It’s Parshas Zochor (Dvarim 25) this Shabbos. “There is a mitzvah in the Torah to remember Amalek and his descendants and to orally recall their iniquity. We are to tell our children in each generation what the people of Amalek did to us during our departure from Egypt. This mitzvah will be fulfilled completely only when we shall have caused Amalek's memory to perish, and their name to be erased from the world, together with the slightest remnant of anything that bears their name. (OU.org). Our attitude to Amalek is uncompromising.

On the other hand the Torah tells us, (Shmos 23(5)) If you see the ass of him that hates you lying under its burden, you shall forbear to pass by him; you shall surely release it with him. I must show a generous attitude to the one who hates me.

It occurred to me to resolve the problem like this: Zochor refers to a non-Jewish nation bent on our destruction; Shmos tells of a Jewish individual who had done something wrong to me short of destruction.

What better resolutions are possible?

  • 2
    Why do you need a better resolution than you suggested? Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 14:29
  • 2
    Indeed, Pesachim 113b says that the "enemy" spoken of in Shemos there is someone whom you know has committed a serious sin but there's not enough evidence to take to beis din (e.g., only you saw him do it, and one witness isn't enough).
    – Alex
    Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 15:48
  • @GershonGold, a sourced resolution is always better....
    – msh210
    Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 17:01
  • msh210 the question was not for a source - the question was for a better resolution. Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 17:43
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    @gershongold a sourced resolution is always a better resolution. ;-)
    – Seth J
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 1:20

2 Answers 2


The Baal HaTurim on Shemot 23:5 breaks the verse down into separate commandments for a Jewish enemy and a non-Jewish enemy:

  • non-Jewish Enemy - "You shall refrain from helping him" (as a statement, not as a question, like Rashi interprets it)
  • Jewish Enemy - "You shall surely help him"
  • I wonder what would happen if some white guys say the same thing. non white enemy 0 you shall refrain. white enemy... we would call them racists.
    – user4951
    Commented Jun 7, 2013 at 9:53
  • @JimThio: and what if someone said, "don't help any any Anti-Semetic skinhead, but do help your brother, even if you don't like him"
    – Menachem
    Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 3:39

I don't think it's really contradictory. One is on a national level, and one is on an individual level. If you find out someone is from 'Amalek and then kill him, you are guilty of murder. (I think so, anyway; I stand open to correction by the community.)

Secondly, the Mitzvah is to wipe out 'Amalek, particularly the memory of 'Amalek, not necessarily to kill every last descendant of 'Amalek. One way, of course, is war and physical annihilation, but see the RaMBa"M in this article for an interesting twist. Apparently, according to this view, what sets 'Amalek aside for destruction is not genetics per se, and not even necessarily a desire to destroy the Jewish People, but something far more fundamental; it's their rejection of HaShem and refusal to follow the 7 Noahide laws that makes them our mortal enemy. After all, remember our first encounter with them. We were weary and, at least according to one view, 'Amalek tried to take advantage of our weakness (physical and/or spiritual) to wage war with us, which indicated their fear more of our military might (then weakened) than our protection provided by HaShem, and a general disdain for our G-d.

  • Who wouldn't take advantage of the weak and weary? You mean your government don't tax you?
    – user4951
    Commented Dec 30, 2012 at 16:56
  • So we should kill tax collectors?
    – user4951
    Commented Jun 7, 2013 at 9:54

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