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The most important Torah reading of the year, from a halachic standpoint, is today's maftir, Parshas Zachor. It is a Biblical obligation to hear this parshah read, to hear the words, "Zachor, Remember what Amalek did to you on your way out of Egypt." This leads to another mitzvah to "wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens."
Curiously, we find a different command in the first account of this episode, in Parshas Beshalach, where Hashem declares, "I will surely wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens."
One wonders: if G-d promises to take care of it, why does the Torah command us, in today's maftir, to do so? Whose responsibility is it to "wipe out the memory of Amalek," ours or G-d's.
There exists a debate in the Midrash as to whether Amalek is compared to a mad dog, which barks and bites at everyone indiscriminately, or to a fly, which flies over an open wound or a heap of garbage.
What is the meaning of this Midrash?
Two types of anti-Semites exist. One will observe a Jew misbehave and cheat and his reaction will be to blame all Jews and spread news of their dishonesty to his friends. He is like the fly who flocks to the garbage and brings his friends along. He takes ad-vantage of the dirt that exists but he has a rationale for why he's there.
The other anti-Semite hates Jews without cause or provocation. He is the mad dog that doesn't discriminate be-tween people. All are attacked equally.
Amalek may have been the father of anti-Semitism, but throughout the centuries he has had many children. Ac-cording to Rav Chaim Brisker, Zt"l, descendants of Amalek, unlike those of the seven Canaanite nations and other nationalities mentioned in the Torah, are not biologically connected. Rather, they are defined by their "Simanim," characteristics such as a lack of fear of G-d and a desire to destroy Jews.
Immediately preceding the account of Amalek's attack, in Parshas Ki Seitzei, the Torah hands down guidelines for business practices and ethics. Rashi makes the con-nection; if we are dishonest in our business practices, we must beware of the enemy.
Don't cheat, don't lie, don't defraud, the Torah warns us. Be honest, be straight-for-ward. By dealing with society in a manner that will create a kiddush Hashem, we are doing our part to eradicate Amalek. We are helping to destroy this form of anti-Semitism and fulfilling the command to "wipe out the memory of Amalek."
If we do our part, then G-d will do his "I will surely wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens." These are the "mad dogs," the hate mongers who need no reason or provocation for attack, G-d will handle these anti-Semites, but we must first deal with those who we are responsible for.
Hashem works together with his nation to eradicate evil and hatred from the world. G-d's Name and Throne remain incomplete, the Midrash points out, until Amalek and all it represents are destroyed.
Each year, as we approach Purim, we must see to it that there is a little less Amalek and a little more G-dliness in the world. When Amalek is eradicated, we will be able to sense the com-pleteness of G-d's Name and His Throne, and see the perfection of the world under the reign of the Almighty.
Rabbi Howard Kutner
Rabbi Kutner is the Rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel, Omaha, Nebraska
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