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Chumash    Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer    Tanchuma

(5736) The remembrance of Amalek and its connection to the remembrance of Shabbat (Tanchuma 7,Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer 44)


1. At the conclusion of the Parsha on the verses:

·         You shall remember what Amalek did to you on the way, when you went out of Egypt (v.17)

·         You shall not forget! (v.19)

The Sages say that: ‘'Remember‘ is “with your mouths” and ‘Do not forget’ is “In your hearts”

Similarly it states in Torat Kohanim on the verse: “Remember the Shabbat day to keep it holy”

“One might think that this is in your heart, yet when it says “keep” – this refers to ‘keeping it’ in your heart. How then do I fulfill “Remember”? That it should be learned with your mouth”

The comparison between Shabbat and remembering the deeds of Amalek are also found in the time of the remembrance:

Concerning the remembrance of Amalek, Rambam states:

“It is a positive commandment to constantly remember their evil deeds and their ambush of Israel to arouse our hatred of them, as it (v.17) states: 'Remember what Amalek did to you.'” (And he then adds: “The Oral Tradition teaches: ...Remember' - with your mouths; ...Do not forget' - in your hearts.')

 Thus, “Remember what Amalek did to you“ is a constant Mitzvah.

[And even according to the opinions which hold that the Mitzvah of  remembering Amalek is a one-time obligation, or once a year etc., one could say that even they hold that when one remembers the deeds of Amalek every day, that each time is (the fulfillment of a) Biblical Mitzvah.]

We also find this regarding the remembrance of Shabbat, whose main aspect is: “Remember the Shabbat day to keep it holy” – on the day of Shabbat. However Ramban states “according to Pshat” that the verse: “Remember the Shabbat day to keep it holy” – is a Mitzvah in that we should constantly remember the Shabbat - each day”

2. According to the aforementioned, one could also add an explanation to that which is cited in Tanchuma on the verse: “Remember what Amalek did to you”:

“Here it is written ‘Remember’ and on Shabbat it is written ‘Remember’. Are they both the same? (questioningly) – Shlomo said etc.”

It is also stated in Pirkei d’Rebbi Eliezar that:

 ”When Moshe Rabbeinu said: ‘Remember what Amalek did to you on the way, when you went out of Egypt’, the Israelites said to him: ‘Moshe Rabbeinu, one verse states: ‘‘Remember what Amalek did to you’ and another verse states: ‘Remember the Shabbat day to keep it holy’. How can we fulfill both of them, this remembrance and the other remembrance?” –

For concerning the remembrance of Shabbat as well as the remembrance of Amalek the:           

1)      The verbal remembrance ( in addition to the remembrance in the heart)

2)      And the constant remembrance

are both equal

Therefore, they asked: “How can we fulfill both of them?” since (according to this view) both of them are constant Mitzvot.

However, truthfully, one cannot explain it so.

For, on the contrary, we find other things that must be remembered each day ( e.g. Remembering the Exodus from Egypt etc.). Therefore it is understood that even when two (or more) remembrances are ‘constant’ Mitzvot (Mitzvot temidiot), one does not conflict with the other, for there is room for two or more (concurrent) remembrances.

[The verbal remembrance is simple (to understand), because this does not need to be every second of the day.  But also concerning the remembrance of the heart - even if one were to hold that that this must be constantly in his heart – it is not a contradiction to having another constant remembrance in one’s heart. And the proof is that there are Six Mitzvot that the Sefer HaChinuch states that are: “Obligatory constantly, a person may not cease (remembering them) even for a moment, every day of one’s life”]

3. One must also understand the answer of Mosher Rabbeinu cited in the Pirkei d’Rebbi Eliezar:

“Moshe said to them: ‘A cup (kos) of spiced wine is not comparable to a cup of vinegar – this is a cup and that is a cup, (This is:) Remember to keep and sanctify the Shabbat day as it says: ‘Remember the Shabbat day to keep it holy’ and that (Amalek) is a remembrance of retribution” –

(The questions on this are:)

1)      How is the question – ‘how can both remembrances coexist simultaneously’ – resolved by Moshe’s answer?

2)      What is the nature of the comparison of a cup of spiced wine and vinegar?

3)      Why are the precise words: “this is a cup and that is a cup” used?

