Photo: AP, Michael Kramer
Baruch Goldstein: Jewish Amalekite?
Photo: Zoom 77
Just like us? Adolf Eichman
Photo: AFP

Parshat Ki Tetze: Torah genocide

Mitzvah to eliminate Amalek must be erased from the Torah

More than ten percent of the 613 mitzvoth in the Torah are included in this week's reading.


Some are time-bound and no longer relevant, others eternal, humane messages that will apply to the end of time.


There is evil in everyone: Accused "collaborator" in Ramallah. (Photo: Reuters)  


For now, we will concentrate on just one, the final one in the reading, and one that must be excised, and removed completely from our world.


At the very least, it must undergo a dramatic change and renewal, drastic enough as to render it unrecognizable to the traditional understanding.


Remembering Amalek


The final verses in this week's reading speak about traumatic memories of Amalek's attack: "Remember what Amalek did to you on the way out of Egypt….he attacked the weakest of you and you were tired and weary…. Erase the memory of Amalek from under the Heavens. Don't forget" (Deut: 25:17-19).


There is no question that once upon a time, as the Jewish nation was being formed, the first war was tough and remembered as being very bad.


And just as the redemption from Egypt became a constant presence in our national and historical consciousness, so too that first war, tough and bloody as it was.


So, in the long-gone days of the Torah, there may have been a logic to waging an all-out war. Today, however, the practical application of this mitzvah in the eyes of too many fanatic believers has become an embarrassment, even a terrible one.


Torah genocide


In our modern parlance, the Torah is commanding us to commit genocide.


If we were only speaking about theory, I wouldn't worry. But I know just how practical this command is for many people. They see Amalek as every enemy, especially the Arab-Palestinian one.


They see themselves as commanded by God, and intend to fulfill that command.


It is any surprise that Baruch Goldstein- of cursed memory – chose to erase the Palestinian Amalekites on Purim, the holiday which historically marks the victory of the Jewish people over Haman, a grandson of the cursed Amalek?


Many people admire Goldstein, his rabbis continue to produce students, prepared for the role of carrying out this mitzvah more than any other in the Torah.


System of doubt, forgetfulness


So what can we do? In order to deal with the inter-generation ticking time bomb, we must use the system of neutralizing and canceling that has been built-in to Jewish spiritual life since its inception.


First of all, let us look at the "authenticity" of the mitzvah.


It turns out that the Book of Deuteronomy contains more than a few creations of Moses. After all, it's "his" book, isn't it?


Moses gives us this mitzvah to "erase" Amalek, but the story of Amalek's attack took place many years earlier, as the Jews left Egypt.


There, in the Book of Exodus, God himself sums up the incident, saying "I (God) shall surely erase the memory of Amalek from under the heavens (Ex. 17:14).


Giving power back to God


The wise thing to do would be to give matters of life and death back to God, to completely reject the responsibility commanded by Moses.


If God, the Giver of life, wants to kill – let Him do it. Not us. This is a clearly illegal mitzvah, with its black flag of immorality flying high in our day, and we must refuse to carry it out.


If this is not enough, we really look to another mitzvah in the Torah, as Torah scholars have done for centuries, to draw conclusions about this genocidal mitzvah - the mitzvah to kill the original inhabitants of the Land of Israel.


Inventing confusion


The sages of yore were uncomfortable with this rough, inhumane commandment, and they softened it up with the use of an interesting framework of historical forgetfulness.


The commandment to kill the original Canaanites was cancelled because we don't know who they are, thanks to the non-Jewish king Sanherev, mentioned in many texts as having "confused" the world by allowing intermarriage between different tribes.


If those nations were "confused" and disappeared through intermarriage, then the time has come to declare the same about Amalek - he has been destroyed, and there is no more religious mitzvah or ability to destroy him.


And if this is not enough, perhaps it would be possible to apply our common sense. How can we demand other nations in the region change their beliefs and laws with regard to the Jews without being prepared to change our most important beliefs?


A Nazi in all of us


Of course, we more than anyone are forbidden to forget, having experienced the worst destruction in history, but we mustn't bury ourselves in eternal trauma.


The Holocaust is only connected to us. From the 1940s until the end of time we must all understand the evil that exists within every human being.


The Holocaust was not perpetrated by Amalekites, or by demons from some Black City.


It was perpetrated by people not too dissimilar to us.


Because it turns out that that evil is to be found inside every human being.


From now on, let us say that the war against Amalek is the war against this evil that resides inside all of us.


Fighting Amalek


Let us say the war against Amalek is not a war of the Jews against the non-Jews, whoever they are.


Rather, it is a war amongst us good folks, members of all nations and all faiths, against the wicked of the world, including Jews, Christians, Muslims, or just plain wicked people, wherever they may be.


פרסום ראשון: 09.16.05, 09:21
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