The Midrash asked a seemingly incomprehensible question. The term “Zachor” – remember, is used to describe our obligation to recall Amalek’s attack on the Jewish People “Remember what Amalek did to you (Deuteronomy 25:18). The very same term “Zachor” is used to remember to celebrate the holy Shabbat. “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:9)
The Midrash asks “how could you do both?”
What kind of question is that? What’s so hard about having a beautiful Shabbat dinner and being cognizant – as we say in the Pesach Haggadah – that “in every generation we have enemies out there that want to destroy us.”
A clash of philosophies
Perhaps what the Midrash means is that there is a distinct Shabbat mindset and an Amalek mindset. Those who are Shabbat-centered are keenly aware that God created the world in 6 days and a day of rest and spiritual rejuvenation on the 7th day. It is clear who runs the world, who rewards and punishes and the true source of their paycheck. For that person Shabbat is a particularly joyous day because it brings all the pillars of faith into focus.
On the other hand, with an Amalek mindset, everything that happens in the world is random. The Torah hints at this when describing Amalek as the ones who “happened upon you on the road.” (Deuteronomy 25:18). The Amalek theology is filled with doubt about the existence of god. (In gematria, (numerology) the numerical value of the word Amalek is the same as “Sofek” – the Hebrew word for doubt) .
Now the question of the Midrash no longer seems far-fetched. How, indeed, can you be both?
Amalek – the unwanted guest
Perhaps the answer is that the Midrash is warning the Shabbat-centered Jew to prepare for a visit from Amalek. You too will have doubts. You too will have your faith tested. If you can’t recognize that it was Amalek who was trying to bring you down, then you are highly vulnerable to never regaining your footing. To losing touch with the majestic serenity of Shabbat.
Yes, as illogical as it sounds, you have to remember both.