Ki Seitzei: An Eternal War - Remembering 9/11
This week’s parsha, Ki Seitzi, ends with an account of the battle of Amalek against Am Yisrael (see Shemos 17). זָכוֹר, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה לְךָ עֲמָלֵק, בַּדֶּרֶךְ, בְּצֵאתְכֶם מִמִּצְרָיִם - Remember what Amalek did to you, on the way, when you were leaving Egypt; that he happened upon you on the way and he killed among you all the weak at your rear, when you were faint and exhausted, and he did not fear G-d. And it will be when Hashem, your G-d, gives you rest from your enemies all around, in the land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you as an inheritance to take possession of it, you shall wipe out the remembrance of Amalek from under the heaven - you shall not forget! (Devarim 25:17-19).
As we commemorate the anniversary (on the English calendar) of 9/11, a day engraved - nay, seared - into our collective memory, we once again remember the enemy of Amalek. In each generation, as he rears his ugly head, his form and appearance may change. Yet his goal remains the same - to attack the weak ones, וַיְזַנֵּב בְּךָ כָּל-הַנֶּחֱשָׁלִים אַחֲרֶיךָ, and to eradicate the Just Name of G-d from this world.
Rav Chaim Brisker (1853–1918) zt’l teaches (quoted by his grandson Rav Soloveitchik zt’l) that Amalek is not one specific nation or people, he is, rather any enemy in any generation who arises to destroy us. On that fateful, accursed day of 9/11, when 2,996 innocent civilians (as well as a number of unborn children) lost their lives to a vicious attack by Amalek and his ilk, we watched in horror, once again, as the enemy arose.
R’ Soloveitchik zt’l teaches, “Amalek or man-Satan is the enemy of man, and enjoys causing misery and injury to all people. Yet, Amalek is particularly preoccupied with the Jew. He hates the Jew more than anyone else. In hating the Jew, in causing suffering and pain to the Jew and inflicting harm on him, Amalek finds his greatest delight. No matter what economic-sociopolitical program man-Satan adopts - socialist, capitalist, fascist, progressive, reactionary, agnostic-secular, or religious-clerical - the hatred of the Jew is his central preoccupation.
“The Amalek story of Mosaic times repeated itself once more when the Jews in Persia discovered that man-Satan hates them, and that this hatred can erupt at any time. The mere existence of the Jew irritates man-Satan. The mere presence of the Jew provokes the wrath of Amalek. It is completely absurd, unreasonable, mad - but it is reality. The hatred that he arouses in man-Satan is capable of being translated into violence of apocalyptic proportions, into satanic attempt at total destruction.
“Haman said (Esther 5:13) וְכָל-זֶה, אֵינֶנּוּ שֹׁוֶה לִי: בְּכָל-עֵת, אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי רֹאֶה אֶת-מָרְדֳּכַי הַיְּהוּדִי--יוֹשֵׁב, בְּשַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ, and all this means nothing to me, every time I see Mordechai the Jew sitting at the palace gates. The presence of Mordechai irritated him. Haman couldn’t stand him. The best solution to the problem was to execute Mordechai - him and his entire people.
“This experience is not restricted to Diaspora Jewry, as secular Zionism would have us think. It is an integral part of the Jewish experience, a universal, all-inclusive experience. For our enemies, the problem of the State of Israel is not only of the existence of a political institution. The desire of the Arab radicals is to destroy both the state and its population” (Masores HaRav, Shemos, p.140-141).
Yaakov Morgenstern, whose sister Nancy a’h HY”D was killed on 9/11, wrote upon the fifteenth anniversary of the attack: Fifteen years ago today my whole life was changed. My dear sister Nancy, Chana Perel, was killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. My sister was a woman who loved living life to the fullest with a smile while keeping to her roots of being a proud orthodox Jewish woman. Nancy was thirty-two years old at the time and I cannot believe that today I’m forty years old. She seemed so much older, experienced and wise. Nancy was an avid skier and a top notch cyclist. She traveled all over the world to cycle in different types of settings. Places like Colorado, the Grand Canyon, Spain and Italy. All that time, no matter how difficult it would be, she ate kosher and kept Shabbos without batting an eye.
Sunday, September 16, 2001, we went to her apartment and found her prayer book which was sitting on her table still opened up to the end of the daily prayer. She must have prayed right before she ran out to work and had forgotten to close it. She may have been running late but she would always take the time to pray daily. This is just one example of what exemplified my sister, Nancy. I now use the same prayer book (http://www.onefamilytogether.org/remembering-my-sister/).
R’ S. R. Hirsch explains (Deverim 25:19): “לֹא, תִּשְׁכָּח - Do not forget this should you ever falter and, like Amalek, forget G-d and your duty, seeking only opportunities to use your superiority, in matters great or small, to the detriment of your fellow men. Do not forget this should you ever wish to forget your calling and your mission as Israel among mankind. Do not envy the laurel wreaths woven by a foolish world to the memory of successful wreckers of human happiness. Remember the tear-drenched soil from which such laurels grow. Do not forget this when you yourself will have to suffer from the brutality and violence of Amalek. Remain firm! Maintain the humanity and justice that your G-d has taught you. It is to these virtues that the future belongs. Justice and humanity will ultimately triumph over brutality and violence, and you yourself have been sent to herald and to help bring about - through your very fate and example - that triumph and that future.
“לֹא, תִּשְׁכּח - do not forget this, and so that you should not forget, זָכוֹר: from time to time refresh in your mind the memory of Amalek and what has been said to you concerning Amalek’s future.”
תהא זכרם ברוך - May the memories of the innocent fallen be for a blessing. May their souls merit rightful rest in the Eternal World of Truth. May Hashem erase the tears from upon every face and the shame of his people remove from upon the land (Yeshayahu 25:8).
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום