This week, in addition to the sidra of Vayikra, we read a special portion from a second Sefer Torah – the Maftir of Parshat Zachor. We read the passage at the end of the sidra of Ki Teitzei, which describes how Amalek attacked the Israelites after they came out of Egypt.
In three concise verses we are told: “Remember what Amalek did…erase the memory of Amalek…do not forget.”
It seems that on the one hand, we are being told to remember in order to forget – so that the memory of Amalek is blotted out from beneath the heavens. Yet on the other hand, the Torah says: Do not forget!
How do we understand what seems to be a contradictory Mitzva?
We must appreciate that there is a distinction between forgetting and erasing.
When something is forgotten that issue is still in existence. We have simply banished it from our consciousness. When something is erased, it has been deleted completely. Matters that are simply forgotten are just hidden. Matters that are erased have been obliterated.
We can now understand what the Torah is telling us to do.
Remember – Zachor – what Amalek did! Amalek’s ideological heirs are those anti-Semites across the generations, that would seek to destroy the Jewish people. We are told that we must hold on to the memory of Amalek. If we forget what Amalek did, we run the risk of him resurfacing. Our challenge is to erase Amalek. We must convince the world to join us in eradicating Amalek and all forms of evil. We cannot rest until evil has ended. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (Santayana.)
Do not forget! – Lo Tishkach! We must not assume that anti-Semitism will just go away by itself. If we simply forget about anti-Semitism, sooner-or-later, it rears its ugly head, once again. Our mandate to remember is for all time – until we have succeeded in eradicating what Amalek stands for in this world, so that there will no longer be a need to remember.