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Religion

Amalek and other invasions

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This Shabbos, we take out two Torah scrolls. From the second, we read, “Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt, that he happened upon you on the way, and he struck those of you who were hindmost, all the weaklings at your rear, when you were faint and exhausted…” (Devarim 25:17-18).

This portion of Zachor is always read this Shabbos, the Shabbos before Purim, as the villain of the Purim story, Haman, was a direct descendant of Agag, an Amalek king. We are enjoined to remember that the Amalekite threat is a constant one.

Although the Amalekite nation assimilated into the surrounding nations over time, and, as such, are no longer an identifiable people, nevertheless, as we read on Purim day, “G‑d is at war with Amalek for all generations.” (Exodus 17:16) There’s a perpetual war against Amalek. The war isn’t a conventional one; it’s a war against the Amalekite values, which still pervade.

So, what are the Amalekite values that we must constantly battle?

Rashi explains the words, “Asker karcha baderech” (that he – Amalek – happened upon you on the way) to mean that Amalek “cooled us off” before the eyes of the nations of the world (kar is the Hebrew word for cold). After the exodus from Egypt, the nations were in awe of the Israelites and its G-d. They dared not attack the Israelites. Then, along came the nation of Amalek and waged war against the Israelites. In so doing, Amalek demonstrated to the world that Israel wasn’t “too hot to handle”. Rashi brings a parable of a boiling hot bathtub that no one will step into. A good-for-nothing comes and steps into it. Although he’s scalded, he makes it appear cool to others.

By attacking the nation of G-d, Amalek shows indifference both to the nation and its G-d. Perception is changed, and beliefs are questioned – perhaps for the nation of Israel as well. Has Amalek cooled the enthusiasm and diminished the faith of the nation on its journey to receive the Torah? Has Amalek created doubt?

As we gather this Shabbos to read and hear of the attack of Amalek millennia ago (please remember this is a biblical obligation for men and women), let’s truly feel the pain and suffering of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and elsewhere in the world. Let’s show that we’re not indifferent to their plight. Let’s pray with more fervour, recite tehillim with increased dedication and let’s enthusiastically and passionately commit to the observance of additional mitzvot (especially around kindness) in their merit.

Let’s ensure that our faith is resolute. Just as Hashem ensured that “to the Jews there was light and joy, gladness and honour” (Megillat Esther 8:16), He will certainly ensure that such conditions prevail now and forever.

Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbos and a very happy Purim!

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