4)      What is Moshe Rabbeinu innovating that Shabbat is: “Remember to keep and sanctify etc.” and  (that Amalek) is a “a remembrance of retribution” – It is clear in the commands, from the onset, that the purpose of  remembering Amalek is the opposite of: “Remember the Shabbat day”?

4. The explanation is:

In Mitzvot generally, there are three categories:

·         Mitzvot of deed

·         Mitzvot of speech

·         Mitzvot of thought

And the completeness in fulfilling a Mitzvah is when the Mitzvah of deed also incorporates a person’s intent (kavanah) and thought. Also the opposite, the Mitzvot of speech and thought should influence a person, so much so (that it will come) to actual deed.

This is similar to faith in one’s heart (emunah shebeLev) – which must effect fulfilling all the Mitzvot , as the Sages say: “Chabakuk who came and based them all on one (principle), as it is said, But the righteous shall live by his faith”.

Among these Mitzvot ( of speech and thought) itself, the Mitzvot whose aspect is remembering are differentiated – for even when the remembrance must be with speech, the nature and purpose of it is the person’s thought and intent.

True remembrance is not through mentioning verbally (or with thought – that is fleeting), the subject that is to be remembered. But rather, the remembrance should encompass (dernemen) one’s entire bring (mehus). He relives the thing that he remembers. And this is also understood from the wording of Rambam concerning the remembrance of Amalek. that it must bring one to a state where “the people are awakened, from the verses, to fight him”.

Therefore the question arises:

How can a remembrance (a state where souls are awakened) be associated with two opposite things – Shabbat and Amalek?

One can understand, if it is referring to the six mentioned Mitzvot – Faith in G-d, love and fear of Him etc., that it is fitting to have a constant remembering that includes them all together – since they all have the same type and theme (which is connecting to G-d through faith, love and fear etc.)

However, Shabbat and Amalek are by their very nature, extremely far from each other. So much so, that they are opposites - from one spectrum to the other.

The theme of remembering the day of Shabbat is (as Ramban writes) that through it:

“It will at all times remind us of the Creation (ma’asei bereshit) and we will forever acknowledge that the universe has a Creator’. And as the Chinuch states: “It is set in our hearts, the belief in the innovation of the world, that in six days G-d made etc.”

This means that the remembrance of the Shabbat day, resides in that one constantly remembers that G-d created the world and that He constantly renews Creation every day. Therefore it is understood that in the remembering, one senses (derher) and feels that that G-d is the Ruler and Master (ba’al HaBayit) of the world and over everything that is in the world.

Amalek‘s aspect is (described by the) well known saying: “(Amalek) knows his Master and consciously rebels against Him”. This means that not only is Amalek aware of the existence of G-d, but that he also knows that G-d is his Master (Ribono), a Master (ba’al HaBayit) over him, over the world.

Yet nevertheless, he “consciously rebels against Him.” His entire intent and activity is to rebel against G-dliness, to negate the Sovereignty of G-d.

Therefore, when a Jew must have the remembrance of Amalek, even though the intent in it is to negate the aspect of Amalek –

For clearly, the purpose of “Remember what he did” is to: “obliterate the remembrance of Amalek”

it must still be felt (heren) in one’s remembrance, that according to Torah, there is an existence of a rebellion (meridah) against G-d (which enables the existence of the Mitzvah to “obliterate”). It is a remembrance that is the opposite of the remembrance of Shabbat.

Therefore, this is what the Israelites claimed: “How can we fulfill both of them, this remembrance and the other’s remembrance?”

(In other words:) Since there must be a truthful remembrance for both of them, how can the two different extremes coexist:

·         The remembrance of the Shabbat day, which must permeate the entire essence of a Jew with the feeling that G-d is the Master over the entire world.

·         And together with this, the truthful remembrance that there is an existence of Amalek, who rebels against the sovereignty of G-d over the world.

5. To this claim, Moshe Rabbeinu answered:

“A cup (kos) of spiced wine is not comparable to a cup of vinegar – this is a cup and that is a cup, (This is:) Remember to keep and sanctify the Shabbat day as it says: ‘Remember the Shabbat day to keep it holy’ and that (Amalek) is a remembrance of retribution”

The explanation is:

Vinegar has two opposite properties:

·         It is not suitable for drinking.

·         On the other hand, the Sages state that: “Vinegar restores the soul”.

Moreover, we find in many places that vinegar is not considered an entity in and of itself, but rather an entity that is derived from wine.

