What is the Avodah of remembering Amalek today?

furthermore, what represents Amalek in present day, is it the internal battle between good vs bad?

Please cite any sources quoted (links are preferred)

  • 1
    Rav Mattis Weinberg (iirc) and others explain that nowadays the remnant of Amalek that we have to constantly be aware of is their ideology. Effectively, their ideology is that nothing matters. They "happened" upon Benei Yisrael in the desert, it was just a happenstance, just like everything else, nothing special, no meaning, no purpose, nothing special, just like everything in life (ch'v). As Jews we stand for the opposite; everything matters, we should care about goodness and truth and Hashem's plan; everything is filled with infinite meaning and purpose.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    May 24 at 16:00
  • @RabbiKaii Please post your answer in an answer post
    – Isaac Moses
    May 24 at 16:05
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    @IsaacMoses I am currently getting in touch with the person who taught me this and finding out more information so I have something to substantiate what I said, and then I will bli neder
    – Rabbi Kaii
    May 24 at 16:06
  • @RabbiKaii so basically amalekites are nihilists?😂 May 24 at 16:26
  • @RabbiKaii the concept you mentioned is brought in the Sefas Emes
    – Dov
    May 24 at 16:48

1 Answer 1


By way of introduction it is worth noting that the mitzvah and its relevance to today is the basis of an argument based on the Rambam...

The Rambam lists 2 similar laws in Hilchos Melachim UMilchamos.

In Mishna 4 he explains that there is a mitzvah to destroy the seven nations who inhabited the land of Israel in the times of Yehoshua. The Rambam observes:

וְכָל שֶׁבָּא לְיָדוֹ אֶחָד מֵהֶן וְלֹא הֲרָגוֹ עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כ טז) לֹא תְחַיֶּה כָּל נְשָׁמָה...

Anyone who has the potential to kill them and doesn’t, has transgressed a negative commandment (Devarim 20:16) - "Do not let a soul remain alive".

However he importantly concludes:

וּכְבָר אָבַד זִכְרָם

“Their memory has already been lost”.

The Radbaz adds that the Assyrian General Sancheiriv, who conquered the tribes of Israel, literally, ‘mixed up the world’. This suggests that Sancheiriv destroyed the identities of the various nations and we can no longer define who belongs to one of the seven nations. As such, this command may now be deemed obsolete. Yet, in the following Mishnah where the Rambam recalls the mitzvah to erase Amalek, he makes no mention of whether this command is applicable nowadays. Therefore, the implication is that since the Rambam says nothing, it must still apply nowadays.

The Haghos Maimonis suggests that this requirement to wipe out Amalek is only relevant in the days of Moshiach:

מצוה זו אינה נוהגת עד ימות המשיח לאחר כיבוש הארץ

Yet, this observation is quickly rejected by the Radbaz who points to the episode that happened with Shaul HaMelech. It was during Shaul’s reign as king, that Shmuel Hanavi told Shaul to attack the Amalekite kingdom and wipe it out – men, women, children and every single animal. As a result Shaul assembled a large army and began his campaign. However, along the way, Shaul faltered, and took pity on Agag, the Amalekite king and his wife. Instead of killing them he imprisoned them until he could confer with Shmuel. Upon hearing, Shmuel told Shaul that he had effectively forfeited his kingdom. When Shaul returned, Agag’s wife eventually escaped and would give birth to a child who would be the ancestor of Haman. The Radbaz proves from this case that Shaul was evidently criticized for not completely destroying Amalek and this was clearly before the days of Moshiach. Indeed, this serves to underscore the point that destroying Amalek is still applicable.

So back to square one - how to do it today?

The Sefas Emes on Parshas Zachor suggests that the way we are to confront the concept of Amalek is to focus on the very word we are commanded with – זָכוֹר. It is not enough to translate זָכוֹר as merely the need to remember. The Sefas Emes writes:

ועיקר פי' זכירה הוא פנימיות החיות

The essence of remembrance is a person’s inner vibrancy.

This means that the only way we can erase Amalek from the world is to be constantly aware that enemies exist. It is not enough to just recall past events, rather, we must consciously keep it in our minds and not let the memories fade. By being vigilant, we will ensure that steps are taken to prevent such enemies from arising again, and this in turn, will stifle their very survival.

In response to the difficulty with the Rambam, Rav Chaim Soloveitchik answers that the reason why the Rambam does not mention anything about the relevance of the mitzvah to wipe out Amalek, is because unlike the nations that inhabited the land of Israel, Amalek still exists today. However, it is not necessarily the exact biological descendants of Amalek but rather any person or nation who wishes the Jewish people harm. Thus, any nation who acts with cruelty to the Jewish people is considered to come under the term "עמלק" and there is a Mitzvah to destroy them. As a result, the Rambam was not concerned about the fact that Amalek may not be identifiable since there are many ‘Amaleks’ that exist in the world and the mitzvah still stands. Having said this though, classifying Amalek is something that can only come from the gedolei yisroel and it is not in our hands to make our own definitions.

  • Regarding the comment from the Radbaz regarding Shaul HaMelech, it was through this act by Shaul HaMelech that we can say קיימו מה שקבלו (Shevuot 39a). Fulfillment of the obligation is the primary thing. And it should be remembered that Moshe Rabbeinu, Yehoshua ben Nun and even David HaMelech also failed in completely wiping out Amalek. May 24 at 19:30

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