Today is the first yarzheit of the 8 bochurim who were murdered in the attack on Merkaz HaRav last year. On Rosh Chodesh Adar of last year, an East Jerusalem Arab gunman entered the library of the yeshiva and gunned down 8 students in cold-blood. These holy boys were killed while studying Torah, their sole crime to have been born Jews. Aged 15-21, they were committed and completely involved in Torah. As their families were plunged into the depths of mourning and sorrow, dancing and jubilation broke out in East Jerusalem, in Arab-controlled Judea and Samaria, and in Gaza. There was dancing in the streets and sweets were distributed, in celebration of the vile deed. As the Jewish nation felt the pain of this cruel attack, our enemies rejoiced in the massacre of teenagers.
The attack took place on Rosh Chodesh Adar, the first day of the month of Adar, associated with the festival of Purim. Purim commemorates the downfall of the Haman, the Persian vizier, and the foiling of his Final Solution against the Jewish people. Haman was a descendant of Amalek, the implacable enemy of the Jews. One week before Purim, on Shabbat Zachor, the Sabbath of Remembrance, we read the Torah's command to remember the evil of Amalek. The Torah commands us: "Remember what Amalek did to you on the road, on your way out of Egypt. That he encountered you on the way and cut off those lagging to your rear, when you were tired and exhausted; he did not fear G-d. And it shall come to pass, when the L-rd your G-d has given you rest from all your enemies round about, in the land which the L-rd your G-d is giving you for an inheritance to possess it, that you shall obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. Do not forget." (Deut. 25:17-19). It is an obligation to recall daily Amalek's cowardly attack on Israel.
Throughout history, thousands of nations have oppressed and persecuted Israel yet only Amalek is singled out for eternal remembrance and ultimate destruction. Why is Amalek alone to be remembered forever? Amalek was a nomadic tribe that lived in the desert. Its land was not a part of the Land of Israel and they were not threatened by Israel's advancement to Canaan. Despite this, they attacked Israel simply out of hatred and malice. They did not confront Israel head on but ambushed the rearguard, attacking the weakest and most vulnerable in the camp of Israel. This same spirit of Amalek has manifested itself time and time again in various nations throughout history, in their implacable desire to destroy Israel. The murderer, may his name be accursed, was from the seed of Amalek. His attack was so barbaric, so cruel and evil as to defy belief. To walk into a library in a house of study, a place of worship, on a holy day, and to systematically murder teenagers is an act motivated by the purest of hatred. It was not just an attack on a yeshiva, but on every synagogue and house of study, on every Jew and on the values of life and holiness which the books in that library represent.
It is a positive commandment to completely obliterate Amalek. Such a commandment seems jarring to the modern mind. Wipe out an entire people? We fail to understand that Amalek is not a physical entity but rather a concept, a national spirit. Amalek represents evil, denial of G-d and hatred of the Jewish people. Its warlike culture makes it antithetical to the message of the Torah and necessitates its destruction. The spirit of Amalek manifests itself so clearly in the gunman, the suicide bombers, the worship and glorification of death in Islamic society. To dance, give out candies and celebrate when teenagers are shot can only happen in a society completely steeped in hatred and violence. Such a savage society cannot co-exist with the Jewish people, the nation that loves and desires life and seeks peace.
Amalek shares the same numerical value as safek, meaning doubt. Amalek seeks to cause us to doubt G-d's Omnipotence, to doubt ourselves. our rights and claims to our land. When the emergency response teams entered the library, they found blood covering the pages of the Talmud. This demonstrates Amalek's utter contempt for G-d, for His commandment of life and its sanctity. The only way to overcome Amalek is by strengthening our connection to G-d and to His Torah. We must combat the doubt that Amalek seeks to sow by adding light. In the words of the Rav Kook, the founder of the yeshiva:
"The purely righteous do not complain about evil, rather they add justice.
They do not complain about heresy, rather they add faith.
They do not complain about ignorance, rather they add wisdom. "
The gunman stifled the voices of 8 young men. He tried to silence their Torah study and their good deeds. They have left behind a void of mitzvot that we need to fill, in order to defeat the darkness spread by Amalek. Let us all commit to performing an extra mitzvah such as laying tefillin, studying more Torah or giving tzedakah le'ilui nishmatam.
Remember what Amalek did to us! Evil cannot be compromised with or tolerated. It can only be wiped out. Let us remember:
Doron Mehereta, 26, of Ashdod
Ro'i Rote, 18, of Elkanah in Samaria (Shomron)
Yonadav Haim Hirschfeld, 19, of Kokhav HaShachar (Shomron)
Yochai Lipshitz, 18, of the Old City of Jerusalem
Yonatan Yitzchak Eldar, 16, of Shilo (Shomron)
Neriah Cohen, 15, of Jerusalem
Segev Pniel Avichayil, 15, of N'vei Daniel in Gush Etzion
Avraham David Moses, 16, of Efrat, Gush Etzion
May their memories be a blessing and may HaShem avenge their holy blood speedily in our days.
Yehi Zichram Baruch.
Cross-posted to Goat's Barnyard