Destroying Amalek

Rabbi Gil Student writes:

The Purpose of the Priestly Garments

  • R. Mordechai Willig reminds us to emulate the character of Aharon HaKohen in our everyday conduct: link
  • R. Shalom Rosner discusses many halachic aspects of the Bigdei Kehunah: link (audio)
  • R. Berel Wein explains the symbolic role of “Jewish clothing.”that stem from the Priestly Garments: link
  • R. Shlomo Riskin shows us that every Jew can act as a Kohen in his adherence to Torah and Mitzvos: link
  • R. Jonathan Sacks demonstrates that the Priestly Garments served to routinize charisma: link
  • R. Shmuel Hain discusses whether clothes make the Kohein: link (audio)
  • Click here to read moreThe Continuous Light of the Menorah

  • R. Ephraim Buchwald urges us to emulate the purpose of the Menorah so that we are inspired, invigorated and excited about Jewish life: link
  • R. Baruch Simon investigates the unusal nature of the mitzvah of constructing the Menorah: link (audio)
  • The Mishkan, the Kohanim, Korban Tamid and the Miliuim

  • R. Ezra Bick explains the relationship between the Mishkan, the Kohanim, the Korban Tamid, and the Miluim: link
  • The Importance of the Korban Tamid

  • R. Aharon Lichtenstein elucidates why the Korban Tamid was considered a “Klal Gadol BaTorah”: link
  • The Urim vTumim

  • R. Yissocher Frand explains why Torah leadership requires both Urim ( the light of Torah) and Tumim ( the ability to render proper interpretations of Torah): link
  • The Ephod and the Choshen

  • R. Asher Brander explores the purpose and the inversion of the Ephod and the Choshen in Shmos 28:6, 15 and Shmos 39:2,8: link
  • R Dovid Horwitz discussses a famous statement of Rashi on Shmos 28:4: link
  • Understanding the Tzitz and the Mizbeach HaKtores

  • R. Michael Rosensweig elaborates on the purpose of the Tzitz and the Mizbeach HaKtores: link 1, link 2
  • Parshas Zachor

  • R. Avraham Gordimer explores the relationship between Parshas Zachor and Purim: link
  • R. Dovid Hirsch discusses the fulfillment of the mitzvah of eradicating Amalek: link (audio)
  • R. Daniel Z. Feldman discusses the importance of Zchirus: link (audio)
  • Taanis Esther

  • Rav Soloveitchik zt"l discusses the uniqueness of Taanis Esther: link
  • Purim

  • Rav Soloveitchik zt"l explores various hashkafic aspects of Megilas Esther: link
  • R. Herschel Schachter explains that Purim represents the Kabalas HaTorah , and especially our reaffirmation that our search beneath the superficial level in Torah SheBaal Peh always places Torah Shebicsav into a clearer perspective and explores many aspects of Purim, including reading the Megillah with a minyan and Esther’s request from the Chachamim: link 1, link 2 (audio), link 3 (audio), link 4 (audio), link 5 (audio)
  • R. Shmuel Marcus discusses the meaning and messages of Megilas Esther: link (audio)
  • R. Baruch Simon discusses why Megilas Esther is a form of Hallel: link (audio)
  • R. Doniel Schreiber explores why the halachic aspects of Purim being considered Divrei Kabalah: link
  • R. Yitzchak Etshalom discusses why Esther did not reveal her identity: link (PDF)
  • R. Asher Weiss discusses the halachic and hashkafic aspects of Mishloach Manos: link
  • R. Mordechai Willig discusses the obligation of women in Krias HaMegillah: link (audio)
  • R. Yitzchak Adlerstein, based on the Nesivos Shalom, explains why Purim can be compared favorably to Yom Hakipurim: link
  • R. Daniel Z Feldman discusses halachic aspects of Mishloach Manos and Ad Dlo Yada: link 1 (audio), link 2
  • R. Avraham Gordimer discusses when it is permitted, oblibated and probibited to drink on Purim: link

  • Last year’s roundup: link

    In a previous post, I quoted R. Nachum Rabinovitch as disagreeing with R. Moshe Soloveichik’s inference from the Rambam that the mitzvah to completely destroy Amalek applies to any nation that acts like Amalek (link). I have since seen that R. Eliezer Melamed (Revivim: Am, Eretz, Tzava, p. 82) also explicitly rejects R. Soloveichik’s approach. However, he adds that we should still learn from the idea behind it:

    Even though the law is not like him [R. Soloveichik], and the rules of Amalek do not apply to enemies in every generation, we still learn from this that there is a moral responsibility placed on the Jewish people to unconditionally win against its enemies.

