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Dvar for Ki Tetzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)

At the very end of Parshat Ki Tetzei we encounter one of the more famous commandments, instructing us to remember what Amalek did to us as we left Egypt. While the whole world saw the Jews as untouchable, Amalek decided to kill us by attacking the weak people lagging behind, thus proclaiming to the world that they weren’t afraid of G-d by attacking His nation. However, by attacking the weak ones they proved that they were indeed afraid of the Jews. Strangely, though, the next few Pesukim (verses) tell us to wipe out the memory of Amalek from this world. So which is it? Should we remember what they did to us, or should we wipe out their memory and forget? At the end of this section the Torah then reminds us again to not forget!?

To help us understand the issues involved here, Chazal (our Rabbis) have explained, using an analogy, that it’s as if Amalek jumped into scalding hot water, and although they were burned, they cooled the water, and everyone around them was a little bit more comfortable with the hot water. As the book “Majesty of Man” elaborates, human nature dictates that the more we see of something, the less sensitive we are to it. So what’s the solution? The Torah tells us to remember, erase, and yet remember: Remember the elements in this world that would pick on the weak and defy G-d and authority, but only so that you could erase them, thereby erasing their influence. The final step is to never forget what happens when we surround ourselves with negative influences.

As human nature dictates, and as the history books (following this battle) record, we are influenced by our society, neighborhood, and by our friends. Just as we must be careful not to let ourselves be affected by anything negative, we must also