It was a battle for the ages. As the Jews departed Egypt and miraculously
crossed the Red Sea, they were brutally and savagely ambushed by Amalek, a
nation who would prove to be the perpetual nemesis of the Jewish People
until this very day. The nation of Amalek repeated their malice again
during the Israelites' trek in the desert after the death of Ahron. At
that time, they posed as Canaanites and once again tried to defeat the Jews
(Numbers 21:1). Both times they were repelled. Amalek's venom spewed
throughout history. Eventually, Amalek's direct descendant, Haman, would
unsuccessfully try his hand at the total annihilation of our nation during
the era between the destruction of the first Holy Temple and the rebuilding
of the second Temple.
It therefore is no surprise that historians and scholars alike have traced
the German butchers of World War II as descendants of the Amalekites.
But history did not have to be repeated. Amalek could have been quashed at
the beginning of his ruthless career. After the first ambush, Hashem gave
specific instructions on how the Jewish nation must deal with Amalek. The
directive was not pretty. It entailed war, but following the directives
precisely would have prevented generations of bloodshed and preserved
millions of Jewish lives throughout our history.
The failure to fulfill them in toto would lead to the Jewish People's
eventual and constant persecution, even attempted annihilation. The plans
were so precise that instructions were given as to how the directive was
supposed to be transmitted. Yes, even the instructions were given with
"Hashem said to Moshe, 'Write this as a remembrance in the Book and put it
in the ears of Yehoshua (Joshua) that I shall surely erase the memory of
Amalek from under the heavens' " (Exodus 17:14).
And so Moshe is told to instruct Joshua, his warrior, in no uncertain terms
how the Jewish nation must deal with those who sought to abort their growth
only days from their triumphant emergence from the parted waters of the Red
Sea. He is told write it down and then place it in the ears of Joshua.
What troubles me is the double directive. The entire Torah was either
written or transmitted orally. The Torah hardly ever tells Moshe to do
both write and transmit orally. Wasn't the entire Torah written and
taught? Why, then, when it comes to this particular command does the Torah
instruct both a written and verbal instruction, the latter to be placed
directly into the ear of Joshua?
Towards the end of last year, a Judge in Denver Colorado was presiding over
a civil trial when she noticed that a screw must have fallen out of the
Venetian blinds over a window on the right side of the courtroom, and they
were beginning to give way. As the window treatments were suspended
directly over the jury box, the judge was concerned. A screw must have
fallen out and the shades were beginning to tilt precariously.
She did not want to interrupt the testimony of one of the litigants, and
quickly scribbled a note and motioned for the court officer.
With a look of concern, and without even directing her attention toward
him, she handed the note to the court officer.
The officer looked at the note and immediately raced from the courtroom for
assistance. Within minutes, an ambulance, sirens blaring, screeched to a
halt in front of the courthouse. The paramedics raced to the courtroom,
stretcher opened, fully prepared to treat a stroke victim.
The startled Judge looked up in horror as she protested the onslaught of
medics - until they handed her the note, she had given the court officer.
In her own hand it read, "Blind on the right side. Send for immediate
Instructions that deal in life or death situations can be easily
misconstrued. Wars have been fought, lives have been lost, and nations
defeated due to homonymic misinterpretations. The formidable foes were on
the verge of defeat all too often in Jewish history when misplaced
compassion led to progenitors who returned the Jewish kindness with
murderous onslaught. And so, writing messages or telling stories were not
enough. The message had to be oral and written, spoken and recorded,
documented and preserved. For hatred and evil must be eradicated - in our
minds, in our mouths, with our ears, and with our quills.
(c)1999 Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
Dedicated in memory of Rose Horn Felig by Dr. & Mrs. Philip Felig