Among the Torah’s positive mitzvot (commandments) is the mitzva to remember what Amalek did to the Jewish people. At the end of this week’s portion, Ki Teitzei, the Torah states, “Remember what Amalek did to you on your way out of Egypt; how he met you on the way, when you were weary and exhausted… You must therefore obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. You must not forget.”
Why is it so important to remember Amalek? Who were they and why are we commanded to destroy them?
Amalek was not just a nation of evildoers; in the metaphorical sense, Amalek is symbolic of a negative character trait that can manifest itself within each one of us. Every person has his own inner “Amalek”; in order to destroy it, we need to be aware of its presence and ever cognizant of the danger it represents.
Chasidut explains that Amalek was unique in that he truly recognized the greatness of G-d, yet intentionally rebelled against Him. Amalek understood that G-d loves the Jewish people and helps them. Nonetheless, he deliberately set out to fight the Jews and cause them harm.
Amalek thus symbolizes a situation in which a person knows G-d, but rebels against Him anyway. In such a case, the recognition of G-d’s greatness has no practical bearing on his behavior. The person is well aware of the Master of the Universe, yet he deliberately acts in a manner which is contrary to His will.
This negative character trait is the “Amalek” that lurks in our midst. It manifests itself when we know, on an intellectual level, that G-d expects us to conduct our lives in a certain way, yet this knowledge is not reflected in our actions. We know that He is watching us, yet we persist in acting like Amalek, whose rebellion was intentional.
Obliterating Amalek means connecting intellectual understanding and actual deed. When we remember Amalek, who knew G-d yet deliberately sought to rebel, it causes us to correct our conduct and not follow his example.
A Jew’s intellectual knowledge of Torah and mitzvot must never be separated from his day to day behavior. It isn’t enough to know what is expected of us; whatever Torah knowledge we accrue must always lead to deeds, and a life lived in accordance with G-d’s wishes.
In the merit of obliterating our inner “Amalek,” may we very soon merit the coming of Moshiach, who will destroy the remembrance of Amalek forever and build the Third Holy Temple, speedily in our day. Moshiach NOW!!!