Why We Remember – The Contemporary Relevance of Parshas Zachor

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The essay below is adapted from the drasha (semon) delivered last year on Shabbos Zachor (3-11-06) at Congregation Shomrei Emunah in Baltimore, MD.

A most fascinating news item was brought to my attention earlier this week: The Rev. Julie Nicholson, Vicar at a church in Bristol, England, resigned because of questions she has with her faith.

Tragically, the reverend’s twenty four year old daughter, Jenny, was murdered last July in the London suicide bombings.

How does that tragedy conflict with her faith?

It hasn’t caused her to question God but it has caused great theological tension.

“I rage that a human being could choose to take another human’s life,” she said. “Can I forgive them for what they did? No, I cannot.”

If this sounds like a perfectly natural and normal response, that’s because you are not Christian. The problem is that these feelings are utterly in conflict with the Christian obligation to forgive and turn the other cheek.

And Rev. Nicholson simply cannot do that.

On a human level, our heart goes out to Rev. Nicholson for her loss and current crisis of faith. To be “doubly hit” like this can only be devastating and there is really nothing more to say.

But on a theological level there is much to comment on, because her situation provides a fascinating contrast with the Jewish approach to these issues.

Judaism has never taken an absolutist attitude towards any emotion, including hate. As the famous pasuk in Koheles (3:8) tells us, not only is there an “eis le’hov” there is also an “es lisno” – there is also a time to hate. We don’t always appreciate the uniqueness of this attitude, but as my good friend R. Meir Soloveichik pointed out, not too many religions have an equivalent to our “y’mach she’mo.”

We have had many enemies over the years and many people to apply this pasuk towards. But it all goes back to today’s Maftir.

Zachor es asher asah le’cha Amalek” – we are forever bidden to remember what Amalek did to us after we left Egypt. We fulfilled that mitzvah just a few minutes ago. This is not just an intellectual exercise in historical memory or national consciousness. The purpose of this mitzvah is to fuel and sustain an emotional attitude of hatred; in the words of the classic 18th century halachic work, Chayei Adam, we must posses a “sinah k’vuah b’lev” – not just hatred, but a geshmakeh, gezuntah hatred.

Why are we so adamantly opposed to Amalek? Why this obsession with something that happened thousands of years ago? And let’s not forget: remembering is just part of the obligation. The other part is “timcheh es zecher Amaalek” – we must obliterate any shemetz, any hint, of Amalek in the world.

Why? Why are so extreme?

R. Samson Raphael Hirsch (Shemos 17:14) has a remarkable insight which, I believe, not only sheds light on this particular mitzvah, but may also shed light on some of the contemporary struggles the State of Israel is currently facing.

R. Hirsch is struck by the fact that the verse focuses our destruction not on Amalek, per se, but on “zecher Amalek” – the memory of Amalek. He explains that in this subtlety lies the secret to understanding our extremist posture in this mitzvah. “It is not Amalek that is so pernicious for the moral culture of mankind,” says R. Hirsch, “but zecher Amalek,” which he understands to mean, broadly, “the glorifying of the memory of Amalek.”

In other words, our concern is not so much their actions or even revenge. It is the historical judgment that is handed down against these actions. Our obligation is to make sure that the actions of Amalek are consigned to the “ash heap of history” (to borrow a phrase).

However, continues R. Hirsch, if that does not happen; if “each successive generation look[s] up in worship to these ‘great ones’ of violence and force,” then their evil will multiply as “their memory will awaken the desire [in others] to emulate these heroes and acquire equal glory by equal violence and force.”

When we ponder the significance of R Hirsch’s comments, I think they clearly serve to inform our current situation and highlight an additional dimension of the problem that we face.

The Palestinians may be descendants of Yishmael but – in this regard – they are also the ideological heirs to Amalek. The root of the problem, as has been pointed out by some political commentators, is not just the terrorist atrocities, but the culture of death from which these atrocities have emerged.

