I believe, however, that there is another level to this set of standards. This week, we celebrated Purim. Last week, on Shabbat Zachor, the Maftir aliya recalled the commandment to eradicate Amalek due to their inherent and incessant cruelty, having attacked Israel by targeting the weakest individuals first. The Haftarah which followed refers to the people’s failure to have done so, leading to the ascendency of Agag, the ancestor of Haman (who is dispatched by the prophet Samuel). The Torah reading for Purim itself similarly refers to the perennial conflict between G-d and Amalek, or good and evil, as being “from generation to generation.” If the Torah’s commandment to wipe out the insidious cruelty had been fulfilled the first time, or the subsequent one, the entire story of Purim would not have happened. We could be eating fried hamentashen on Chanukah!
The nature of modern evil is like that of the impure vessels. Caught early by a world which does not absorb its “flavor,” it should be possible to eradicate it via perfunctory means. Once it has had an opportunity to sink in, however, often the only way its essence will be removed is through destruction of one sort or another. As we look at current events, we realize that there are still many Amaleks in our world, and their actions and influence have imparted an unacceptable amount of impurity to our previously holy vessels. We should let this dual lesson guide and inspire us. It’s certainly preferable to not have the world and its innocents fall victim to insidious or misguided influences. If it does, however, it’s better to take on G-d’s battle to restore our world’s equanimity than to have to deal with its shattered dishes.
Shabbat Shalom!Rabbi/Hazzan David B. Sislen