Moshe Ben-Chaim and Shaya Mann
In fulfillment of God’s command “don’t forget”, we must not allow Arafat’s death to go forgotten. News fills our ears daily, replacing yesterday’s “old news” with today’s current events. However, God commanded, “don’t forget Amalek”. The Torah has no category of “current events”. Arafat and his ruthless philosophy will always remain as “news”.
God is unfathomable. We obtain but a glimpse of His infinite wisdom. The “drop in the ocean” analogy greatly exaggerates and distorts what we truly know of His wisdom. Therefore, when reading His Torah, we must be patient, and respect the truth that there are worlds of wisdom waiting our discovery.
Arafat’s evil is but another permutation of Amalek. To truly understand Arafat’s ideology, we must study the sections addressing Amalek: the nation who attacked the Jews when they exited Egypt, while all other nations dreaded us. The knowledge of God’s plagues and His redemption of the Jewish people was incontrovertible, and taught the world of His one, selected people, and how He would obliterate those who opposed His will. Like Amalek, Arafat denied God’s selection of the Jews. Like Amalek, Arafat cowardly attacked us from the “rear”, targeting innocent men women and children. Like Amalek, Arafat and his ideology must be obliterated, but not forgotten. For when we forget or forgive such atrocities, we will fail to identify it when it surfaces again in others. We would thereby become victims once more.
Amalek is recorded twice in our Torah. A review of the verses will help us to appreciate God’s message.
(Exod. 17:8-16) “And Amalek came and warred with Israel in Rephiddim. And Moses aid to Joshua, ‘Select for us men, and go out and war with Amalek. Tomorrow, I stand on the peak of the valley, and God’s staff in my hand’. And Joshua did as Moses said to him, to wage war with Amalek, and Moses, Aaron and Hur ascended to the peak of the valley. And it was, when Moses’ hands were raised, that Israel was victorious, and when he rested his hands, Amalek was victorious. And Moses’ hand s grew weak, and they took a stone, and placed it under him and he sat on it, and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, from this side one, and from that side one, and Moses’ hands were steady until sunset. And Joshua weakened Amalek and his people by the sword. And God said to Moses, ‘Write this remembrance in a book, and place it in Joshua’s ears, for I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under the heavens.’ And Moses built an altar and called its name ‘God is my miracle’. And he said, ‘For the hand is on the throne of God, God’s war with Amalek from generation to generation’.”
(Deut. 25:17-19) “Remember what Amalek did to you on the path when you exited Egypt. That he happened upon you on the journey, and he tailed you, all the weakened ones at your rear, and you were tired and wearied, and he did not fear God. And it will be when God your God, gives you rest from all of your enemies from your surroundings in the land that God your God gives you as an inheritance to inhabit, blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under the heavens, don’t forget.”
Numerous questions present themselves here.
1) Why did this event of Amalek’s attack demand (more than any other war) to be “inscribed” in a book, and be read, as a Torah command? What was unique about Amalek’s evil?
2) Why in this war alone, does Moses ascend a mountain, and pray to God with his arms outstretched? Additionally, why did Moses’ lowering of his hands cause Amalek to be victorious? Why did he take his staff with him?
3) We read that God states he will wipe out Amalek’s infamy, but we must also do so. Which one of us will be blotting out Amalek – their infamy can only be blotted out once. Additionally, why does God “Himself” have to deal with Amalek? As it states, “a war to God with Amalek”.
4) God states He will “utterly” wipe them out. Why is such a degree of obliteration required?
5) Moses named the altar, “God is my miracle”. To what miracle does he refer? Why was a miracle required?
6) Why do we find the command of “don’t forget” only in connection with the Jews’ blotting out of Amalek?
7) Why did God command Moses to “place” in Joshua’s ears the idea that God would utterly wipe out Amalek? Can we learn anything from the repeated use of “under the heavens”, as in “blotting out Amalek from under the heavens”?
8) Why does the command to wipe out Amalek devolve upon the Jews, only after they have rest from all other enemies? (Ibn Ezra)
9) The Rabbis explain that in this section, God’s “throne” is written in an incomplete form. (“kase” and not “kisay”) What does this teach?
10) The verse states, “God’s war with Amalek”. What does it mean by “God’s” war?
11) What is significant about “They did not fear God”?