Unfortunately, the examples that prove this assertion are too numerous to list.

But there is one example that – to me – stands out as a sickening illustration of this culture of death.

Recent news coverage has brought much attention to the newest Palestinian icon and Member of Parliament, Mariam Farhat. Her nickname is “Umm Nidal,” – the Mother of the Struggle – because of her unswerving dedication to the cause of having her sons attack Israel. Of her six children, three of them have already died in service of that cause. Not only has she encouraged these attacks, when they occurred she celebrated them. When asked if she would sacrifice another son, she answers, without hesitation: “Of course . . . whatever Hamas orders I am willing to do.”

The infamous video she made before her 3rd son attacked and murdered 5 Jews is an example of the depravity and depths to which she – and to a large part, her entire culture – have sunk.

Until there comes a time – and we hope that time comes soon – where peace will reign in Israel and the entire world (for all people, including the Palestinians), we must internalize the message of Parshas Zachor and recognize that we have a responsibility. Not only a militarily responsibility to defend our land and people, but perhaps even more importantly, an educational and moral responsibility, to stand athwart this cultural trend in the Islamic world and to speak – along with all people of good will – with a moral clarity that makes clear that this is evil incarnate.

About such actions, there is no obligation to forgive.

About such a culture, the world must have no doubt, “eis lisno” – hate is appropriate.

And about such a woman, we unflinchingly say: “Mariam Farahat, yemach she’mah.”

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30 Responses

  1. SM says:

    David,

    I did – they were the polls quoted by DMZ.

    DMZ: Of course I agree that Israeli society is less violent than Palestinian society. And I dearly hope that is because we have assimilated the ethics of our religion properly – and not just because compared to the Palestinians we have power. Violence is often the last refuge of the desparate – as it was for Amir who had lost hope in the victory of his point of view via democracy.

    And it’s for that reason that I would rather look at us than them.

  2. Larry Lennhoff says:

    Um, Larry, it says “Do not forget” and you’re reading that as “forget.”

    It says ‘wipe out the memory – do not forget’. So should we not forget the fact that we’ve been told to wipe out the memory, or should we not forget the memory we’ve been told to wipe out? The latter makes less sense to me.

  3. mycroft says:

    only that the parts of his life before he carried out that terrible, evil act were worth remembering. I’m still not of the opinion he should have gotten a eulogy,

    Unfortunately, for example there is no doubt that many in the Jewish community of Hebron have a lot of sympathy for Goldstein. There was a memorial put up for him in the central square of Kiryat Arba.
    Goldstein’s actions can’t be justified at all. Unfortunately, even a blogger who I respect a lot has trouble condemning him unequivocally.

  4. David says:

    SM,
    You still didn’t bring a source for those 85% of Palestinains who deplore violence.

  5. DMZ says:

    I’m not impressed. I was looking for real opinion polls, not random quotations from thirteen years ago or self-selecting Internet comments. And while I readily admit some of the community has a serious problems with regards to completely dehumanizing our enemies, there’s no compelling, recent evidence that Amir and Goldstein still have any widespread support in the community.

    I am aware of R’ Lichtenstein’s letters to a couple of roshei yeshiva who eulogized him after the incident. However, as R’ Lichtenstein himself points out, the roshei yeshiva don’t actually approve of or eulogize what Goldstein did – only that the parts of his life before he carried out that terrible, evil act were worth remembering. I’m still not of the opinion he should have gotten a eulogy, but let’s not transform this into “he had to tell them not to praise the massacre of Palestinians” – because that’s not what happened, from what I can tell. Much of the rationalization happened because of the fact that instead of being arrested and put on trial, he was murdered on the spot (after being disarmed, so I’ve read) and then his body was horribly mutilated.

  6. One Christian's perspective says:

    Rabbi Gottlieb it was with great interest, excitement and curiosity that I read your comments. The hate comments I didn’t understand but that’s OK. Unless you meant hate evil .

