Amalek – Theoretical Category or Ethnicity?

Rabbi Eliezer of Modiin said, “The Omnipresent One swore upon his holy throne that if a person comes from any of the nations of the land to convert, they will be accepted.  However, a person from the house of Amalek will not be accepted” (Mechilata of Rabbi Yishmael end of Parashat B’shalach, Tanchuma end of Ki Tetze.)

The descendants of Haman learned (taught) Torah in Bnei Brak (Gitin 57b, Sanhedrin 96a).

I believe that the Rabbis of the time of the Talmud were bothered by the notion that a person could be faulted for the actions of their ancestors (Mamzerim for another time).  These two sources represent a debate about our relationship to Amalek – must they, and all of their descendants, be destroyed forever or is there a way out of the stain of Amalek?

Only one of these two sources can be correct – either we are forbidden to accept converts or not.  And yet these two ideas live together in the world of Rabbinic thought.  How might you seek to resolve this apprent contradiction?



One Response to Amalek – Theoretical Category or Ethnicity?

  1. Evenewra says:

    This is just a loophole, but if a child’s father is a descendant of Amalek, and the mother is Jewish, then you could have an Amalekite Jew who could teach Torah in Bnei Brak.

    A rather uncomfortable thought, but certainly not impossible. What do you think about this, Rabbi?

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