On Saturday, March 3, 2009, during the Sabbath prayers, Jewish worshippers listened to the portion known as Parshat Zachor (The Chapter of Remembrance). God commanded Jews to never forget the deeds of Esau’s grandson, Amalek. Oddly enough, the Amalekites survived, seemingly through the ages, to hunt down the Jews and continue their persecution because of simple compassion of the very people Amalek was born to destroy.
In Samuel 1, 15:2-3, God says, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”
Yet, when King Saul has the opportunity to do just that, he waged war against Amalek and wins, but at the request of his subjects, the cattle are spared, and worse perhaps, Saul’s misplaced mercy allows Agag, the king of the Amalekites, to live. As the poet Robert Frost said it so eloquently many thousands of years later, after two roads diverged in a yellow wood, Saul chose a path “that has made all the difference”.
Such is life when misguided kindness leads to ruin. It is a harsh lesson, and many kind souls are unable to learn, so they get themselves hurt in the end. It is good to be good, and charitable to be lenient and forgiving. The Lord’s Prayer advises dutiful Christians to “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” and Jews derive from Genesis, 20:17, that “Abraham prayed to God and God healed Abimelech“.
Yet, we learn from Amalek that we need to be cautious in how we dole out that forgiveness. Many times wolves appear in sheep’s clothing, and we fail to see them before it is too late. Yet, other times the wolves appear as they are, and we just see a cute, cuddly animal. That’s humanity, but it can bite back hard.
A true test of faith and human spirit is in the ability to measure the need to forgive and overlook transgressions, with the need to douse out the flames of the wicked.
This is but a prelude to a bigger story. Stay tuned…