This Sabbath is a special Sabbath in our tradition. It is referred to as Shabbat Zachor – “the Sabbath of Remembrance.” It is the Sabbath immediately preceding the festival of Purim (which by the way we will be observing this Sunday morning in Sunday school and next Friday night for the entire congregation).
According to the Torah, the Amalekites demonstrated unabashed cruelty and cowardice by attacking the Israelites from behind and massacring the children and the elders. This ruthless attack evokes God’s wrath, and in response to Amalek’s cruelty, God instructs the Israelites to wipe out the Amalekites forever. Subsequently, in Jewish life throughout the ages the nation of Amalek became the archetype for all of the evil enemies who have risen against our people.
The merriment of blotting out the name of Haman on Purim is just one of the ways that Jews have taken this passage to heart. Another way may be found in the teachings of a Chasidic rabbi who argued that the horrors which befell us in the wilderness at the hands of Amalek were, to some extent, our own fault. This teaching suggests that the Israelites were negligent and irresponsible to have left the weakest and most vulnerable in the community unprotected and exposed. In so doing, they opened the doors for a disaster like Amalek to come.
According to this teaching when we are commanded to “Remember Amalek,” we must not simply remember to blot out the evils which threaten us from the outside. We must also remember to confront the corrosive evils perpetuated within society as well. These internal evils include neglect, abandonment, apathy and indifference.
It is our eternal responsibility to ensure that everyone is protected and no one gets left behind. We must not abandon the weakest segments of our population. We must remember to ensure that all of society – rich and poor – old and young alike — are take care of. Thus, when we strive to blot out hunger, homelessness, poverty and injustice, we honor the command to “Remember Amalek,” as we struggle to blot out the potentials for evil from within.