• Gabbai

Tetzave – The Evil of Amalek

“Remember what Amalek has done to you, on your way leaving from Egypt. That he happened upon you along the way, and he struck those of you who were lagging behind, while you were faint and weary, and he did not fear God.” (Deuteronomy 25:17-18)

Each year on the Shabbat immediately preceding Purim we read these verses from a second scroll, exhorting us to remember the evil of Amalek. The reading is a fulfilment of the Mitzvah to remember, and it was instituted that we read this just before Purim because of Haman’s link to Amalek and his similar designs.

The particular evil of Amalek needs explanation. Over millennia many nations have risen against us. In our history we have been wronged by nearly every major power on the planet which encountered the Jewish people. Is Amalek so much worse than all the others that we need to make a special occasion of remembering Amalek’s evil toward us?

The second verse cited above begins with the phrase, “That he happened upon you…” This is the most common translation, and commentators explain the significance of the term “happened” and how this term expresses the evil of Amalek. But the word may connote other interpretations. Rashi offers several possibilities, one of which is “cold.” The verse would accordingly read: “That [Amalek] has cooled you down along the way…” Rashi explains that there was an aura of awe surrounding the people of Israel. According to the Midrash the splitting of the sea made waves throughout the civilized world. All bodies of water experienced some disruption at that time, and all nations became aware of the great miracles God had performed for the children of Israel. Israel became untouchable, held in awe and shrouded not only in the clouds of glory but in the mystique of the supernatural providence evident in their short history and their sustained existence in the wilderness.