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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Zachor

Remembering Amalek – When?

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How often are we commanded to remember Amalek? This question is not explicitly discussed in the Gemara. The Rambam writes in Melachim 5, 5:

"It is also a positive commandment to constantly remember their evil deeds and their ambush of Israel to arouse our hatred of them…" He also writes in Sefer Hamitzvot that we must remember their deeds "at all times". Rambam seems to imply that this is a perpetual commandment, like loving and fearing G-d. Some Rabbinic authorities suggest that according to Rambam we must remember the deeds of Amalek every day.

Sefer HaChinuch expounds on this question and suggests an alternate possibility:

"Unlike our commandment to remember the Exodus from Egypt each day and each night, the commandment to remember the deeds of Amalek in our hearts and minds does not specify a particular time of the year or a particular day. The difference is that the remembrance of the Exodus represents one of the very foundations of our faith…..but the rationale for remembering the deeds of Amalek is simply to avoid forgetting their hatred for Am Yisrael. Therefore, it is sufficient to remember once a year, or once in two or three years."

According to Sefer HaChinuch, there is no specified time for remembrance. Rather, we should remember from time to time – even once in three years – and each time we utter the verses relating the deeds of Amalek, we observe the commandment.

However, there are those who believe that at the heart of this precept lies the requirement to remember Amalek’s deed "every single year." The Midrash (Pesikta Rabati, 12) states that when we read the Torah portion about remembering Amalek each and every year, it is considered as if we are erasing their name from the world. The Chatam Sofer and other adjudicators explain that the commandment to remember is renewed every year. This view is based on the Gemara (Berachot, 58.) which explains that the memory of a loved one who passed away is retained until a year has gone by. From here we learn that one does not forget until a year passes. Therefore, we are commanded to remember Amalek once a year. (Some commentators expressed concern that during leap years there is a 13th month, but the majority ruled otherwise.)

While we are clearly commanded to remember the deeds of Amalek once a year, the Torah did not specify a particular time to read the Zachor portion. Each individual may read this portion at his discretion. However, our Sages wished to link the remembrance of Amalek’s deeds to Purim since Haman was Amalek’s descendant. For this reason, when we hear the reading of the portion where it appears in Parashat Ki Tetze we do fulfill the commandment; however, ideally, we should hear Zachor before Purim.

Summary

To summarize, it is a commandment from the Torah to remember the deeds of Amalek. In the opinion of Tosfot and other Achronim, this commandment is fulfilled specifically by reading the portion of Zachor, and this was the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch. We must remember once a year, and this commandment is fulfilled by adhering to our Sages regulation to read the Zachor portion before Purim. Ideally, in order to properly fulfill the commandment according the Torah, Zachor must be read from a Torah scroll in a quorum (minyan). If this is not possible, one should focus his thoughts on the fulfillment of the commandment when he listens to "Vayavo Amalek" on Purim, and recite the Zachor portion by himself out of a Chumash.
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