Can Memory be Bad?

Memory is an important element in Jewish identity. We are kind to the stranger and behave ethically with those around us because we remember that we were slaves in Egypt. We observe shabbat to remember creation. Holidays remind us of events in Egypt or of the wandering through the desert. Memory of events, or of God's turn of events, serves as the basis for all the positive things we do.

Except for what we read from the Torah this past shabbat. In the special reading from the second Torah we are told to remember what the Amalekites did to us just three days after the exodus from Egypt (they attacked the women and children in the rear of the convoy) and we are commanded to annihilate them. The haftorah described King Saul's attempt to fulfill that commandment (which he did except for keeping the sheep and cattle, and keeping the king alive). Because of Saul's failure, the dynasty began and ended with him.

I raised the question in shul on shabbat about the affect this commandment has had on our psyche? Is it good to harbor hatred? What affect does this have on how we view the "other"? I brought up the example of Baruch Goldstein who entered a mosque on Purim and gunned down many Muslims. I mentioned how many people even today refuse to buy Japanese products because of Pearl Harbor and German products because of the Holocaust. Are these appropriate responses?

I would suggest that commandment about the Amalekites should be undertsood instead to be a lesson about their actions. Hate the way they attacked rather than hate them forever. Hate the Nazi regime and all it stood for, don't hate all Germans. If we can do that then even the memory of those horrific deeds can be transformed into "tikun olam" - making the world a better place.