Remembering/Blotting Out Amalek

Question

Deuteronomy 25:17-19
Remember what Amalek did to you on your way out of Egypt…
you shall blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under the heavens;
do not forget.

Remember and do not forget are synonyms. They mean the same thing.
Blot out means to forget. That is the opposite of remember.
What does blot out the remembrance (but do not forget) mean?
I find it confusing. Please clarify. Thanks.

2 weeks

Answers

  1. Your question is one that has puzzled the Rabbis throughout the generations! There are several different approaches, but the one that I find to be the simplest to understand is based on the Talmud, Tractate Megillah 18. Our Sages teach, “Remember” – should I say that this means only with the mind? When the text says, “You shall not forget” – the injunction against mental forgetfulness is already given. So, what then does “remember” mean? This must mean: [Remember] by utterance. In his understanding of the Talmud, the Minchat Chinuch writes that “Remember” is the obligation to articulate, while “Do Not Forget” refers to our memory. Therefore, thought without articulation is not sufficient to fulfill the positive mitzvah of remembering Amalek but it does fulfill the negative commandment of “Do Not Forget”.

    In order to understand what “blotting out” the remembrance of Amalek means, it is necessary to go back their very inception. The original Amalek was the son of Eliphaz and the grandson of Eisav. The progeny of Amalek are the archetypal enemy of the Jewish People, and their very existence is diametrically opposed to the Torah. However awful such a commandment sounds, it can only be understood by studying the words of the Sages who describe the people of Amalek as being the essence of all evil in the world.

    The Rambam states, while discussing the mitzvah of exterminating the Seven Nations, that after the dispersion of Sancheriv we can no longer identify any nation, and therefore the mitzvah can not be fulfilled. The very next sentence states that it is a Biblical commandment to eradicate any trace of the memory of Amalek. The Chatam Sofer learns from this that Amalek, unlike the other nations, is not just a people but also an ideology. According to this, it is possible for a person who has no physical connection to Amalek to be considered a member of the Amalekite People on account of his Amalekite ideology.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team