    From my own life experience , and as a Christian who is now in a biblical recovery program for emotional child abuse – it lasted until my parents died – I can say righteous anger is justified and it is an emotion that G-d gave us. In Scripture, I read about G-d’s anger which is always righteous and the outrage of His Prophets because some activity was against G-d’s express word and His given command to love him and others. Yet, I am reminded of Solomon’s words “there is a time to hate and a time to LOVE”. I see this as a warning as well.

    Friday, I learned about the “circle of protection” (this is not witchcraft BTW). For this discussion, try to visualize 4 circles. The small inner circle is spiritual and it represents our need to love and to be loved – we were created in love to love G-d and man- . The next circle is emotional and represents pain and hurt – because the love we were created to give and receive is not perfect because we are not perfect. The next circle is mental and represents fear and anxiety – because we ask are we loved or not. The last circle is physical and represents our protection (I guess this is self love) but is seen in anger, defense and withdrawal – because we have been hurt through love denied in a deep and evil way. Please note the “-” comments are mine and I could be in error.

    For me, my anger was directed inward (I bought into the lie of not being loved) and I denied what happened to me. G-d in his mercy, decided that it was time to recover from my hurts, habits and hang-ups. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined myself participating in this program; In ignorance and arrogance, I thought it was for addicts or such . Interestingly, however, I was put into a very unique situation where I could look at all their literature in a very safe non-threatning way. My eyes were open and in shock and amazement and fear I identified a behavior I had. I signed up for the program not even fully knowing why I was there. In my heart, I knew G-d’s hand was all over this and I was obedient, somewhat – ” OK, I am here but I really don’t know why you brought me here ?” It was intimidating (who will see me here); it was painful (I have to talk about things I pushed back for years that i said were not a problem); it was physical (I often felt sick when I went) and it was emotional (I found my self expressing anger about what happened to me and while driving and I missed 2 turns but didn’t cut anyone off) . Please know, I am so very early in this process I shouldn’t even be writing about it. But I am so excited that I can’t not stop sharing the joy of seeing how G-d has been peeling away the layers of the onion of hurt, pain and denial with His own gentle hands and walking me through. I cannot wait to see what He is going to do next and I give Him all praise and glory. I know this suffering will not be wasted.

    New things I have learned is forgiveness has been cheapened! Imagine that. True forgiveness is valid for ONLY 2 conditions. Hurts that need forgiveness are acts of betrayal and disloyalty that are both deep (cut to our inner circle) and moral (against G-ds commands and code).

    The cheapness of forgiveness has been to forgive someone for frustrations or annoyances – (someone cut me off in traffic, etc.). Turning the other cheek is for annoyances NOT deep and moral hurt ! To put cheek turning in Jewish terms, I see it as a fence according to Psalm 4:4 “In your anger, do not sin”. Cheek turning is something we can all easily do by choice in a moment if we are willing.

    True forgiveness is a miracle. It is a process and it takes time – sometimes it takes a long time , And it is painful ! Jeremiah said “you can’t heal a wound by saying it is not there” – I did this for decades. The power to forgive comes from being forgiven (by G-d). And the core to recovery is forgiveness. Forgiveness is NOT: forgetting, excusing, or smoothing things over. (It is also NOT perverting civil justice.) I am beginning to see that it is when the forgiver (me) performs spiritual surgery on her own memory. When you forgive someone, you slice away the wrong from the person who did it and you disengage that person from his hurtful act. You recreate him/her and in your memory he/she is no longer seen as powerful and evil but weak and in need ( of G-d’s love and healing and redemption -my thoughts). In such a very short time, I can see the seeds of this happening ! – the pictures don’t hurt so much. I still have a journey to go on.

