The end of parasha Beshalach focuses on the epic battle between our nascent nation and the marauding desert tribe of Amalek:
Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Pick men for us, and go out and fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of G-d in my hand.” Joshua did as Moses had told him, to fight against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur ascended to the top of the hill. It came to pass that when Moses would raise his hand, Israel would prevail, and when he would lay down his hand, Amalek would prevail. …
Joshua weakened Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. The L-rd said to Moses, “Inscribe this [as] a memorial in the book, and recite it into Joshua’s ears, that I will surely obliterate the remembrance of Amalek from beneath the heavens.’ Then Moses built an altar, and he named it ‘the L-rd is my miracle’.”
In sum, there was a battle between Amalek and the Jewish people fought on both the physical and spiritual planes. Joshua was the general who commanded our people’s troops, and Moses served as the viaduct through which G-d’s protective beneficence flowed.
The final pasuk — “For there is a hand on the throne of the Eternal, [that there shall be] a war for the L-rd against Amalek from generation to generation” — is difficult to understand, however, since the tribe of Amalek ceased to exist as an identifiable ethnicity thousands of years ago. If that is the case, how can there be “a war for the L-rd against Amalek from generation to generation?”
The Rav answered this question in his famous 1956 essay, “Kol Dodi Dofek,” in which he presented a seminal idea learned from his father, Rav Moshe Soloveitchik, regarding the future of the fledgling State of Israel:
Divine providence is testing us once again via the crisis that has overtaken the land of Israel. Let it be clearly stated: The matter does not just affect the political future of Israel. The designs of the Arabs are directed not just against the political sovereignty of the State of Israel but against the very existence of the yishuv in the land of Israel. They wish to destroy, heaven forbid, the entire community, “both men and women, infant and suckling, ox and sheep” (1 Samuel 15:3).
At a Mizrachi convention I cited the view expressed by my father and master of blessed memory, that the proclamation, “The L-rd will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Exodus 17:16) does not only translate into the communal exercise of waging obligatory war against a specific race but includes as well the obligation to rise up as a community against any people or group that, filled with maniacal hatred, directs its enmity against Kenneset Israel.”
The Rav continued his development of the concept of Hashem’s war against Amalek by noting that our enemy is not a time-bound genealogically homogeneous entity, but rather, any group whose purpose and goal is the destruction of klal Yisrael.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the Nazis, with Hitler at their head, filled this role. They were the Amalekites, the standard-bearers of insane hatred and enmity during the era just past.
According to the opinion of Rav Moshe Soloveitchik, as presented and elaborated upon by the Rav, Amalek is not a tribe. Amalek is, instead, a state of mind. Consequently, Amalek has existed since time immemorial and, unfortunately, will continue to exist until Mashiach Tzidkanu arrives and destroys this force of evil in the world.
Anti-Semitism, and the denial of the existence and supremacy of Hashem, are the principles by which Amalek lives. Moreover, Amalek has one undeniable goal: to destroy each and every one of the Jewish people so that G-d’s name, chas v’shalom, would be obliterated from the world.
Therefore, we must ever be vigilant and stand shoulder to shoulder to ensure the physical and spiritual safety of our fellow Jews, wherever they may be. Perhaps, then, no truer expression was ever spoken by Chazal than kol Yisrael arevim zeh l’zeh (all of the Jewish people are responsible for one another).
May these words, in our hearts and on our lips, serve as a beacon of light and a call to action forevermore. V’chane yihi ratzon.