Parashat Zachor, the section that appears at the conclusion of our parasha, and which presents the obligation to remember Amalek’s attack against Benei Yisrael, is among the most important sections in the entire Torah. It is of such importance that there rests upon each and every one of us an obligation to hear the reading of this parasha once a year, thereby fulfilling the obligation to eradicate the nation of Amalek.
The question arises in this context, why did the Torah view Amalek as the eternal enemy of the Jewish people? After all, we find throughout the Torah many other nations that also waged war against Am Yisrael, peoples who sought to destroy us and deny us our existence.
In order to answer this question, we must, in my humble opinion, carefully examine two terms that appear in virtually every instance in Tanach where we find mention of Amalek. I refer to the term “mikreh” (happenstance, coincidence), which comes up repeatedly in the context of Amalek, and the word “machar” (tomorrow), which we often find in reference to the Jewish people.
Let us survey these instances and then assess their significance:
1. In the first battle against Amalek, Moshe asks Yehoshua, “Moshe said to Yehoshua… go fight against Amalek tomorrow…“ (Shemot 16:9).
2. At the end of our parasha, Hashem commands us never to forget what Amalek did: “… that they chanced upon you along the way” (Rashi explains the word “karcha” as a derivative of the word “mikreh”).
3. King David battled against the Amalekites who plundered his city of Tziklag: “David smote them from morning until evening on the following day“ (Shemuel I 30:17).
4. A young Amalekite informs David that he killed Shaul on MountGilboa: “The youngster who informed him said to him: ‘Ihappened to have been on MountGilboa…”(Shemuel II 1:6).
5. In Megillat Ester we meet the descendant of the Amalekite king, Aggag – Haman. Ester invites Haman to her feast and says: “If it pleases the king… the king and Haman shall come to the feast that I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king requests.”
6. Mordechai, dressed in sackcloth, sends the royal messenger Hatach to tell Ester of the edict against the Jews: “Mordechai told him all that happened to him… “
We thus find numerous sources related to Amalek, and they all make reference to one of these concepts – “machar” or “mikreh.” I believe that these two concepts can help us answer the question with which we began.
The Torah affords great importance to the perpetuation of the memory of Amalek’s attack because Amalek, by its very essence, expresses the notion of “mikreh” – happenstance. “Mikreh” in effect means the absence of Hashem’s providence in the world. Amalek represents coincidence – the lack of faith in hashgacha peratit – divine providence, the belief that no being oversees world affairs, everything happens here purely by coincidence. Of this the Torah wishes to remind us every year; it is forbidden for us to allow “Amalekism,” the theology of “mikreh,” to take hold.
In contradistinction to the Amalekite “mikreh” is the Jewish “machar.” “Tomorrow” expresses the hope, the hashgacha, the idea that there is Someone in the heavens who looks after each and every one of His creatures on earth. “Machar” is the notion that there is something for which to wake up in the morning, the world does not progress at random, without a guiding hand. Everything is foreseen from the outset, and we are granted the power to act as we wish. “Machar” is about our free will to decide what to achieve, what to make of our lives.