Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt -- how, undeterred by fear of God, he surprised you on the march, when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear. Therefore, when the LORD your God grants you safety from all your enemies around you, in the land that the LORD your God is giving you as a hereditary portion, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!
We are halfway through Elul, the month during which we are supposed to be preparing for the High Holy Days. We are immersed in our self-contemplation, searching our souls to determine how we can be better people in the next year. It is a time of asking for and giving forgiveness. Not only is it incumbent upon us to seek to reconcile with those we have wronged, it is our duty to forgive those who have wronged us.
So how do we deal with this passage of Torah right in the middle of our preparations? How do we handle the command to blot out an entire people? Surely the next generation of Amalekites had nothing to do with the attack in the desert on our way to Mount Sinai. Are we to understand that some wrongs are unforgivable?
Amalek’s “big sin” is often cited as taking advantage of the weak, slow, and overburdened Israelites. The real issue is that they were “undeterred by fear of God.” The Amalekites had no respect for the humans they were fighting, hence their dishonorable tactics. No thought toward the human beings in a battle is equated with no acknowledgement of the Divine spark within them. The Israelites are commanded, conversely, that God requires of them “Only this: to fear Adonai you God…” (Deut 10:12). Without fear of God, we lose our humanity because we do not acknowledge the godliness within ourselves.
We have ruach elohim within us, and we have Amalek at times. During Elul it is our responsibility to seek that Divine spark within, recognize the times we have behaved like Amalekites, and wipe out those aspects of our behavior. Then we must seek the times when we behave with reverence and awe in our hearts, and strive to live the way we know we can.
Do not forget!