    Now, I was really curious to see where forgiveness was demonstrated in the Hebrew Bible. G-d in His mercy forgives us but where do we forgive others ? What really caught my eye, my heart and my emotions was the story of Joseph. I read Chapters 37-50 in Genesis, through tears of pain, repentance, joy, excitement and hope. And said, YES this is the pain of betrayal, disloyalty and deep moral hurt that I have experienced. It is also the true forgiveness I have been learning about in my recovery. Forgiveness is a miracle and it is powerful because G-d is using this for an even greater and far lasting good – spiritual fruit doesn’t have a shelf life (my thoughts). You cannot forgive if you have not been hurt deeply and morally. “Understanding where we have been victimized provides us with rich opportunities to practice forgiveness” – Dr. Larry Crabb. And I don’t think you can forgive until you have repented. ” Understanding how we have chosen to respond to what has happened to us defines where we need to repent” – Dr. Crabb. This is what happens when the warning in Psalm 4 is ignored – this I did in defense that helped me survive. But the revelation – that comes later- that some of this defensive behavior is a sin calls for repentance before G-d. It was a long process that got me where I am and it will be a however long process that brings healing and recovery. My own heart is deceitful in denials and refusing to see my need for G-d’s healing. I am remembering David in Psalm 51 where G-d used the Prophet to open David’s eyes to his sin. For me, He brought me into a room where materials were available and he brought me -in curiosity- to read the materials.

    I recognize I am where G-d wants me to be and I know in my heart, He will see me through. He has already done so many things in a few short months not even years.

    The story of Joseph is such a beautiful story of G-d’s mercy and forgiveness within his sovereignty and power. And it is a story of evil: betrayal,murder planned, hate, lust, cruelty . Yet, in looking back and seeing G-d’s hand in all things, Joseph said “what you did for evil, G-d used for good”.

    We are broken people whose deeds are filthy rags and we live in a broken world……but, G-d still sees, hears and comes down to heal. His healing is far-reaching, powerful, unanticipated, revealing what is hidden, myth shattering and it is soooo good.

    Can you see, a little bit, that forgiveness is very Jewish all the way back to Genesis ?

  7. Nachum says:

    Um, Larry, it says “Do not forget” and you’re reading that as “forget.”

  8. Steve Brizel says:

    DMZ-Many Orthodox Jews support the view that Oslo, etc was a huge mistake and have offered very compelling religious and security based arguments as well as evidence that Oslo was a fait accompli shoved down Rabin’s throat by Peres and Beilin. One can certainly argue that the actions of Goldstein and Amir certainly were a Chillul HaShem that placed the RZ movement in a poor light, but WADR, one cannot claim that they were the product of the hashkafa of RZ , when in fact, we know that they acted without consulting any Rav or Posek whatsoever.

  9. DMZ says:

    “Toby. I found your comment offensive I’m afraid. Two reasons: firstly, what Goldstein and Amir did was murder. Your argument bolis down to the fact that it’s ok to forget what they did because of what Arabs do. You are precisely wrong. If we don’t want to be like them then WE mustn’t forget.”

    I must have missed the part where she said we should forget what they did – because she never said that. Indeed, you might have noticed that she _did_ call them bloody terrorists and murderers by means of comparison. She was more making the point, if I understand correctly, that two people (and here I disagree – it’s been more than two) make for a couple psychopaths – hundreds and thousands mean a society of violence and terror. Israeli society clearly does not have as serious a problem when they’re not spawning terrorists and killers by the dozen.

    I don’t think she’s precisely wrong (how can she be? it’s opinion!), either. She said it in an offensive fashion, certainly, but you really do have to wonder as to how bad the problem in Israeli society is when you’ve got to reach back ten years or more to find a significant Jewish terrorist. Although, let us not forget the idiot who gunned down some Palestinians during the Gaza evacuations – he deserves the title, too.

    Again: not excusing the kind of inane harassment that some of the more radical settlers indulge in, and even their attempts at terrorism (so far ineffectual, thank G-d). But “OMG, we’ve got to fix on our society before we can criticize someone else’s!” rings hollow to me in this particular case.

