Amaleq

4 10 2012

An interesting little piece of trivia: the oft-heard explanation that Amaleq refers not to a tribe but to a particular attitude is not a classical idea (as I had thought), but originated in the mind of none other than Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik, the father of Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (“the Rav”). It is recorded, not in anything that Rabbi Moshe himself authored, but in various writings and public addresses of his son, notably a Hebrew composition entitled “BeSod HaYachid VeHaYachad”, in which the author explicitly mentions the Nazis as an example.

An additional little piece of trivia (for which I thank Rabbi Gil Student): the famous Fraenkel edition of the Rambam’s Mishne Torah contains an exhaustive index of commentaries at the back of each volume, entitled Sefer HaMafteach. It is well known that the editors of this edition omitted the names of any Modern Orthodox, Zionist and Lubavitch commentaries. And yet, Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik’s interpretation of Amaleq is just so good, they clearly couldn’t help themselves.

You can find it under Hilkhot Melakhim 5:5, in which they ask the following question:

לעיל סוף הל’ ד כ’ שאבדו ואבד זכרם, ואיך יתכן מחיית עמלק הרי גם הם אבד זכרם

“Above, at the end of halakha 4, it is written that [the seven Canaanite nations, whom we are commanded to destroy] are already destroyed [through the activities of Sennacherib] and their memory is destroyed, so how is it possible to wipe out Amaleq? Their memory is also destroyed!”

This is a famous enough question on the Rambam’s legal philosophy (why suggest that the obligation to destroy the seven Canaanite nations is no longer in effect, but not say the same about Amaleq?) that the Sefer HaMafteach lists no fewer than nine different commentaries, each of which poses a different solution. And at the very end of the list:

ר”מ סולובייצ’יק מוב’ בס’ בסוד היחיד והיחד עמ’ 392

“Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik, brought down in BeSod HaYachid VeHaYachad, p392.”

No mention, of course, of the fact that the book that they are quoting is by a Modern Orthodox Zionist who was friendly with Lubavitch, but it’s really just a drop in the ocean of their peculiar brand of misnagdischkeit. I wonder if there are any other drops of this nature?


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