The Shabbat that precedes Purim is called Shabbat zakhor (= Remember!). This Shabbat we take out two Sefarim, one for the weekly Parasha, in this case vayiqra and the other, for a special Maftir in Debarim 25:17, zakhor. “Remember… what Amaleq did to you when you left Egypt … Amaleq attacked the defenseless … and did not fear God … do not forget !!!”.
When we left Egypt, Amaleq attacked us. It was an unprovoked attack, without reason or motive. Israel was not a threat to Amaleq’s assets or territory. The reasons for Amaleq to attack the Jews were not “logical” but rather, using a modern term “ideological”, “ethnic”. Moreover, we were superior in number to Amaleq. But Amaleq still, suicidally, attacked us. To be more effective , Amaleq attacked the weak, the infirm, the old.
There’s something about the Jews that Amaleq did not tolerate. It was not the power of the Jews or the money of the Jews. What power or money would former slaves have? They just escaped from a lengthy captivity. It was not a territorial issue either: we were in the desert, and Amaleq territory was not in our plans.
We were at war with many nations. Sometimes it was a dispute over a territory, or Imperial taxes (Babel or Egypt). Or even conflicts of religious order (Greeks vs. the Hasmoneans, etc). But Amaleq is different. Amaleq hated the Jews “unconditionally”.
I think the best way to identify Amaleq, or define the attitude of Amaleq (and anti-Semitism in general) to Jews is to understand that Amaleq attacked the Jewish people not because of what we Jews “have” or “do” but mainly because of what we Jews “are”. It is existential hatred. What the Jew has or does is something Amaleq might use, if convenient, as a screen to justify their hatred.
Amaleq and his “ideological” descendants (known as ”zekher Amaleq”) can be clearly identified by the following characteristics:
1. Amaleq’s hatred towards Jews is not motivated by territorial disputes, revenge or by feeling threatened. It is an obsessive hatred toward the Jewish people (Iran, for example, what reasons have to threaten to wipe Israel off the map? Israel is not a threat to Iran. There are not disputed territories between the two countries. There are no common borders between the two countries).
2. Amaleq would attack and try to kill Jews whether they are civilians, women, elder or children (remember kindergarten in Ma’alot in 1974? When 22 little children were massacred by Arafat and the PLO. Or the murder of the Fogel family in Itamar? The synagogue of Har Nof in Jerusalem? In recent weeks representatives of Amaleq have killed dozens of Yehudim in Israel. Men, elderly, women and children. Members of the Amaleq clan have stabbed to death Jews also outside Israel. in Paris, Milan, London, Brussels, Miami, California, New York, and recently in Paysandu, Uruguay).
3. Amaleq’s hatred for Israel is suicidal hatred. Amaleq is willing to practice martyrdom (self-immolation, suicide attacks, etc.) if he can kill a Jew. Amaleq’s hatred towards Jews is greater than Amaleq’s love for their own children.
4. Amaleq may hate other people temporarily, but his endless obsession is against Israel. Amaleq does not hate the Jews for what happens in Israel. On the contrary, Amaleq hates Israel because Amaleq hates Jews. Anti-Zionism is Amaleq costume to disguise his anti-Semitism. To convey his feelings in a “politically correct” way.
5. The most important and practical point to consider in our confrontation with Amaleq is that it is not possible to negotiate with Amaleq. Because Amaleq will never be satisfied with land, money, or even with us changing our religion (Think of the Shoa. The Nazis killed also those Jews who renounced their religion). Amaleq wants the Jewish People to disappear, period. Israeli politicians are divided precisely on this point: Everyone in Israel wish to live in peace. But some believe that peace can be achieved in negotiations with the Palestinians. Others believe that, like Amaleq, the Palestinians will NEVER stop attacking us, even if they have their own state. Moreover, the closer they are, the more dangerous it will be for us. The greatest internal conflict of the modern Israeli politics has to do with identifying or not identifying our modern enemies with the Amaleq the Tora warned us about.
6. Amaleq, unfortunately, is not going away. For many Jews, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the Biblical concept of Amaleq, it is extremely difficult to recognize and acknowledge the true nature of Amaleq. And since the behavior of Amaleq is beyond rationality, intelligent and educated (but perhaps naive) gentiles or Jews, believe that something “rational” must be generating Amaleq’s hatred toward Jews . They would assume, for example, that terrorist attacks are the consequences of the new settlements in East Jerusalem, or something like that…
The Tora, foreseeing the danger of the well-meaning naïveté, told us not only to “zakhor” (remember) Amaleq, but in the same text, in an exceptional tautology, it exhorts us to “Lo Tishkakh” ‘Do not forget!!! . Do not forget Amaleq’s suicidal obsession and irrationality.
Our Hakhamim prescribed the public reading of the text mentioning Amaleq for this Shabbat, the Shabbat before Purim. Because Haman was the first descendant of Amaleq who tried to erase all the people of Israel off the map.
The Tora assures us that HaShem will not let Amaleq to destroy us. But it exhorts us not to be naive about the true nature and intentions of Amaleq. Forgetting, can cost us dearly.
Parashat Zakhor has the special status of being a biblical text whose reading is a direct commandment of the Tora. Women are also expected to fulfill this obligation and attend Synagogue and hear Parashat Zakhor.