    Please accept my sympathies on your losses. I suppose the real miracle of the Messiah is how he’ll clear this mess up in the Middle East with justice and peace. I certainly have no idea how to!

  10. Charles B. Hall says:

    “Sources? Or are you just slandering the community without any hard evidence at all?”

    Try the comment fields on the news articles at http://www.israelnationalnews.com/

    While it is impossible to determine the prevalence of those kinds of attitudes from self-selected internet postings, some of the stuff there is frightening — and it is from more than a few people.

  11. mycroft says:

    “Sadly there are much more Orthodox Jews who agree with Goldstein and Kahane. To express their viewpoint is certainly tolerated. See Rav A Lichtenstein’s speeches letter etc after the Goldstein massacre-complaining about the acceptance of Goldstein and that Rabbonim were maspid him.”

    Sources? Or are you just slandering the community without any hard evidence at all?

    Comment by DMZ — March 3, 2007

    See the following examples from a quick web search:

    Here are some of the things that were said about Goldstein in the wake of the Hebron Massacre:

    In 1994, Rabbi Moshe Levinger a prominent leader of the Orthodox Israeli community was quoted thus, in the Israeli newspaper, Yediot Ahronot:

    “I am sorry for the 29 Palestinians murdered by Goldstein in the same way that I would be sorry for the killing of 29 flies.”

    In a letter to Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, dated the 28th of April, 1994, Dov Lior, the Rabbi at the settlement of Kiryat Arba where Goldstein lived, said this:

    “Since Goldstein did what he did in God’s own name, he is to be regarded as a righteous man… A Jew who is killed because he is a Jew must certainly be called … a holy martyr … without investigating their previous conduct.”

    Rabbi Israel Ariel, who read a eulogy at Goldstein’s funeral, said this on that day:

    “The holy martyr, Baruch Goldstein, is from now on our intercessor in heaven. Goldstein did not act as an individual, he heard the cry of the land of Israel, which is being stolen from us day after day by the Muslims. He acted to relieve that cry of the land.”

    In the 28th of February, 1994, edition of The New York Times, Rabbi Yaacov Perin, who conducted the services at Goldstein’s funeral, was quoted thus:
    “One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail.”

    Later in the same year, the Florida chapter of the Jewish Defence League of America released this statement:

    “We feel that Goldstein took a preventative measure against yet another Arab attack. We understand his motivation, his grief and his actions. We are not ashamed to say that Goldstein was a charter member of the Jewish Defense League. We quote without comment the rabbi who conducted the services at Goldstein’s funeral:
    ‘A million Arabs are not worth one Jewish fingernail’.”

    In 1994, Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg produced an extended essay on the Goldberg massacre.

    In his book, which sold one thousand copies within two days of its release, he stated that:
    “The crowning glory of his act is the sanctification of God… God looks more fondly on Jewish blood and therefore it is redder and its life has priority

    I wish I could give you an exact cite for Rav Lichtenstein’s comments-but Tradition magazine printed his remarks and exchange with other Rabbonim after the Goldstein massacre. Quickly tonight I couldn’t find it in my bookshelf-but certainly anyone with the CD-Rom forTradition or excellent recall or has the hard copies from the time period in order can find what I am referring to in very little time.

  12. DMZ says:

    “Sadly there are much more Orthodox Jews who agree with Goldstein and Kahane. To express their viewpoint is certainly tolerated. See Rav A Lichtenstein’s speeches letter etc after the Goldstein massacre-complaining about the acceptance of Goldstein and that Rabbonim were maspid him.”

    Sources? Or are you just slandering the community without any hard evidence at all?

  13. SM says:

    Steve: Happy Purim :) !

    Also, I agree with you in what you say. It’s just that I don’t want a war. Call me an optimist but I think it’s avoidable and that we would be better off without it. Just a thought.

