Today is Shabbat Vayikra and Shabbat Zachor.
Vayikra will deal with laws regarding the sacrificial system. Our triennial plugs us in the sliding scale for sacrifices - no one, the text affirms, is excluded from approaching the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, for lack of ability to contribute. I hope we keep this in our hearts as we continue throughout our year at CBI.
But today is Shabbat Zachor - the Shabbat before Purim. We read the maftir from a second sefer Torah so as not to bore the congregation with too much rolling of the parchment. So here are my questions for our maftir today:
What did Amalek do that is so terrible, according to the text?
Why does the Torah say "remember" and "do not forget?" How are those two instructions different from one another?
Amalek's worldview and culture is to find the easiest way to acquire booty. They searched for vacuums of power and law enforcement which would enable them to help themselves to the possessions of others. In such a situation, the more ruthless one is, the more successful he is as well, because the greatest limit on the activity of such people is their own conscience. This is how we can understand the "fearing God" - the knowledge that God, here, Elokim, is not just a fear of the Almighty - it does not necessarily mean monotheism. All the other instances of a Jew seeing people "not fearing God" have the name Elokim used, a more general name, applied to the Egyptians (as Yosef is disguised as one) and Avimelech (by Avraham).
So fearing God can simply mean an attitude towards others.
Rabbi Francis Nataf
When the Torah tells us that the nation of Amalek did not fear God, it is saying that they were unrestrained by any concept of a higher power and thus possessed an unusual lack of common decency. They were the most extreme manifestation of this attitude. Their pirate-like behavior reflects a lack of respect for man’s uniqueness and ultimately for the power that stands behind it. No wonder, then, that the Jews are commanded to blot out Amalek. They represent an antithesis to the Jewish nation’s mission in the world, and their approach to life presents a formidable obstacle to the Jewish people’s goal of establishing a kingdom of God on earth.
The fight against Amalek does not end when the nation is destroyed, for even when it would be defeated its legacy would likely remain. As long as greed exists in the human heart, there will always be a need to fight against the temptation to view others as mere objects standing in the way of one’s advancement. The eternal struggle against Amalek is how Judaism formalizes this need.
[Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Deuteronomy: Explorations in Text and Meaning, Urim publications, 2016 - Chapter 6]
This nightmare in New Zealand feels unthinkable. Except it isn't. The hate that killed Muslims praying in Christchurch is the same hate that killed Jews praying in Pittsburgh is the same hate that killed African Americans praying in Charleston and is the same hate that killed Sikhs praying in Wisconsin. If we don't face white supremacy it will destroy all of us. That is Amalek today. And it is the same impulse to say "better them than us" or to be indifferent to other communities' suffering. It is that same force, in a slightly weaker mode.
Please, God, let us all go to war against that Amalek, outside and inside, so our world will actually become a better place.