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Shabbat Parashat Ki Teitzei 5773

Parashat Hashavua: You Wipe Out, and I Will Wipe Out

Harav Shaul Yisraeli based on Siach Shaul, pp. 523-524 (during WW II)

We find two p’sukim in the Torah about the destruction of Amalek: “You shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven (Devarim 25:19) and “I [Hashem] will certainly wipe out the memory of Amalek” (Shemot 17:14). Who is going to wipe out Amalek: Bnei Yisrael or Hashem? The Midrash (Tanchuma, Ki Teitzei 11) asks this and answers that after they were involved in the destruction of Yerushalayim, Hashem took upon Himself to wipe them out.

Amalek’s power is with the sword. He scoffs at and scorns the power of the spirit. It is necessary to smite him with his tool – war. We must show him that the power of the book is helpful even at carrying a sword.

There is another point, focused on those who see this mitzva as contradictory to the mandate to be merciful. The Torah teaches that just as it is normally good to be merciful, so too is crucial, in the case of Amalek, to use the attribute of ruthlessness against those who are so corrupt. To the contrary, misplaced mercy would be ruthlessness. Do not think that by showing Amalek the beauty of the Torah, he will be impressed and change his approach. Therefore, “wipe out” – without hesitation and analysis. Do not think that Amalek is our enemy only when we do not have our own homeland. The mitzva is described as applying after you have already finished dealing with the enemies in your own Land. Even then, he will remain your enemy.

The Torah also teaches us that in this war against the powers of evil, one cannot attain victory just with one’s own powers. In natural capabilities, the expert of the sword still knows how to use it better than the holder of the book. Strategy and training cannot overcome that difference. Therefore, one has to enlist the divine spiritual power which has a part in all.

This had to be taught to Yehoshua (see Shemot ibid.). Without the understanding of Hashem’s involvement in the battle, he would not have succeeded. He was going up against a nation whose children were raised on militarism from the cradle and saw military success as the be all and end all of life. We, as a nation, lack these traits; we lack the “killer instinct” needed in war. We were not inculcated with the spirit of battle along with the mother’s milk we ingested. We must act with a realization that it is the right thing to do under these circumstances. We have to see the partnership with Hashem and His assertion: “I will wipe out.” Without that, we will fail.

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