12) How can this war of God against Amalek be from “generation to generation”? Isn’t a nation obliterated only once?
Amalek’s primary distinction is enunciated, as “they did not fear God”. Their war against the Jewish people was in fact, a war against God. They did not tolerate the reality of God’s selection of the Jewish people and thereby, they denounced God. Other nations who war with the Jews may do so out of national considerations. But when a people fight us to oppose our Torah, their corruption is deeper: their ideology is the flaw. As such, the obliteration of flesh and blood does not rid the world of the corruption. Thus, this war is from “generation to generation”. This very idea is so essential to this matter, that God commanded Moses to place these words “in Joshua’s ears”. Why? To demonstrate that ideologies are not time bound, but travel through all generations. The Amalekite philosophy will not end, and therefore, the very command to pass on this teaching in the form of a public recital is essential. (See Deut. 25:19) I also believe that the need to obliterate Amalek from “under the heavens” alludes to creation. Creation is incomplete, as long as this philosophy survives. Creation was for the sake that Man has that, with which to study God’s wisdom.
Such an ideology is not specific to one nation. Others, thousands of years later like Arafat, may also adopt Amalek’s views, thereby; they too become “Amalek” and deserve obliteration. And when such an ideology exists in the world, God’s plan is obscured: His name is incomplete in the world, and all of humanity suffers. It is impossible for man to recognize God’s singular plan, if other philosophies gain prominence. In such an era, mankind lacks the conviction of what exactly God desires. (Ramban describes this as; “others have their hand on the throne”. Rashi writes, “I want to destroy Amalek”, says God.) Because of this, God too must enter the war. His involvement, as seen from the miracle of Moses’ hands effectuating the victory, teaches that the war is one in which God Himself is opposed by others. To teach this idea, God enters the war through rendering miracles: His “response” indicates that ‘He’ was attacked. This teaches mankind the level of corruption embodied by Amalek. This is how Amalek is distinguished from all other enemies.
Moses understood this distinction, and realized that for the Jews to succeed, they must understand what they were fighting. When they saw Moses’ staff in his hand, the one with which Moses performed God’s miracles, and viewed him praying to God, they realized they too required prayer, for this war would not be won through military maneuvers alone. In order that they, and succeeding generations appreciate that Amalek opposed God, this war must be won through a miracle. This would teach all others that Amalek opposed God, not simply the Jewish people.
Not only does God blot out Amalek, we too must do so. Why is this? The reason is because as we adhere to God’s Torah, our actions must mirror God’s ideals. With our reflection of God’s action, we thereby support this very principle. If we do not wipe out Amalek’s infamy, we display a flawed view of what is evil. It is essential to Torah values that we do not succumb to emotions of pity, but at times, obliteration is demanded. There must be no compromise when identifying and eradicating evil. Any sign of remorse or pity is a denial of God’s truth, and paves the way for continued atrocities against all of mankind. As King Solomon said, “There is a time to kill and a time to heal.” (Ecclesiastes, 3:3) When the Amalekites and Arafats of the world arise, it is truly a time to kill. We kill not in self-defense, but as a command of God: to vanquish humanity of any ideology that obscures God’s name. The fact that God “utterly” wipes out Amalek teaches that they have no positive element whatsoever. No equation may exist, weighing Amalek’s “bad against their good”, for they have no good. Understanding this point helps man to battle his own reluctance to shed blood. This also explains why we are commanded, “do not forget”, precisely because it is in man’s disposition to be reluctant in this matter.
Rabbi Reuven Mann stated the reason why our obligation to wipe out Amalek devolves upon us, only once we have peace from all other surrounding nations. For if we are at war with others, and then we also war against Amalek, our war might be construed as a military battle, and not one of eliminating an ideology. But when we are at peace, and then take up battle against Amalek, the reason is clear: their distinct philosophy is what we fight. It is not a war of defense or conquest.
“Don’t forget” Amalek’s philosophy, or how they attacked the weak and wearied ones, the “stragglers”. They were as cowardly as Arafat’s attack of our children. Amalek will always arise until the Messiah comes and educates the world away from false ideologies. Do not fear human condemnation for destroying those like Arafat, for then you do not fear God’s words. Be convinced that our lives as Jews can only succeed when we live as Jews: adhering to God’s word, not our fear of man or our desire for approval from the world.
“One who is merciful to the wicked, is wicked to the merciful.”