This week is a special Shabbos, called Parshas Zachor. We have a special Torah reading about the first war waged against the Jews when they left Egypt by the evil nation called Amalek. Hashem commands the Jewish people never to forget what Amalek. has done to the Jewish people. In fact, the Jewish people are commanded to wipe out Amalek.. We are not allowed to leave any vestige of Amalek. to remain in this world. Why is there such a strong commandment regarding Amalek? Aren’t there many nations who have started up with Jews? Certainly they are all wicked, but why are we instructed specifically to wipe out Amalek?
The Hebrew word used for the meeting of Amalek. and the Jewish people is karcha – lit. he met you. The commentaries explain that this comes from the root kar –cold. Amalek “cooled us off” to the world. What does this mean?
The sages compare Amalek to a person who stands among a crowd before a very hot pool of water. No one wants to enter it, scared that they will hurt themselves. One particular person then jumps in. Although he does suffer a burn, he emerges alive. The fact that he was able to jump in and emerge alive, cools the image of this pool in the eyes of other people. Now, with the confidence that it’s not impossible to come out alive, some one else will feel less scared to jump in. There is no shortage of rationalizations that people make to allow themselves to do things that otherwise would have seemed foolish. When the Jewish people left Egypt, no one would have been foolish enough to start up with them. As the Torah tells us, “the nations of the world heard of the Exodus, and they trembeled before the Jews.” Before Amalek. fought with the Jews, no one would even have thought of starting up with the Jews. Once Amalek. fought with us, and survived, others decided to try also. The door to all the thousands of years of Jewish suffering was opened by this war of Amalek. This evil act is unforgivable.
Our commentaries tell us that there is a deeper understanding to the evil of Amalek. When we remember the evil of Amalek, we remember the evil that Amalek. did lecha –to each of us. Rav Tzadok explains, we must find that little piece of Amalek that has come to rest within us. What is that piece of Amalek? The Torah tells us, this is asher karcha – that he cooled us off. What does this mean?
When we have the opportunity to do a mitzvah, to fulfill a commandment, there are always two aspects of our action that have to be examined: a) Are we doing the deed properly? If one puts on Tefillin, they can’t be round; If one cooks a kosher meat meal, he or she can’t add cheese to the dish,…b) Our attitude has to be examined. How do we approach the mitzvah? Is the feeling we have towards doing it one of excitement? How excited are we? The Zohar tells us that one who has the opportunity to do a mitzvah should feel as if they have just had found a great fortune. How excited would we be then!
This is the passion, excitement, and joy that must fill our hearts as we do the mitzvohs. When we feel this way, we are feeling like a Jew. When we don’t we have a little piece of Amalek within us that we must eradicate.