Ki Tetsay. (Deutoronomy 21:10 - 25:19)

The parasha ends with the troublesome warning about Amalek.  The Israelites are to destroy the Amalekites for a surprise attack that killed off  the stragglers, the hungry and and the tired, during the march from Egypt.

Initially, this would seem straightforward enough. Amalek has acted in an unethical way on the field of battle and so the victims must be avenged.  The Israelites are instructed to “blot out the memory of Amalek from under Heaven.” (Deut. 25:19)

Over time, in the Jewish tradition, Amalek has become the symbol of murderous, genocidal anti-semites,  These include the villainous Haman in Esther, and Adolph Hitler.   On Purim, in fact, this warning about Amalek is read in synagogues.  The thought is that we are compelled to destroy those who would destroy us.

But there is a troubling question. Is it appropriate to completely destroy

a people out of self-defense, vengeance, or fear?  

Let’s take the Nazis.  The Nazis murdered millions of Europeans, including 6,000,000 Jews.  They used as a rationale the threat to their pure race posed by so called inferior races.  How to deal with this unspeakable evil?  When the Nazis were defeated in battle, their leaders were tried in the first war crimes tribunal at Nuremberg, and were hung.  In this way, the Nazi state was, and should have been, destroyed.  

But the defeated German people were not all murdered in a genocide.  Should they have been?  If so, would we ever have experienced how close Germany has become to the State of Israel?  Without forgiveness, how can there be redemption?

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