    Toby. I found your comment offensive I’m afraid. Two reasons: firstly, what Goldstein and Amir did was murder. Your argument bolis down to the fact that it’s ok to forget what they did because of what Arabs do. You are precisely wrong. If we don’t want to be like them then WE mustn’t forget.

    Second reason. I have lost 2 members of my close family to Palestinian terrorism. I have been to the funerals, the shivas and the stone settings. And I have reached my position as a result of going through the grief, questionning God, rejecting God, feeling that that isn’t any sort of solution, thinking, praying, studying and finding an equilibrium.

    And, forgive me, I don’t need anyone categorising that as “the lefties trot out” – ok? Just because I disagree with you doesn’t make my view subject to that sort of cheap shot. People can honestly disagree, and I try to do so. Read what I said about this being unpopular in my original post. Everyone has a back story – this would be a better (and far more halachically observant) debate if people concentrated on the arguments instead of the insults.

  14. Larry Lennhoff says:


    Larry: you’re welcome to interpret this any way you want. But you’d be more convincing with some actual sources supporting your interpretation.

    (And, IIRC, they’re out there.)

    Comment by DMZ — March 1, 2007 @ 5:03 pm

    DMZ: I’ll offer a trade (seriously). I’ll research the sources if you comment on the substance of my idea. OK?

  15. mycroft says:

    Baruch Goldstein? Yigal Amir?”

    Every time there’s a new killing or bombing somewhere in the world perpetrated by yet another member of the glorious Islamic faith, the lefties trot out these same two names.

    Let’s see, a million bloody terrorists and murderers on the Arab side.
    Two on the Israeli side.

    Yup, about even.

    Comment by Toby Katz — March 2, 2007

    Sadly there are much more Orthodox Jews who agree with Goldstein and Kahane. To express their viewpoint is certainly tolerated. See Rav A Lichtenstein’s speeches letter etc after the Goldstein massacre-complaining about the acceptance of Goldstein and that Rabbonim were maspid him.

  16. joel rich says:

    Loberstein,
    Obviously I agree with you but in the words of the famous Jewish philosopher, R’ Tevye, “it’s a new world Golda”
    KT

  17. Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz says:

    An interesting quip that I have seen is that

    Before there can be absolution, there must first be a solution“. The problem with Vicar Nicholson’s attitude is that the perpetrator of the crime has not done teshuva in any way and asked for forgiveness. Her inability to forgive someone for the crime, when she knows that if the suicide bomber were returned to life, he would choose to do it again, is actually correct and proper. It is the attitude that a murderer must be forgiven, even (or especially) when he shows no remorse that is wrong.

  18. Bob Miller says:

    “Loberstein” said (March 2, 2007 @ 8:58 am) he was not embarrassed to sign his name and lashed out at anonymous bloggers for being cowards.

    I’m clueless as to who “Loberstein” actually is, as he (I don’t even know for sure it’s “he”) probably is about me. Maybe others somehow know of “Loberstein”, but I don’t.

    Unless we provide something like a home address to the public, we non-celebrities are still pretty anonymous even if we give our names.

    The value, or lack of value, in blog comments is only in what they contain, unless the commenter is an authority on the subject matter, so that the comment carries extra weight.

  19. Steve Brizel says:

    SM-which polls are you reading? PA culture,education and media is vociferously anti Semitic and anti Israel. IMO, there is no difference between the strategic bombing of Germany and Japan, Sherman’s march to the sea, Sheridan’s destruction of the Shenandoah , the naval blockade of the South and the bulldozing of a house of a terrorist and those who support him , cheer him or look forward to becoming terrorists. War is fought by destroying the enemy’s industrial base and making his civilian population ill at ease with providing support.

