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Beit Midrash Series Parashat Hashavua

You Wipe Out and I Will Wipe Out

We find two p’sukim in the Torah about wiping out Amalek: “You [Bnei Yisrael] shall wipe out the memory of Amalek” (Devarim 25:19); “I [Hashem] will certainly wipe out the memory of Amalek” (Shemot 17:14). There seems to be a contradiction as to who is responsible to rid the world of Amalek – Bnei Yisrael or Hashem? The Tanchuma (Ki Teitzei 11) answers that until Amalek raises his hands against the divine throne, Hashem leaves it to us; afterward, Hashem takes the matter into His own hands. In explaining how a human can raise his hands against the divine throne, the midrash answers that this is by destroying Yerushalayim.
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We find two p’sukim in the Torah about wiping out Amalek: "You [Bnei Yisrael] shall wipe out the memory of Amalek" (Devarim 25:19); "I [Hashem] will certainly wipe out the memory of Amalek" (Shemot 17:14). There seems to be a contradiction as to who is responsible to rid the world of Amalek – Bnei Yisrael or Hashem? The Tanchuma (Ki Teitzei 11) answers that until Amalek raises his hands against the divine throne, Hashem leaves it to us; afterward, Hashem takes the matter into His own hands. In explaining how a human can raise his hands against the divine throne, the midrash answers that this is by destroying Yerushalayim.
Amalek’s strength is in his sword, in battle. Amalek seeks to nullify the significance of the spirit and to belittle it. War is his weapon, and we are to smite him with his own weapons. We are to show him that the power of the book has a positive impact even on our ability to hold the sword – "You shall wipe out."
Yet there is another intention. Some see this commandment as inconsistent with the attribute of mercy that we are supposed to have. The Torah is coming to instill in us that just as mercy is critical, so too, for the world to survive, there must be cruelty against the foundations of the corrupt. Misplaced mercy is itself the greatest cruelty. Do not think that if one shows Amalek the beauty of the Torah, he will be inspired to change his ways. This is a total mistake that will just boomerang back against us.
Therefore, "wipe out" without questioning or distinguishing. Amalek does not hate us because we lack a land. The Torah tells us that even when we are secure in our Land, the battle against Amalek will be very relevant. The more successful we will be, the more he will hate us.
On the other hand, the Torah is teaching us to remember that the battle against the forces of evil cannot be won with our own strength. At the end of the day, just based on nature, the expert of the sword will naturally defeat the expert of the book, no matter how much we practice military tactics. We must enlist the divine spirit which gets involved in all areas of life – the divine providence that is in every phenomenon. Wickedness is only one of the passing phenomena that Hashem deals with – "I [Hashem] will wipe out."
This is what Yehoshua should be told. Without knowing the Hand of Hashem is involved, he will not succeed. He is fighting a nation that is brought up with militarism from the cradle, to whom success on the battlefield and having dominion is everything. We are missing all of that. We are missing the ambition to win at war; we did not drink that in our mother’s milk. We did not learn to march to the beat of military songs. We cannot win unless we add to our strength, specifically by recognizing the divine correctness of the battle – "Hashem will wipe out." It is a mistake to think we will win by relying on our strength and that we will do better if we forget that Hashem is behind us.
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