49 innocent, G-d fearing, kind and peaceful people slaughtered by depraved, evil murderers, as they gathered in brotherhood in their House of Worship.
Every year on this Shabbat before Purim we read the Torah’s exhortation to “Remember what Amalek did to you during your Exodus from bondage … destroy their memory”. Amalek was the first enemy to attack the fledgling Jewish nation and the scars of that trauma haunt us to this day.
The forces of evil are ever present, always lurking in the shadows, waiting for the right moment to strike at their unsuspecting victims. Jewish philosophy speaks of Amalek in the figurative sense – a reference to the negative characteristics that lurk in the dark recesses of the human soul, such as depression, cynicism, hatred, defeatism. Of course, heeding the Torah’s command to destroy Amalek means that we must always be vigilant against these impulses of our “Yetzer Hora”, our personal evil inclination.
However, long after the literal nation of Amalek has been thrown onto the ash-heap of history, the figurative Amalek sometimes succeeds to still manifest itself in a very tangible and terrifying sense amongst humankind – even today.
Our vigilance against the wave of murderous hatred we’ve seen in recent years takes on an added sense of urgency with each terror attack against innocent people, as it did this morning in New Zealand.
The shooter wrote that he did this in order “to take revenge on the invaders … By the definition, then yes. It is a terrorist attack. But I believe it is a partisan action against an occupying force.”
Jews – especially Israeli Jews – are no strangers to the violence of those who use the term “occupation” as a cowardly excuse for their racist, repugnant, murderous, Amalekite impulses.
Whether it’s a mosque in New Zealand or a synagogue in Israel, the first course of action must always be to give these murderers no sanction; they must be unequivocally condemned, stopped and uprooted – by force, if necessary.
Then the hard work begins: uprooting the Amalek that lurks in the hearts of all mankind. The dark side of the human soul is the root of negative expression in the world, in all its varying degrees.
Sounds ambitious? A little too difficult? It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. That’s what Torah is all about – Torah is the wisdom and the tools that G-d has given us with which we can prevail over the challenges that we all face in our endeavor to become better people and in our efforts to make this world a more beautiful and peaceful place.
Sometimes we’re justifiably more terrified of dealing with our spiritual, mental and emotional struggles than we are of dealing with a terrorist. But if you come to Shul tomorrow you will hear the words of G-d, as He expresses His faith in our ability to succeed.