To love one’s fellow as oneself, the Talmud tells us, is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary. “There is no service like the service of love,” declares the Zohar. “Peace” is not just a word, says another Talmudic adage—it is the very name of G‑d; indeed, “the Torah was given only to make peace in the world.” To again cite the Talmud, “Three traits distinguish the people of Israel: they are compassionate, bashful and charitable”; if someone lacks these traits, we are led to doubt their Jewishness. Even when we are compelled, as a society, to punish criminals or wage wars, we do so reluctantly, without passion, certainly without hate.
Love is the hallmark of Judaism. Some of us even claim that we taught that word to the world.
This Shabbat, however, we will stand in our synagogues and listen to a reading from the Torah that tells us to hate. Once a year, on the Shabbat before Purim, we open our Torah scrolls to the special reading of Zachor (Deuteronomy 25:17–19). “Remember what Amalek did to you . . . ,” we read. “Eradicate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens; do not forget!”
Amalek was not the only nation to attack us; in the course of our four-thousand-year history, there were many others who did the same, and worse. Yet Amalek is singled out as the very essence of evil. There was no rational reason for Amalek’s attack on us, no conceivable gain in doing so. Amalek simply hates goodness, and seeks to destroy it wherever it flourishes in G‑d’s world.
Yes, we are enjoined to love all G‑d’s creatures and creations, including the less lovable ones amongst them. But when pure hatred rears its head, it must be destroyed. Because if you love G‑d’s world, you don’t feed love to the forces that would destroy it.
In the wise words of our sages: “He who is compassionate to the cruel ends up being cruel to the compassionate.”