  20. Loberstein says:

    I do not understand the culture of bloggers.Why are they afraid to tell us who they are. It is like a costume ball where you don’t know with whom you are dancing. If I have an opinion I am not embarrested to sign my name, anonimtiy is cowardice. It allows people to live a fantasy life and pretend to be someone else while bearing no responsibility for their words.
    Yaher Koach to Rabbi Gottlieb, I agree.

  21. SM says:

    I specifically didn’t talk in terms of moral equivatlence, because I entirely agree that it isn’t an issue.

    Nor are the opinion polls quoted by DMZ. Firstly, they are at least 5 years old; secondly they also reveal that 85% of Palestinians support a mutual cessation of violence; thirdly, that last statistic begs the meaning of the words “mutual” and “violence” – which in turn begs the meaning of the word “support” when DMZ relies on a 5 year-old finding that Palestinians support violence.

    Arguing about statistics and terminology is a substitute for arguing about issues. For example I “support” the building of a Temple on Har Habayit. But not tomorrow. I “support” the bulldozing of a house used for terrorist activity – but not if within that house there are a preponderance of pre-teen children who would otherwise have nowhere to call home.

    So, if you ask a Palestinian “do you support or regard as proper Islamic behaviour the taking of innocent life through suicide bombings?” the vast majority will answer “no”. If, after the well-publicised bulldozing of a house, you ask Palestinians “do you support the recent suicide bombing as a response to violence inflicted against Palestinians by Israelis” you will get a different answer. The second question, of course, transfers the emphasis from the suicidal nature of the attack to the response element of it.

    Once we rely on the BBC to justify how we think as Jews and supporters of Israel, believe me as a Brit, we’re in trouble.

    Nor am I suggesting that Jews show anything like the same level of support for our villains. My point is rather different and is amplified by DMZ’s response. We are too keen to look at other peoples’ responses and behaviour and not keen enough to examine our own.

    Moreover, when we adopt a Torah based analysis of other people – whether halacha l’maaseh or academically (and I’m happy to accept DMZ’s point that it is the latter) – we automatically give ourselves credit for having the Torah and being able to analyse based upon it, and automatically DIScredit those the subject of that analysis. Which is why I believe such analyses are uncomfortable and unproductive. It’s Purim – a time to think in terms of our own redemption and HKBH’s part in it: AND a time to think more of why we deserved it then, than of the wickedness of our political opponents now. Let’s leave Amalek for the antisemites who hate us because of WHAT we are, not WHERE we are.

  22. Toby Katz says:

    “Baruch Goldstein? Yigal Amir?”

    Every time there’s a new killing or bombing somewhere in the world perpetrated by yet another member of the glorious Islamic faith, the lefties trot out these same two names.

    Let’s see, a million bloody terrorists and murderers on the Arab side.
    Two on the Israeli side.

    Yup, about even.

  23. Charles B. Hall says:

    Amalek is usually interpreted as the ultimate moral relativist, able to justify any sort of evil. (Rabbi Shafran had a recent essay on this.) If that interpretation is correct, the identification of Islamic terrorists with Amalek doesn’t make sense: They are not moral relativists but violent religious fanatics.

  24. DMZ says:

    “That the vast majority of Palestians truly celebrate such behaviour is dubious.”

    Actually, it’s a statistically valid claim. There have been polls by various groups stating that > 60% of the Palestinian populace supports suicide bombings in past years – and strongly. The fact that not everyone engages in violence doesn’t mean they don’t support it, and, dare I say, glorify it.

    Source:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2072851.stm
    http://www.pcpsr.org/survey/polls/2003/p9epressrelease.html

    In the future, try sourcing your counter-arguments before making them. The question of why these results are true is a more interesting question, that I’m not going to try to answer.

    As for Jews who glorify violence – did you notice how the JDL went nowhere, and is actively villified in most Jewish communities? There are some Jews using violence when they ought not to, and others supporting it when they shouldn’t. But the vast majority of the Orthodox community, as far as I know, does NOT see Amir (who didn’t even kill any Palestinians) or Goldstein as heroes. Kahane’s party is outlawed in Israel.

