The arrival of the Jewish Nation in Refidim soon after crossing the Sea of
Reeds brought the discovery there was no water. The masses failed this test
and, instead of praying to G-d for relief, turned on the messenger, Moshe,
with the complaint "Is G-d with us or not?" (Shemos/Exodus 17:7) While
Moshe miraculously provided the needed water, the subsequent attack by
Amalek taught them the lesson they failed to learn from the water. But
unlike other lessons learned by our forebears, the heinous crime of Amalek
is unique in the mandate that it constantly be remembered throughout
time. "G-d said to Moshe, 'Write this as a remembrance in the Book and
recite it in the ears of Yehoshua (Joshua) that I shall surely erase the
memory of Amalek from under the heavens.'" (ibid v.14) "Remember what
Amalek did to you on the way when you were leaving Egypt...It shall be
that when G-d your L-rd gives you rest from all your enemies all around,
in the Land that G-d your L-rd gives you as an inheritance to possess it,
you shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven - you shall
not forget!" (Devarim/Deuteronomy 25:17,19)
Rabbi Michel Barenbaum (1) expounds that the purpose of this mitzvah
(Divine command) is for the Jew to learn the fundamental truth of G-d's
personal engagement in the minutiae of his life. Rashi explains that the
attack was borne from the question "Is G-d with us or not?" Throughout the
Jewish battle with Amalek, while G-d's presence was hidden, it was evident
that His protection was manifest. Indeed, the entire purpose of the war
was to answer that question: salvation is exclusively in G-d's hands.
Moshe raised his hands to lift the eyes of the warriors heavenward,
engendering a focus upon their Father in Heaven. The war itself fostered
the recognition that G-d is very much amongst us. Thus, this mitzvah is
augmented with the directive to constantly remember: always remember the
lesson of the war on Amalek, always remember the answer to that question,
remember that G-d's involvement is perpetual.
The Jewish Exodus from Egypt came through eleven of the most fantastic
miracles since Creation itself. The Ten Plagues and the Splitting of the
Sea demonstrated unequivocally that nature is simply G-d's routine, daily
miracles, wondrous acts that He suspends or reverses at will. And still
they had their question of G-d's involvement. We, three millennia later,
surrounded only by His daily miracles, must maintain our focus heavenward.
The value and importance of constantly remembering Amalek is magnified.
Now, more than ever, the question is not if G-d is with us; rather, we
must ask: "Are we with G-d, or not?"
Have a Good Shabbos!
(1) 1905-2003; Mashgiach/Spiritual Mentor of Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem in
New York City