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D'var Torah: Amalek

"And God said to Moses, 'write this remembrance in a scroll and place it in the ears of Yehoshua (Joshua), for I will wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens"(Shemot/Exodus 17:14)



1) What is the command to 'write this remembrance' that the Torah refers to? 2) What is the scroll (sefer) referred to in the pasuq (verse)? 3) What is the meaning of the reference to Yehoshua?


1) According to Rashi, the premier Torah commentator, the command requires writing about the Amalekites who attacked the Jewish people. The commentary of Seforno offers a different explanation that it refers to the passage of ‘Zachor’ later on in the Torah (Devarim/Deuteronomy chapter 25) which contains the command to remember what Amalek did to the Jewish people and a commandment to wipe out Amalek. Our verse is the command to record this incident whilst the verses in Devarim fulfil that command.

Why were the verses in Devarim written so much later in the Torah and not on the spot here? (See part 3 for a suggestion.)

2) Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra, in the second part of his commentary, offers a different explanation. He suggests that the ‘scroll’ referred to in the Torah is a special scroll designated to record this event. This scroll would either be the Sefer Torah itself or alternatively refers to a specific scroll similar to others mentioned in the Torah, such as the ‘scroll of the wars of God’ (Bemidbar/Numbers 21:14). These specific scrolls are no longer extant.

Rabbi Moses ben Nachman (aka Ramban), in his commentary, explains that the scroll referred to here is the Sefer Torah itself. He suggests this by comparing the language here to that used similarly in verses in Devarim/Deuteronomy.

3) As noted above, the Torah commands the eradication of Amalek. Looking through the Tenach (Bible = Torah, Nevi’im/prophets, Ketuvim/Writings), it is not immediately clear if Amalaiq is a specific nation, a specific person, or simply a floating enemy of the Jewish people, especially as Amalekhas no other direct contact with the Jewish people in the desert, not crossing swords until Sefer Shofetim (the book of Judges).

According to R’Ibn Ezra, Yehoshua has to hear about this written remembrance of the events of Amalek as he will lead the people into the Land of Israel, presumably when they will have a chance to eradicate Amalek.

Ramban suggests that the mitzva (commandment) of eradicating Amalek started to apply once the Jews settled in Israel. This view appears to be based on pesuqim/verses in Devarim chapter 19 and the Talmud (main body of Jewish law) in Masechet/Tractate Sanhedrin 20b.

It also explains why the command to wipe out Amalekis placed in the book of Devarim. Since Yehoshua had to deal with Amalek, it makes sense to teach the injunction about this just before the Jews go into Israel under Yehoshua’s leadership.


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