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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays Amaleck

At the Shabbat Table

Accident by Design

11
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David left the courthouse with decidedly mixed feelings. Of course, it was a relief to have been found innocent. Being found guilty would have made the whole situation infinitely more heartbreaking. But there was really no way around the feelings of pain. Even though the court had concluded that the old man had acted recklessly, by crossing in the middle of a busy New York street, nonetheless, David felt terrible that the car he was driving had been the direct cause of the man’s death.
Guilt ridden days and sleepless nights were David’s constant companions. His wife, Rivka, grew increasingly concerned, as she observed what was happening to her husband. "You can’t carry this burden by yourself," she encouraged David. "Go to Israel, and seek guidance from Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky. Maybe he’ll be able to help you move on."
"That sounds like it might be worth a try," David sighed. "Maybe the great rabbi will be able to help me find some way to rectify the spiritual damage that I’ve done."
David booked the next available flight. It wasn’t long before he found himself standing before Rabbi Kanievsky. David poured out his heart to the rabbi. David explained that, while he knew that the death of the old man wasn’t his fault, he felt terrible at having been the agent through which the man had been killed.
"Don’t worry," Rabbi Kanievsky responded. "You’ve fulfilled the commandment of destroying Amalek."
David gasped in surprise. He had in no way anticipated such a response from the great sage. But what did it mean? True, there is a Torah commandment to destroy the descendants of the Amalek, grandson of the wicked Esav, and progenitor of Haman, the villain in the Purim story. But was every non-Jew in New York assumed to be an Amalekite? What did the rabbi’s response have to do with the fatal car accident in which David had been involved?
David returned to New York, heartened by the rabbi’s encouragement, yet still puzzled as to the meaning of the cryptic message. The burden in his heart had lightened somewhat, but the pain was still there. Rivka saw that more action was needed.
"Maybe it’s time for us to move," she suggested. "I think that being in this neighborhood is a constant reminder of the accident, for you."
David and Rivka settled on a location, contacted realtors, and found a suitable house. It wasn’t entirely empty, as it had belonged to a deceased older man, who had left his house to his children, but the house met David and Rivka’s criteria overall, so it was worth dealing with the mess. They had to spend a good few days clearing out the previous owner’s knickknacks and memorabilia, but the work seemed to be good for David.
They had gotten through most of the work, when David noticed a box sitting on top of a cabinet. He took the box in his hands, climbed down off the chair that he had been standing on, and placed the box on the table. David opened the box, which appeared to be full of photographs. As David glanced at the pictures, he gasped in shock. There was no mistaking it. The man featured in most of the pictures was none other than the victim of the car accident! David couldn’t believe it!
Desperately, David proceeded to pull the rest of the contents out of the box. And that’s when he saw it. It was the same man, some decades earlier. Young, confident, and dressed in an S.S. uniform! Badges, medals and more pictures only confirmed the story. The man that David had killed had been a high ranking Nazi!
David’s heart pounded, as he continued to search through the box. With trembling hands, David unfolded a yellowed, crumbling piece of paper. It was a list. Of names. David shook his head slowly, as the decades-old tragedy washed over him once again. The accursed murderer had meticulously recorded the name and town of each Jew that he had killed. Although the tears that coursed down David’s face made it increasingly hard to read, he felt compelled to continue. And that’s when he saw it. His parents’ names. The town where he had lived with them. This beast was the very one who had killed David’s parents!
David sobbed quietly, as the pieces of the puzzle slowly came together in his mind. The previous owner of the house was the victim of the car accident, who, decades earlier, had murdered David’s own parents during the Holocaust!
It was then that the words of Rabbi Kanievsky came back to David. Destroy Amalek? David had killed none other than the murderer of his parents!
The question that was asked is, "Does Tzvi need to do teshuva (repentance) and atonement? After all, his error destroyed someone's life. What is your opinion?"

Harav Avigdor Neventhal, shlita"h: "He does not need atonement. The opposite! He should make a Yom Tov for the fact that he killed this evil man. However, he should be very careful not to get into more accidents, because you won't always find 'Amalekim'."

A follow-up question asked of the Rav:"Did Tzvi fulfill the mitzvah of destroying the nation of Amalek in the death of an Amaleki in the car accident."

The answer of the Rav:"He did not have intention to fulfill the mitzvah of destroying Amalek. He is considered a ‘mitasek’ (meaning that he did the action completely unknowingly). In Heaven it will be decided if he gets credit for the mitzvah or not. It is also not clear if the Nazis are truly Amalek. However, there is no doubt that in their wicked ways, they 'tried' to be as similar to Amalek as they possibly could."




Rabbi Daniel Kirsch
Rabbi Daniel Kirsch studied for many years at the famed Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in Jerusalem. He currently lives in Kedumim in the Shomron, where he studies at the yeshiva and teaches classes for adults. In addition, he teaches at an elementary school.
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