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Parsha Ponderings – Ki Seitzei – Forget-Me-Not or I’ll-Be-Your-Lot

זכור את אשר עשה לך עמלק בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים. אשר קרך בדרך ויזנב בך כל הנחשלים אחריך ואתה עיף ויגע ולא ירא אלקים. והי’ בהניח ד’ אלקיך לך מכל אויביך מסביב בארץ אשר ד’ נותן לך נחלה לרשתה תמחה את זכר עמלק מתחת השמים לא תשכח

Remember that which Amalek did to you, on the way, when you were leaving Egypt. That he happened upon you on your way, and struck your tail-end, all the weaklings in your rear, while you were tired and worn, and he did not fear God. And it shall be when God, your Lord, gives you rest from your surrounding enemies, in the land which God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, you shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens; do not forget!

It is a passage many of us know verbatim, a passage we are Biblically obligated to read annually. And yet, how much do we really know about these few verses which encapsulate our eternal mandate to eradicate the memory of Amalek from the face of the Earth?

Let us stop for a moment and reflect upon some of the details of this all-important passage. The Torah is very specific in recounting the fashion in which Amalek attacked: He waited until the Israelites were worn and tired, and only then, at our weakest point, did he attack our weakest members, the weaklings at our tail-end. Just as specific is the Torah in regards to the particulars of the counterattack we are to eventually launch: Not until we arrive in the land of our inheritance, and not until God has put down all of our surrounding enemies, are we to unleash the war which will deal Amalek its fatal blow.

Why? Why is the Torah so insistent upon specifying these details? Is it simply to describe the underhanded cowardice of Amalek? But then why the details of our counterattack? Indeed, why do we wait to attack Amalek until we are peacefully settled in our Land? Is it simply a matter of military strategy, that we wait until we are strong enough to face the Goliath? If that were all, couldn’t we have figured it out ourselves?

Amalek, our Sages tell us, is not merely a nation; it is a concept. It is the quintessence of all that is evil in Creation. It represents our spiritual nemeses from within just as it does our physical nemesis from without. As such, the tactics of Amalek mirror those of our Evil Inclination, and our counter-maneuvers against him likewise run parallel to those we engage in our personal struggle against bad.

The Evil Inclination never strikes us at our strong points. Instead, just like Amalek, he lurks in waiting until we reach at the lowest point of our spiritual ebb-and-flow, and only then does he pounce on the most vulnerable parts of our personality. And at that spiritual nadir, he invariably wins, for we simply do not have the emotional wherewithal to overcome him.

So how are we to win him? How, we wonder, can we ever overcome this sly beast who doesn’t even have the courage to fight like a man?

The answer, tell the Torah, is simple: Wait until you are on your own turf, riding high after having silenced your enemies with the help of God. It is only when you are at your spiritual zenith that you can truly deal a knockout blow to the shameless forces of Evil. Sit and strategize. Pore over the film-reel of your previous matches with the devil. See where you went wrong. Find where you made the wrong move. Figure out where the kinks in your armor are. See what you can do to avoid the same mistakes the next time around. Only then, with your battle plan in hand, developed under the sanity of peace rather than freelanced during the confusion of battle, can you return to the field of war and deal your enemy a everlasting defeat.

The problem?

Nobody wants to think of war during times of peace. Nobody wants to remember weakness at their moment of strength. Nobody wants to talk about how to avoid lowly temptations in the lofty season of the High Holidays.

Yet the Torah screams: Don’t forget!!!! Don’t forget to deal with Amalek, just because now they seem like a bad dream. Don’t forget those who attacked you “on the way when you were leaving Egypt”, just because now you have finally completed that exodus. Don’t forget to deal with those who have attacked you all year en-route to Rosh Hashana, just because now you’re there.

Remember. Plan. Fight. Win.

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