Torat HaMoadim: The War against Amalek, and Monarchy in Israel (Part Two)

 In honor of Purim, notes from מלחמת עמלק ומלכות ישראל by Rav Shlomo Goren zt”l

“You Shall Blot Out” – The Kingship of Israel, “I Will Blot Out” – The Messianic Age

Continued from here.

Rav Goren brings a different approach from Midrash Ha-Hefetz, which is a fifteenth century commentary on the Torah and Haftarot by R. Zechariah ben Shlomo Ha-Rofe.  According to Midrash Ha-Hefetz, as long as Israel has the ability to destroy Amalek, the obligation is upon her as stated in the book of Deuteronomy.  But if Israel loses the capacity, then God will carry out the destruction, as indicated in the Exodus passage.

There is an undeniable logic to the point of view of the midrash, Rav Goren notes, in that the passage in Exodus and its exclamation כי יד על כס י”ה (“Hand upon the throne!”) has messianic overtones. In Midrash Pesikta Rabbati (Siman 9) there is:

Levi said in the name of R. Hamma son of R. Hanina:  As long as the seed of Amalek is extant, the Holy Name is not complete and the throne is not complete; when the seed of Amalek is uprooted, then the throne is complete and the Holy Name is complete.

This places the verse in the context of the messianic era and Rashi glosses it similarly in his commentary on the Torah.  So we have an explanation which holds  that the passage in Exodus (“I will blot out”) refers to the ultimate heavenly destruction of Amalek – which cannot be in the hands of creatures of flesh and blood – but beforehand the obligation (“You shall blot out”) is on Israel to destroy Amalek.

While acknowledging the strength of this solution, Rav Goren concludes that we nevertheless cannot accept it:

“It is very difficult to assume that the promise in Exodus [“I will blot out”] was given with the understanding that Israel wouldn’t or couldn’t fulfill the mitzvah on her own.  Why would God command Moshe:  “Inscribe this in a document as a reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua”?  As Rashi notes on that verse:  “[Joshua] was the one who would bring Israel into the Land, who would command Israel to deal out recompense.”  The point is that Joshua will command thus to Israel at the time they enter the Land which means that the verse is not about the messianic age.  Moreover, it would be appropriate for the Torah to first command Israel on her obligation, and only after she was shown unable to do it would the promise “I will blot out” be necessary for some future time, rather than starting at once with the assumption that it is impossible as if Israel has no ability.”

To be continued.

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