In itself it is a highly significant and easily understandable command. Amalek tried to obstruct Israel’s progress through the wilderness, not by sending trained soldiers to fight the strong young men marching at the head of the Israelite column, but by targeting the weak and weary children and women who were bringing up the rear.
No wonder we are told to remember Amalek’s nastiness. No wonder we must not and dare not forget.
But then the passage tells us almost the opposite: “Efface the memory of Amalek from under the heavens”.
How can anyone remember, and efface the memory, at one and the same time?
The answer – distinguish between Amalek and Amalekism. Don’t be obsessed with Amalek the individual, wicked and brutal though he was. Look at the symbolism of Amalekism, an idea, a policy, a philosophy that stands in direct contrast to what Judaism and its Torah represent.
The sages say that what Amalekism did was asher kar’cha baderech – not just that “he encountered you on the way” but (using the root k-r-r, to be cold) “he cooled your enthusiasm, he tried to eradicate your faith and sense of purpose”. He tried to deflect Israel from its morality and humanity.
Amalekism is a threat to civilisation whenever and wherever it appears.