זָכוֹר, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה לְךָ עֲמָלֵק, בַּדֶּרֶךְ, בְּצֵאתְכֶם מִמִּצְרָיִם
אֲשֶׁר קָרְךָ בַּדֶּרֶךְ, וַיְזַנֵּב בְּךָ כָּל-הַנֶּחֱשָׁלִים אַחֲרֶיךָ–וְאַתָּה, עָיֵף וְיָגֵעַ; וְלֹא יָרֵא, אֱלֹהִים
וְהָיָה בְּהָנִיחַ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לְךָ מִכָּל-אֹיְבֶיךָ מִסָּבִיב, בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה-אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ נַחֲלָה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ–תִּמְחֶה אֶת-זֵכֶר עֲמָלֵק, מִתַּחַת הַשָּׁמָיִם; לֹא, תִּשְׁכָּח
25, 17-19 דְּבָרִים
Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way as ye came forth out of Egypt;
how he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, all that were enfeebled in thy rear, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God.
Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget.
Deuteronomy 25, 17-19
To those who follow Judaism in a traditional manner, the Torah, the first five books of Moses, contain 613 commandments. Among them is one that appears to be a contradiction, that is to “Remember what Amalek did…that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget.”
Obviously, it is impossible to blot out the remembrance of Amalek and not forget at the same time. There are many Rabbinic interpretations of this commandment. One could spend their entire life studying and researching all that has been written about Amalek; however, to me, I find it very simple and straight forward.
There will always be abject evil in the world. And Hashem commands us to do all we can to blot it out. We are not to blot out the memory of evil, only the memory of those who commit it. In that way we will always be prepared for the fight against it.
President Zelinsky reminded the world of the commitment to “Never Again” as bombs fall on Ukraine and on Babyn Yar, the site of the Nazi mass murder of Jews of Kyiv during World War II. This must not only be a slogan, it must be a call to action for everyone. It is a call that no Jew should ignore!
There is no question in my mind that Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia who has initiated this war is the manifestation of evil on earth today. Therefore, it is every Jews responsibility to fight against him to stop the evil and blot out his memory from history.
Kohelet tells us in chapter 3, verse 8
עֵת מִלְחָמָה וְעֵת שָׁלוֹם
That there is a time for war and a time for peace.
Unfortunately, it is now a time for war. And if we do nothing, we are condemning the people of Ukraine. History has taught us that.
Prior to World War II Jews were rejected from emigrating to safe havens such as the United States. During World War II not a single bomb was dropped on the railway tracks that led to the death camps. Nor were any dropped on the extermination camps to shut down their killing machine.
The Nazis even demonstrated to the world that nobody wanted the Jews. By allowing Jews to exit Germany on the St. Louis ocean liner in 1939 just to be refused by Cuba and then the United States only to return to Europe, it was a clear signal that nobody would take a stand against what was happening to the Jews in Germany. The result of the world’s inaction was the extermination of 6 million Jews.
Martin Niemöller in his famous poem summed up the price of inaction during times such as these. It goes way past the premise, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” The Pastor was saying that if you do not fight evil because it is currently not attacking you, you are misguided because allowing evil to exist will only result in your own personal demise. This premise was also seen in World War II where the Nazi’s exterminated an estimated total of 17 million people according to data published by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Thus, you may be asking yourself what can you do short of volunteering to travel to Ukraine and fight the Russians? You may not realize it; however, you have more influence than you think. I recognize that not everyone has funds to donate to assist Ukraine and Ukrainians. That should not stop you.
There are already an estimated 2 million Ukrainian refugees fleeing from the war zone and estimates are that number can increase in the near future to 4 million. These people need food, shelter, and clothes. Go through your possessions and see what you can donate to these people.
If you work for a company that does business with Russia, express your opinion to management to cease all activities in Russia. The argument goes that many good people in Russia are not supporting this war; however, change is most likely to come from within Russia itself instead of from pressure from the outside. Make the Russian people understand that there are consequences for their leader’s actions. The Soviet Union collapsed from within and that is the best way to deal with the current Russian leadership.
Do not be silent. Express your opinion whenever and wherever you can. Do not hesitate to highlight the atrocities that are being perpetrated on the people of Ukraine. Have faith in the Butterfly Effect, that your one small action can have a tremendous impact.
Lobby your government to act against Russia by any and all means! Russia might not feel the effects immediately; however, Russia will not be able to withstand a worldwide tsunami of sanctions and isolation. It is not a time to think about the self interest of an individual government, it is time to think about the global impact of what happens if evil is triumphant.
Finally, during this time of extreme political polarization, do not politicize the event as so many have already done. Blaming one political party or another, one President or another has a detrimental impact to facing down evil; it detracts us from the fight! There will be more than enough time to dissect the events of the day and try to understand them after it is over. Now is the time to act against evil.
And it is clear to me that Hashem is reminding each and every one of us to act immediately. This Shabbat, the Shabbat before the holiday of Purim is known as Shabbat Zachor. The Talmud teaches us that Haman, the archnemesis in the Book of Esther attempted to eradicate the Jewish people, was a descendant of Amalek. Thus on this Shabbat, for Maftir (the last reading of the Torah) of the week, we reread the lines from Deuteronomy reminding us to fight abject evil anywhere it exists; which today means Putin’s attack on the Ukraine!