    Like I said, there are problems, and they are not insignificant. Ignoring those is dishonest. But at the same time, purposely inflating them to artificially derive some sort of moral equivalence is equally dishonest.

    Besides, when you get right down to it, R’ Gottlieb specifically did NOT label the Palestinians as “real Amalekim” that you have some sort of mitzvah to kill. He was making a point about current Palestinian culture being similar to a sort of Amalekite one, and, from what I can see, it’s one that’s hard to dispute that factually. If the Palestinians change, and they very well may, than the comparison goes away. Think in terms of academic comparison, rather than halacha l’maaseh.

  25. DMZ says:

    Larry: you’re welcome to interpret this any way you want. But you’d be more convincing with some actual sources supporting your interpretation.

    (And, IIRC, they’re out there.)

  26. SM says:

    I would feel more comfortable about this article if the author would deal with two issues (perhaps by way of a comment).

    Firstly, what is his evidence for suggesting that the Palestinians are – as a group – glorifiers of death? That they have wicked individuals in positions of authority is obvious. That the vast majority of Palestians truly celebrate such behaviour is dubious. There are over 1,500,000 in Gaza and the West Bank. How many have demonstrated? Perhaps 300,000? Which would be about 20%. How many have attacked Jews? Perhaps 20,000 (if that) – about 2%. How many have been suicide bombers?

    Labelling one group as Amalek on the basis of prejudice rather than evidence doesn’t strike me as appropriate or fair – even near Purim.

    Secondly, where does Meir Kahane fit in to such an anaylsis? Baruch Goldstein? Yigal Amir? These people are criminals – they murdered and they incited to violence and murder. They are no less criminal because of the nationality of ethnicity of their victims.

    So: did they share this analysis and kill to fulfill the Mitzvah of annihilating Amalek? Or for some other justified reason?

    Well, they DID share this analysis. Which strikes me as the best of all reasons for now rejecting it. But, just in case, here are two others. First, once we start claiming the right to know just who God wants us to hate we better be right. Because if there is even a .00001% chance that we are wrong we are committing an appalling chillul Hashem. Second, without divine guidance, hating a person because of his ethinic background makes us like you know who (l’havdil).

    If you want to analyse Amalek as being the type of person who glorifies violence at the expense of peace then fine. But you can’t then include Palestinians. And you must then include some Jews who behave in much the same way.

    Sorry, but this is an area where if we aren’t honest with ourselves we fall into the trap of blaming others and disclaiming our own responsibilities. I know that what I am saying won’t be popular, but we come closer to peace for everyone if we address our own positions rather than lecture others about theirs.

  27. Larry Lennhoff says:

    The key issue in my opinion is to keep track of what I am hating. To hate the behavior of Amalek and drive it out of the world is a good thing. To hate someone because his ancestor was an Amalekite and for no other reason is a mistake.

    I have some radical views about how to treat the commandment to obliterate the memory of Amalek. The pasuk says 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!. I interpret this to mean ‘When you are not at peace, you may have to do terrible things to survive and prosper. Fighting wars are necessary, but they are dangerous to the victor as well as the vanquished. When you have defeated Amalek and are at peace, do not take up the ways of Amalek. Instead blot out the memories of what you have suffered, and behave as though the coarsening effects of war had never touched you.’

  28. Steve Brizel says:

    What a superb article and drasha! Too many of us think that being a Torah Jew means that we are R’L pacifists and turn the other cheek to evil.

  29. shmuel says:

    See Rabbi Meir Y Soloveichik’s Virtue of Hate available on the web

  1. March 21, 2007

    […] In my previous Cross-Currents post I made reference to the frightening and tragic “culture of death” that has engulfed large parts of the Palestinian population. In the comments section, a number of contributors went back and forth about the accuracy and fairness of this description (starting with #4). […]