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    Old hat

    The Amalekites attacking the Israelites, by Gerard Hoet, 1728

    The Amalekites attacking the Israelites, by Gerard Hoet, 1728

    Meeting Amalek was no pleasure for the Israelites.

    He was an implacable enemy who sought to frustrate the people’s passage to the Promised Land.

    It took time to vanquish him, and – so some people might suggest – now that the struggle is long over there is really no reason to harp on it.

    The Torah disagrees. Amalek has to be remembered throughout history (Deut. 25:17). Indeed, “The Lord has war with Amalek in every generation” (Ex. 17:16).

    In Moses’s time, Amalek was the type of a cruel, callous, cowardly enemy who attacked not the strong, able-bodied young men but the old, weak and sick who made up the tail end of the Israelite column.

    In another generation the Amalek-spirit took a different form; the sages said, “Amalek takes off one hat and puts on another”.

    Tragically, it is not only the Amalek-attacks from outside which are a constant problem for the people of Israel: there is an internal Amalek too, who subverts Jewish unity and grins as he pits one Jew against another.

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