The biblical figure Amalek has been considered to be the archetype of all those evil leaders throughout Jewish history who have tried to destroy us. Amalek was one of the descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau. As King of the Amalekites, he made it his goal to destroy the Israelites as he ruthlessly attacked them at their weakest points, including attacking the enfeebled, and the children. We, therefore, are commanded to “blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven” as we will also never forget him. (Deuteronomy 25:19) We are to give him no honor but only disgrace.
It is from this biblical commandment to blot out Amalek’s name that the custom arose to use grogers, noisemakers, during Purim whenever we hear the name of the evil Haman mentioned during the chanting of the Megillah of Esther. Similarly, there is the custom, whenever mentioning the names of any of those who have tried to destroy the Jewish people, including and particularly Hitler, that the words Yimakh Shemo, “May his name and his memory be erased”, are said after the name is mentioned.
I would dare say that we should add the name of Vladimir Putin, Yimakh shemo, to this list of those evil men who not only have attempted to destroy the Jewish people but humankind as well.
Is saying these words after mentioning the name of Putin enough in light of the atrocities that are being committed in the Ukraine? Of course not!
Although prayer for an end to the conflict and a restoring of peace in the area is a valuable and beneficial action but going beyond words is always even of greater benefit. Certainly making donations to the various organizations that are helping the Ukranians directly, as well as the many organizations that are assisting the refugees wherever they are now living, including in Israel, is also very important.
Where, however, does our strength come to take all or any of these actions and make them most effective? It comes from community and our standing together against the evil that is being perpetrated in our world today, in the Ukraine and in other places as well.
In the Torah (Exodus 17:8-13), the battle against Amalek and the Amalekites is described. Moses is standing above the valley where the battle will take place and is instructed by God to keep his arms raised during the battle. He is told that as long as his arms remain raised, the Israelites will be victorious, but the moment he drops them, they will be defeated. Moses questions God’s instructions, wondering how any human being could hold up his arms for such a length of time. God responds by saying to him that this is the reason why there will be his brother Aaron and relative Hur to be at his side, so that if and when his arms begin to drop, they will be there to hold them up.
During these difficult and trying times that we of the Jewish community, and also all good people of the world, are going through, more than ever we need each other. We need each other for prayer, for comfort, and for support. We need each other to make donations to those organizations that will help those in need for the more WE ALL give the more moneys will be available to do good.
We also need to be present in synagogue, either in-person or virtually, to hear the Megillah of Esther this Purim and with One united voice shout down the name of Haman. We need to be together to shout down the noise of war in the Ukraine and, God willing, allow the voice of Shalom to ring out!
Rabbi Dr. Steven A Moss is Rabbi Emeritus of B’nai Israel Reform Temple in Oakdale, NY, a synagogue he has served since 1972. He recently retired to Boynton Beach, FL, and is serving as rabbi of Temple Sinai of Palm Beach County. He has also authored, God Is With Me; I Have No Fear, and A Poetical Journey Through Sefirat HaOmer.