Wiping out Amalek
This week is Parshas Zachor, and it’s interesting to note that there seem to be two mitzvos regarding Amalek, one is זכר את אשר עשה לך עמלק… to REMEMBER what they did to us on our way out of Mitzrayim, and the second is that when we are settled peacefully in Eretz Yisrael … תמחה את זכר עמלק מתחת השמים לא תשכח. we should wipe out the memory of Amelak from under the Heavens, don’t forget!
So there are a few questions I had. Firstly, why did the Torah divide it into 2 distinct mitzvos, remember and destroy? Second, why do both mitzvos use the word zachor, even though the mitzvos are different? One means REMEMBER what they did, and one means wipe out their Memory. Isn’t it strange that on the one hand the Torah says remember, and on the other hand it says to WIPE out their memory? Why not just say WIPE THEM OUT. TIMCHE ES AMALEK. Why Zecher AMALEK, which seems to be the very opposite of REMEMBER what they did to you?
So I’d like to suggest the following. It is brought down in the sefarim that every Jew has inside of them an aspect of all 70 nations. Each nation represents another Midah that we need to fix. Edom is Murder, Yishmael is Z’nus, and so on… Now one day it says, all the nations will praise Hashem. הללו את ה' כל גוים - praise hashem all the nations, שבחוהו כל האומים - praise Him all the nations, כי גבר אלינו חסדו - for his chesed on us was exceedingly great. Now the simple meaning is that when Moshiach comes, all the nations will see the great chesed Hashem did for us, even though we underwent so much suffering at the hands of the nations, it was all for our good, and they too will praise Hashem. But we can also interpret it in terms of each and every one of us. That one day, we will see that all the bad midos we had to work on - which are symbolized by the 70 nations, that was which brought us to greatness and to the great reward that Hashem has in store for us. And at that point, ALL the nations will praise Hashem, because we will see how “even masu - the stone that was despised by the builders, hayasa… became the cornerstone for our growth. The Yetzer Hara itself was our impetus for growth and we will praise Hashem for the bad midos we were born with as well.
But there is one Midah, one nation, that will never praise Hashem. One nation that needs to be wiped out completely. And that is Amalek, which equals the word SAFEK in gematria - which means DOUBT. Like the pasuk says after Kriyas Yam suf, they went three days without water and complained to Moshe. And it says there that when the yidden asked Ha’yesh Hashem - is he within us or not, vayavo amalek, that is when Amalek comes. Amalek symbolizes our doubt that all our trials and tribulations are from Hashem for our benefit. When we doubt that Hashem is within us, that He cares about us, that He is only testing us for our good, that is Amalek. And that needs to be wiped out completely.
You know, sometimes when we’re doing well and we’re overcoming the Yetzer Hara for a while, we get a bit haughty and complacent, thinking that we have the strength. But Hashem wants us to always remember that it is Him who gives us the strength. When we’re haughty, it pushes away the shechina. So what does Hashem do? He brings us to a fall, c”v, and then we see how weak we are and become humble again and ask Hashem for His help. But what can we do to stay humble so that Hashem doesn’t need to bring us to a fall? Perhaps this is the Inyan of remembering what Amalek did to us. In other words, even after Hashem split the Yam Suf for us and everything was great, as soon as He tested us and didn’t give us water for a few days, instead of davening to Hashem we began to doubt if Hashem is within us or not. That is Amalek. And Hashem is telling us - if you ever feel haughty, remember what Amalek did to you! Remember how you doubted me, even after I took you out of Mitzrayim. Zachor es asher asa… baderech… even after all the miracles He did for us, we still doubted Him! And remembering our past falls, our past sefekos in Emunah, this will keep us humble and Hashem won’t need to bring us to fall again. And perhaps that is why the mitzva of Zechor es asher… is so important. On a personal level, Hashem is telling us to remember our past sins in order to stay humble. But at the same time, we have a mitzva to WIPE OUT Amalek completely, because Amalek is the one nation that will never praise Hashem. We will never be able to say one day that it was our DOUBTS in Hashem that caused us to grow. We can say that our bad midos caused us to grow, our desires and nisyonos. But doubting that Hashem is behind it all - that is one thing that must be WIPED out completely.
Based on all this, I think we can answer our original questions. We asked why there are two separate mitzvos, to remember what Amalek did, and to wipe him out. The mitzva to remember is to always remember our past when we doubted hashem, and that should keep us humble. How could we have ever doubted Hashem who did so much for us? But then there’s a mitzva of wiping OUT the memory of Amalek and getting rid of every last vestige of doubt from our hearts.
And why does the pasuk use the same word Zachor and Zecher for both mitzvos? Why doesn’t it just say, wipe out Amalek, why Zecher amalek, the memory of Amalek? Because as long as we remember our past doubts, we may still harbor these doubts in our hearts. Hashem doesn’t want us to even REMEMBER the doubts we had! But he DOES want us to remember that we once doubted Him to keep us humble. So on the one hand he is saying, remember your past doubts to stay humble before me. But on the other hand he is saying, WIPE OUT THE MEMORY of those doubts from your heart. Timche es Zecher amalek. Erase the memory of all Sefekos you had in the past. Lo Tishkach, yet at the same time - don’t forget that you HAD these doubts, and this will keep us humble even when we’re doing well, so we never rest on our laurels and feel we don’t need Hashem’s help anymore.
May we be Zoche to wipe out Amalek - wipe out all safek from our hearts and always know that Hashem is the one testing us to help us grow, but at the same time, remember our past and stay humble always.