹר” “remember” Amalek reminds us that Amalek and those with the Amalekite mentality still exist, as unfortunately witnessed when Israel fights for survival while the world loses its moral conscience attempting to deny Israel’s right to protection from the likes of Hamas.

Centuries after Amalek, Haman the Agagite, a descendant of “אֲגַג מֶלֶךְ עֲמָלֵק” “Agag king of Amalek” (1 Samuel 15:8), plotted the mass extermination of Jews (Esther 3:1). Hitler did so 80 years ago, and Hamas does so today, while many in the enlightened world suffer from amnesia.

The mitzvah of Zachor reminds us that the existential Amalekite threat persists as Israel fights for survival against this hatred while the world forgets past attempted genocide.

Remembrance is indeed the key to preventing such recurrence.

About Eliezer Simcha Weisz

Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weisz is a member of The Chief Rabbinate Council of Israel

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