In this week’s Torah portion, we read the story of the Amalekite attack on the Israelites as they wandered in the dessert (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). This biblical passage describes a brutal ruthless attack on the weakest and most vulnerable of the Israelites. Attacking the children and the elders who were stationed at the back of the camp, the Amalekites demonstrated unabashed cruelty and cowardice. The brutality of this 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. All of our enemies, from Haman to Hitler, have been associated with Amalek.
This ancient story is hauntingly contemporary as we witness the rampages of the Islamic State as they brutally ravage large areas in Iraq and Syria. Their tactics are cruel and violent, and they embody everything we associate with evil.
While a political response to this horrible group may not yet be fully established in the United States, our Torah portion this week helps us put this group into a context that transcends time and space. Every generation sadly faces Amaleks in various forms, and as we read our Torah portion this week while gruesome violence rages around the world we are reminded that evil has yet to be blotted out from our midst.