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Monday, March 1, 2010

The Sin of Being Merciful to One's Enemies

Just two days ago was Shabbat Zachor, when we're reminded to remember what Amalek did to us.  All Jews are supposed to listen to the words in the Torah that tell us what happened to the Children of Israel soon after leaving Egypt:

יז זָכוֹר, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה לְךָ עֲמָלֵק, בַּדֶּרֶךְ, בְּצֵאתְכֶם מִמִּצְרָיִם. 17 Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way as ye came forth out of Egypt;
יח אֲשֶׁר קָרְךָ בַּדֶּרֶךְ, וַיְזַנֵּב בְּךָ כָּל-הַנֶּחֱשָׁלִים אַחֲרֶיךָ--וְאַתָּה, עָיֵף וְיָגֵעַ; וְלֹא יָרֵא, אֱלֹהִים. 18 how he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, all that were enfeebled in thy rear, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God.
יט וְהָיָה בְּהָנִיחַ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לְךָ מִכָּל-אֹיְבֶיךָ מִסָּבִיב, בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה-אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ נַחֲלָה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ--תִּמְחֶה אֶת-זֵכֶר עֲמָלֵק, מִתַּחַת הַשָּׁמָיִם; לֹא, תִּשְׁכָּח. {פ} 19 Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget. {P}

The Haftara, additional Bible portion read afterwards, tells how our first king, Saul, was fired by G-d for "tweaking" the very clear orders to destroy all of Amalek's descendants and livestock.  King Saul delayed executing Agag and reserved some of the livestock for a ceremony he "composed."  When confronted by Samuel the Prophet, who was the go-between between him and G-d, Saul blamed "the people" for pressuring him to add these "innovations."  But if you read the Bible, you'll see that it's written "Saul and the people" showing that it was his decision and the people followed their king, not as he claimed.
What's recorded does not support Saul.  And even if his claim was true, he was the king, chosen by G-d, and as a leader, it was his responsibility to control the situation by influencing the nation to follow G-d's orders.
  ב כֹּה אָמַר, יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת, פָּקַדְתִּי, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה עֲמָלֵק לְיִשְׂרָאֵל--אֲשֶׁר-שָׂם לוֹ בַּדֶּרֶךְ, בַּעֲלֹתוֹ מִמִּצְרָיִם. 2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts: I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he set himself against him in the way, when he came up out of Egypt.
ג עַתָּה לֵךְ וְהִכִּיתָה אֶת-עֲמָלֵק, וְהַחֲרַמְתֶּם אֶת-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ, וְלֹא תַחְמֹל, עָלָיו; וְהֵמַתָּה מֵאִישׁ עַד-אִשָּׁה, מֵעֹלֵל וְעַד-יוֹנֵק, מִשּׁוֹר וְעַד-שֶׂה, מִגָּמָל וְעַד-חֲמוֹר. {ס} 3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.' {S}
ח וַיִּתְפֹּשׂ אֶת-אֲגַג מֶלֶךְ-עֲמָלֵק, חָי; וְאֶת-כָּל-הָעָם, הֶחֱרִים לְפִי-חָרֶב. 8 And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.
ט וַיַּחְמֹל שָׁאוּל וְהָעָם עַל-אֲגָג, וְעַל-מֵיטַב הַצֹּאן וְהַבָּקָר וְהַמִּשְׁנִים וְעַל-הַכָּרִים וְעַל-כָּל-הַטּוֹב, וְלֹא אָבוּ, הַחֲרִימָם; וְכָל-הַמְּלָאכָה נְמִבְזָה וְנָמֵס, אֹתָהּ הֶחֱרִימוּ. {פ} 9 But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, even the young of the second birth, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them; but every thing that was of no account and feeble, that they destroyed utterly. {P}
י וַיְהִי, דְּבַר-יְהוָה, אֶל-שְׁמוּאֵל, לֵאמֹר. 10 Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying:
יא נִחַמְתִּי, כִּי-הִמְלַכְתִּי אֶת-שָׁאוּל לְמֶלֶךְ--כִּי-שָׁב מֵאַחֲרַי, וְאֶת-דְּבָרַי לֹא הֵקִים; וַיִּחַר, לִשְׁמוּאֵל, וַיִּזְעַק אֶל-יְהוָה, כָּל-הַלָּיְלָה. 11 'It repenteth Me that I have set up Saul to be king; for he is turned back from following Me, and hath not performed My commandments.' And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night


I also have a problem with Samuel's behavior here.  It is said that Agag used his last night of living to impregnate his wife, and a descendant of that child was Haman.  It's written that "Samuel cried... all night."  If instead of crying he had rushed to the scene couldn't he have executed Agog before that final act?  Samuel was too attached to his protege`which paralysed him when he needed to act quickly.

Because of King Saul's sins, we're still suffering from Amalek.  And our politicians are no better than King Saul.  That's all I can think of when reading the pathetically perverse, misguided apologies by our Israeli government for injuring civilian Arabs and our allowing fuel to be pumped to Gaza despite the closure

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

we are called upon to commit genocide.
kind of puts things in perspective.

Shy Guy said...

Anonymous, what's your gripe? If you're referring to the present, then please find me a single pedigree Amalekite to kill. I think we'll stumble across a red heifer first.

If you're going back to the past at the time of the Exodus and the kingdom of Israel, then go ahead and tell G-d no.

JDL London Canada said...

Can we not learn from the past? It's an open book test ....

Batya said...

Shy, thanks for countering a.

jdl, G-d willing