    Talmid posts on Hirhurim: In a recent Q and A session at Gruss, Rav Lichtenstein said that the Rav did not base his entire psak about reparations on that shtikel torah. The Rav felt that it was morally and ethically problematic to take money from the German government and used this vort to "beef up" his argument. So in Rav Lichtenstein’s view it wasn’t just drush, but wasn’t quite a psak halacha either – a happy medium.

    Anon posts: "I have since seen that R. Eliezer Melamed (Revivim: Am, Eretz, Tzava, p. 82) also explicitly rejects R. Soloveichik’s approach."

    1. Does he agree with all this (from your original post on R Rabinovitch’s position):

    "And in Sefer Ha-Mitzvos (positive commandment 187), the Rambam writes that just like the commandment to destroy the seven nations does not apply in every generation since they have been spread among the other nations and are unrecognizable, so too the commandment to destroy Amalek. Therefore, writes R. Rabinovitch, clearly the idea of "their memory has already been erased" also applies to Amalek and there is no halakhic concept of a "spiritual Amalek". Then why doesn’t the Rambam write that Amalek’s memory has already been erased? R. Rabinovitch explains that this is precisely what is implied when the Rambam begins discussion of this commandment with "and also" (ve-chen). The same clause that was stated about the seven Canaanite nations also applies to Amalek."

    that amalek has already been destroyed, or just that there is no mitzva for a "spiritual amalek"?

    2. According to R Rabinovitch’s stance that amalek has already been destroyed, why do we still read parshas zachor if the mitzva has ended?

    SHAUL WRITES: In the Y.U. COMMENTATOR series on the Rav by his talmidim, Shmuel Boylan writes that he discussed this footnote with the Rav.
    "I last spoke to the Rav after he had retired from the yeshiva and was living in relative seclusion in Boston with his daughter and son-in-law. Once again, access to the Rav was restricted, due to his illness and infirmity-but this time, I was successful, and was granted entry. The Rav was frailer than I remembered him. I first asked the Rav about an opinion he had quoted from his father, zt"l, that a nation (such as the Nazis) could be transformed into Amalek; I asked whether such a halakhic designation would then have implications with regard to innocent wives and children, as well. The Rav strongly rejected such a concept, reminding me that the Rambam required an approach for shalom prior to milkhemet Amalek-and that such a requirement made action against innocent parties impossible"
    http://media.www.yucommentator.c…212- page4.shtml

    Joseph Kaplan writes:

    "Do you think the Rav meant that all men, women and children of, let’s say, Palestinians must be exterminated?! "

    The Rav himself answered this question in KDD in the famous footnote 25 where he wrote: "However, the obligation to wipe out individual Amalekites, as set forth in the verse from Deuteronomy, applies to only genealogical descendants of Amalek." Since the Palestinians are not such genealogical descendants, even if the Rav was speaking halachically in KDD (which I believe is, at the very least, not clear), he wrote, explicitly, that he did NOT mean that all Palestinians (or Germans in WWII etc.) should be exterminated.

    Jerry: "So basically the Rav thought that enemies of the Jews are "Amalek"…except that they’re not really, because even the Rav realized that that would be ridiculous. The whole notion of "conceptualizing" a real, historical national group – in any sort of halakhic sense – is the ultimate reductio ad absurdum of the Brisker methodology."

    No, because, as the Rav points out, there are two mizvot: one in Sh’mot to wage war against Amalek and one in Dvarim to eradicate Amalek. It is the second mitzvah that applies only to genealogical descendants of Amalek. The first does apply to the spiritual descendants. Thus, as I understand the Rav, it is imperitive to battle the spiritual descendants: the Nazis, Hamas, Hetzbollah and others of their ilk. But as to eradicating the nation — i.e., "exterminat[ing] all the Palestinians, men, women, children and their animals," in the words of one commenter– applies only to biological Amalek which does not today exist.

    This understanding, I think, fits in well with the historical context of the Rav’s original presentation in 1956. The Rav was speaking to students and he wanted to reach their kishkes about supporting and defending Israel which was under siege at that time. He exhorted them not to make the mistake that he thought his generation made about the Nazis so he tried to get them to understand the need to do battle against these forces — battle in the real sense as it applied to Israel and the IDF and battle in other ways that would be appropriate for American Jews. Killing "men, women and children" was simply not what he was talking about as he explained in the footnote.

    About Luke Ford

    I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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