The Shabbos before Purim we leyn the infamous story of Amalek and their brazen attack on Klal Yisroel, immediately after Kriyas Yam Suf. In so doing, we fulfill the Mitvas Aseh of “Zachor”, remembering what Amalek did to us. In perhaps the most draconian Tziva given to us as an Am, we are commanded to “Timche Es Zecher Amalek” – wipe out the memory of Amalek for all time. Accepting that Amalek’s attack was despicable and an affront to Hakodosh Baruch Hu, what was so outrageous and evil that it warranted this most severe Tziva of “Timche Es Zecher Amalek”?
Indeed, there are numerous examples of what would appear to be more serious offenses where no such Tziva was given. The Dor Haflaga at the end of Parshas Noach sought to directly confront and “destroy” Hashem. Their punishment - a disbursement and confusing of languages. The Mitzrim, who enslaved us with Avodas Parech, outwardly rejected the notion of Hashem and killed our children were punished with the Maccos and lost their slaves. Moav who refused to sell us food when we were in the Midbar, were banned from converting and marrying into Klal Yisroel, but only Amalek earned the Tziva of “Timche Es Zecher”. How are we to understand the fundamental failing and evil of Amalek which earned them this most severe of decrees?
Most Mepharshim learn the Chet of Amalek as having had the Chutzpah of attacking Klal Yisroel on the heels of the Maccos and Kriyas Yam Suf. They analogize to a scalding pot of boiling water where once one person jumped in, even though they were burned, the idea had become plausible, where it had previously been unthinkable. However, a close reading of the Pasuk strongly implies a more subtle and drastic aspect of Amalek’s Aveira. The Pasuk says “Vayezanev B’Cha Kal Hanecashalim Acharecha” – That he attacked those who were falling behind, the weak, the faint, and the exhausted. The Pasuk unmistakably emphasizes the contemptible conduct of picking on those most vulnerable and least able to defend themselves.
When we compare this to other Torah values it becomes very clear why Amalek earned their decree. Our Torah repeatedly stresses the need to be extra kind to those having difficulties or who may be less fortunate. Whether it be an orphan (Shemos 22:21), a widow (Ki TziZei 24:17), a poor person (Re’Eh 15:7) or a stranger (Shemos 22:20) the Torah prescribes special Mitzvos of helping these people in need to educate us on this quintessential Torah value. Amalek’s actions – targeting the less fortunate and taking advantage of their weakness, represents Anti-Torah – the opposite of Torah ideals and a Rishos which needs to be eradicated from this world.
This also provides an explanation for some of the Mitzvos which we have on Purim and how they remedy some of the poison which Amalek brought to the world. Purim after all really celebrates the Hashgacha of Hashem in saving Klal Yisroel from the threat of Haman and Amalek. Why then do we mark the Yom Tov with Mitzvos which are predominantly expressions of good will between people? It would seem more appropriate to have a Yom Tov more spiritual in nature marked with extra Tefillos, etc. thanking Hashem for saving us from such peril.
While such sentiments are certainly appropriate on Purim, it is inescapable that the triumph of Purim is of good over evil. Hashem, in saving Klal Yisroel was giving a boost to his chosen people who through the generations carry the torch of goodness and kindness. At the same time he punished the standard bearers of evil in the world, Amalek. Such a statement of the Ratzon Hashem must be celebrated by extra efforts of cultivating goodwill and friendship between each Jew and his neighbor. As surely as Amalek serves as the ambassador of evil, we have an even greater responsibility to be the Ohr LaGoyim and show the world the beauty of the Torah and its Mitzvos. It is in this way that we can partially, even today, be Mikayim Timche Es Zecher Amalek.
Let us use the Yom Tov of Purim to rededicate ourselves to these true Torah values and in that way eradicate the evil influence which Amalek still has on our world. With the Mitzvos of Mishloach Manos, Matanos LaEvyonim and the Purim Seuda, we have ample opportunities to repudiate Amalek and all it has stood for and once again put Hashem’s desire for compassion and Chesed front and center.