The name, for many of us, evokes the embodiment of evil attack, unwarranted persecution, and unprovoked violence that our Torah commands us to remember and never forget. It is our anti-talisman, that which we hold up to remind ourselves that our existence has historically and in the present day always been under threat.

I’m a historian. I know of no other culture, no other nation, no other people who does not have a generational memory of a threat - of invasion, exile, violence. This has always been different. In our tradition, part of the extraordinary menace of Amalek was its preying on slave refugees as they traversed the desert. Their attack was both malicious and opportunistic. Cruel, in targeting fleeing civilians. Targeted, in serving the hatred born of Eisav and Eliphaz generations earlier. Amalek’s attack was so pernicious that we were commanded to remember it for all time.

The ignorant and blood libeling sycophants to terror making up South Africa’s judicial delegation to the International Court of Justice did not know or care for the generational debate Jewish scholars have had -for millenia- when they raised the ugly lie that Israeli policy is motivated by a genocidal inclination against the piteous Palestinians of Gaza, identified as Amalek in recent days.

What is Amalek? How are we to eradicate it? Some say it is no longer an issue, as Amalek has been extinct for more than 2500 years. Others say that eradicating Amalek is eradicating hate and malice in one’s own heart. Yet others say Amalek represents every enemy who has risen up against us to destroy us, from ancient Babylon to imperial Rome, from the Almohad Caliphate to the Cossacks, from the Crusaders and Inquisitors to the 20th Century's Nazis. The meaning I find most consequential is this:

Amalek is the enemy who lies in wait, who deceives. Amalek is the idea that the eternal people, who have brought light and wisdom and justice to the world, not only can be eradicated, but must be. Amalek is the standard never applied to the nations that populate the International Court, or the United Nations General Assembly, but only to the world’s singular Jewish state. Amalek is the notion that only the Jewish people don’t get to define themselves, engage in self determination, return to their ancestral aboriginal homeland, define their own persecution, or defend themselves when attacked.

Amalek, in other words, is a system of oppression that has been refining and renewing itself, finding new expression and new brutality through an ever-growing horde of bloodthirsty adherents for nearly 3500 years. It is the idea that the Jewish people and their world changing legacy can and should be extinguished.

It. Will. Never. Happen. You and I - we will not let it happen.

As this is the month of Adar and Purim, and Amalek plays such an integral role in the identity of Haman, I thought it would be most appropriate to raise this topic today. But I wanted to share one more thought.

We’ve all spent time over the last five months in awe of the strength, sacrifice, and stalwart nature of the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces. We have wept at the loss of so many young men and women, fallen in defense of their people and their homeland. We are amazed at their heroism, but we don't glorify the unavoidable outcomes of what Hamas’ evil invasion has demanded they must do.

In our tributes, we speak of places held against overwhelming odds, units held together through the hardest battles. We don’t put up statues of conquerors or generals, we build new communities and name them for those who gave their lives for their people.

We recognize that the ‘Giborei Al’, the ‘Superheroes’ that the Israeli band Hatikvah 6 lionized in song, are the musician from Caesarea who flies medevac helicopters, or the doorman from Herzliya who leads a platoon; the shy girl from the beach in Eilat who pilots reconnaissance drones or the brash bartender from Nahariya who loads artillery shells. They are the superheroes not because of their feats on the battlefield, but rather because they would give anything to be anywhere else; doing what must be done because it is their responsibility to generations that came and fought before, but especially to those generations to come.

They won’t let Amalek triumph either.

Their heroism in battle isn’t done seeking glory. One of my favorite authors (those who have read my newsletters for a while know this already) is JRR Tolkien. One of his characters, Faramir, is a warrior and a hero in his own right, but he shares a perspective on the need to fight that resonates with me today.

“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend…and I would have loved her for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom.”

I pray that one day we destroy the memory of Amalek, breaking the engine of Jew hatred that has powered hundreds of persecutions over thousands of years. And then? Then we can love unfettered the memory, ancientry, beauty and wisdom of our tradition without ever needing to look over our shoulder again.

Shabbat Shalom.