Reprinted from the Overview* of
Megillas Esther by Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz
with permission of the copyright holders,
ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.
*Overview Written By Rabbi Nosson Scherman
 

Only a few weeks after the exodus, the Jews were attacked by Amalek.  The prayers of Moses, the leadership of Joshua, and the faith of the Jews resulted in a great victory, a victory that was followed soon after by the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.  The miracle of Purim was climaxed by another great victory over Amalek and it was followed by קימו וקבלו, they undertook and confirmed [9:27] - which, as our sages would tell us, was a new acceptance of the Torah, one that was even more sweeping than that at Sinai.  One of the three commandments required of Israel upon settling in the land was the obliteration of Amalek [Sanhedrin 20b].  the commandment מחה תמחה את זכר עמלק - you must blot out the memory of Amalek - is still read annually in all Jewish Congregations the Sabbath before Purim and it is a commandment that must be fulfilled before the final redemption can be accomplished.

Superficially it would appear that the commandment is an act of revenge for a vicious sneak attack that happened in the year 2448.  The many comments of the Sages and later commentaries make it abundantly clear, however, that Amalek is the very embodiment of evil on earth, and that the attack in the desert was but a symptom, and indication of an incurable spiritual malaise.  It is for this reason that G-d says that neither His Name nor His throne can be complete until the seed of Amalek is wiped from the face of the earth [Midrash Shocher Tov 9:10]. 

Mercy is a Jewish trait, so much so that our Sages question the Jewish ancestry of a cruel person.  Nevertheless, there are times when softheaded mercy is nothing more than a euphemism for cruelty.  The "kind" mother who indulges her child's insatiable sweet tooth hardly deserves anyone's sympathy while she cringes at the sound of the drill and her beloved's screams as he sits in the hated dentist's chair - she put him there.  On the other hand, the "cruel" mother who supervises her beloved's eating habits earns temporary resentment when she snatches away gob upon gob of carbohydrates, but she will get a lifetime of gratitude for having raised a healthy child.

If someone had assassinated Hitler in 1933(before assassination became 'respectable'), we may be sure that statesmen and editorialists would have fulminated against bringing the barrel of a gun into the political process.  With our 20-20 hindsight, we now know that such an assassination would have been an act of mercy unparalleled in human history. 

Human concepts of of right and wrong, mercy and cruelty, are of necessity limited by the overrriding fact of our very humanity.  The sensitive human being might well feel revulsion at the commandment to murder an Amalekite in cold blood - it flies in the face of everything he has been taught about the sanctity of life and the virtues of compassion.  But compassion and weakness are not always synonymous.  The source of goodness and mercy is G-d.  When He, in His supreme wisdom, decrees that the war against Amalek is the road to human perfection, then that is the only true course of mercy.  To let Hitler live, to let Stalin live, to let Torquemada live, to let Titus live...to let Amalek live is not mercy at all.

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Mrs. Beth Wiesenberg
 Wednesday, March 29, 2006 04:39 PM