In Pnimiyut this means:

Even Amalek (vinegar) has a root in holiness. For this itself, that there can exist an entity that “consciously rebels against Him”,

when the reality is that: “There in none besides Him”

is (only) because of G-d’s power, in that He is Omnipotent (kol yachol) (and allows it).

However, the revelation of this G-dly source of Amalek, comes about through nullifying and erasing the “consciously rebels against Him” (aspect) of Amalek – (Then) the inner source (of Amalek) is revealed, that, even such a thing as “consciously rebels against Him” is not a contradiction to G-dliness.

This can be illuminated (yumtak) – in conjunction with the principle: “Everything that G-d forbade, has a counterpart that He permitted” – For we find a semblance (me'ein) of this (rebellion), in contrast (lehavdil) in Kedusha (holiness):

“They were disputing in the Heavenly Academy etc. (a case of leprosy) - the Holy One, blessed be He, ruled etc., whilst the entire Heavenly Academy maintained etc.”.

This, therefore, is what Moshe meant by saying: “A cup (kos) of spiced wine is not comparable to a cup of vinegar – this is a cup and that is a cup”.

The reason that there can coexist the remembrance of Amalek together with the remembrance of the Shabbat day is because both are an aspect of cup (kos) – a receptacle that can receive the revelation of holiness and G-dliness.

For even Amalek has a root in holiness, as aforementioned. Yet, nevertheless: ”‘They are not comparable. (This is:) Remember to keep and sanctify the Shabbat day as it says: ‘Remember the Shabbat day to keep it holy’ and that (Amalek) is a remembrance of retribution”

This means that the revelation of G-dliness in remembering Shabbat is intrinsically in Shabbat itself (as Moshe Rabbeinu said): “Remember to keep and sanctify the Shabbat day” - the remembrance (zachor) itself effects the holiness, the revelation of the unity of G-d.

However, the revelation of G-dliness in remembering Amalek is effected, specifically through remembrance of retribution, through crushing and nullifying the actions of “consciously rebelling against Him”.

(Only) then is the “cup of vinegar“ revealed. That even vinegar becomes a thing that restores (reveals) the soul. For specifically through ‘remembering’ Amalek, it becomes revealed that even the aspect of Amalek comes (specifically) from the infinite power (koach bli gevul) of G-dliness.

This is based and fits with the explanation of the Alter Rebbe in Tanya that there are: “two types of Divine pleasure (nachas ruach)”, just as there are two types of delicacies:

·         From sweet and luscious foods

·         and the other of sharp or sour foods, but they have been “well spiced and prepared so that they become delicacies which revive the soul” 

This is indicated in the verse: “’The L-rd has made everything for His sake; even the wicked for the day of evil.’ This means, that he should repent of his evil, and turn his evil into “day” and light above”

This means that even the “acts” (paol) of the wicked, which, even these, are the acts of G-d, is in order that: “he should repent of his evil, and turn his evil into “day” and light above”

6. There is a lesson from this for every Jew in his Avodah, from two perspectives:

When a Jew stands in a higher level, a level of Shabbat, which is holy to G-d, he could think that he does not need to be, at all, careful, since he is at a holy level, and he does not need to deal with mundane matters (uvdin d’chol) – The lesson, however, is that together with Shabbat, there must be the remembrance of Amalek. For since Amalek has a root in holiness, even when one stands in a high state and status, one must be extra vigilant , to aver the klipah of Amalek – a motion (however slight, for example” “shown by gesture” etc.) of rebellion against G-d.

On the other hand:

Even a Jew who thinks that he has fallen so low, so much so, that he is at the level of Amalek, must not lose hope and must realize that since, even Amalek, has a root in holiness, he can (also) make from himself a “cup of vinegar” which will restore the soul - and as much as the greatness of light from darkness (yisron haOr min haChoshech). Therefore, (there is also) this lesson, that even he cannot just remain at (the level of)  ‘Remember Amalek’ (a remembrance of retribution), but that, in conjunction, there must be “Remember to keep and sanctify the Shabbat day” – the level of holy to G-d – and even more so, that he sanctifies the Shabbat day, more than Shabbat is "permanently sanctified" (miKadsha v’Kaima).

(mSichas Shabbat Parshat Tetzaveh, Parshat Zachor, 5732 )



Gutnick Chumash pp. 221
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