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    Blot out his name – Ki Tetzei

    The law of yibbum requires the childless widow of an Israelite to marry her husband’s brother in order to prevent her first husband’s name from being “blotted out from Israel” (Deut. 25:6).

    For a name to be lost is a tragedy (Judaism cannot concur with Shakespeare’s light-hearted “What’s in a name?”). This is the motivation behind the careful recording of the names of Holocaust victims.

    The opposite applies to an enemy, who may be referred to with the words, “May his name be blotted out” (yimmach sh’mo). The final verses of the parashah actually command us to “wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens” (Deut.25:19).

    It is bad enough that we have to remember the evil deeds of Amalek, but there is no reason for us to accord his name a place of honour.

    In the light of these circumstances, let us relate the story of a pious man who came to Rabbi Yitzchak Me’ir, the Chiddushei Harim, with a report about a certain Jewish sinner, and added the phrase, yimmach sh’mo.

    The rabbi got annoyed and said, “The Torah does not wish any member of our people to have his name blotted out. Who are you to know better than the Torah?”

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