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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Amalek - Genetic or Generic

Throughout the Talmud, Chazal employ different nationalities that appear in the bible as prototypes of evil. Included in this list are the Mitzrim, Canaanim, and of course Amalek. A number of contemporary Jewish philosophers have expounded and developed this concept further. I thought it would come in handy to have a specific quote available. This is by Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik:
"Who is Amalek? He is the personification of total evil, for whom immorality has become the norm. The Torah says, "The Lord will be at war with Amalek throughout the ages" (Ex. 17:16). Dos it not seem undignified for the Lord to declare war on a Bedouin tribe? Rashi adds that "God swore that His name and throne would not be complete untilthe name of Amalek was obliterated." Furthermore, our Sages taught that the final triumph over Amalek will occur in the days of the Messiah.
Amalek is obviously more than a Bedouin tribe. He is more than a particular group, nationality or people. He is Everyman gone berserk, who has shed his Divine image for that of Satan. Any nation which declares that its policy is to destroy the Jewish people is Amalek, for it has emblazoned on its banner teh slogan of impassioned hatred "come, let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of ISrael may no more be remembered" (Ps. 83:5). This is the persistent villainy that the Lord bids us combat and against which He has sworn eternal enmity. It is for this reason that there is a positive Torah commandment: "Remember what Amalek did to you when you were on your journey, after you left Egypt... Do not forget!" (Deut: 25:17,19) This scriptural reading is appropriately prescribed for the Sabbat preceding Purim.
In our generation, HItler and Stalin are clearly Amalek personified. Jews in Germany, and even in concentration camps, discounted rumors of mass Killings until it was too late... Amalek is an historic phenomenon; Lo Tishkah - the lesson must never be forgotten." (emphasis mine)
~ Reflections of the Rav, page 180-181
See this whole chapter called "Lessons in Jewish Survival" where Rav Soloveitchik lists the different lessons that we can and indeed are obligated to learn from Amalek.

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