This week’s Dvar Torah is dedicated to the refuah shleimah (complete recovery) of Esther bat Chana, our great aunt, as well as Elchonon David Yifrach ben Freida and Aliza Rochel bat Leba Yenta, friends and young parents, all in need of rachamei shamayim.
The Work of Amalek
The Torah section regarding the eradication of the nation of Amalek was established to be read the
shabbat before Purim every year. There is a strong relationship between the story of Purim and Amalek. Haman, a descendent of Amalek, had in his heritage a desire to wipe out the Jews that started with his ancestor Eisav and continued down the genealogical tree until it reached Haman.
There is a Biblical commandment to wipe out the entire nation of Amalek. There is something about
being an Amalekite that totally contradicts everything the Torah is all about. What is so essential to Torah living that we cannot tolerate having any remnant of Amalek around?
Rav Yitzchak Hutner (1904-1980, rosh yeshiva in Yeshiva Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin, Brooklyn, NY;
later settled in Jerusalem and headed Yeshivat Pachad Yitzchak) explains that the battle that Amalek wages against the Jewish people is far more than just a battle between two nations. The nation of Amalek has a sharp inclination to not tolerate anything that is chashuv (important). They try to destroy, denigrate, mock and make fun of anything that people think is important and even that which is awe-inspiring. This characteristic is called Leitzanut (mockery) and they have been using it ever since we left Egypt.
Right after we left Egypt, when the entire world was in awe of the Jewish people, Amalek attacked.
It did not matter that they knew they were going to lose. They just wanted to show the world that the Israelites were not untouchable. And it worked. Before their attack nations were trembling in awe of what they heard about the exodus from Egypt and the subsequent splitting of the Red Sea. All that changed because of Amalek.
Rav Hutner says that this battle is really about “The ability to profane (koach haCHillul) versus the
ability to praise, show respect and revere (koach haHillul).” We as Jews are expected to value and respect that which is deserving of value and respect. Yet too often, we too get involved in being cynical. By us too there are things that deserve our utmost respect and admiration and they don’t get it. Instead we make snide comments and turn that which is sacred and hallowed into that which is scorned and berated.
Rav Shalom Schwadron (1912-1997) was known as the Maggid (speaker) of Jerusalem and he lived
the part. He was constantly speaking in many different places trying to encourage his listeners. On one occasion he was speaking to a group of young men and had them awestruck. He was describing to them the proper outlook they should have regarding the nature of Torah in their lives and really struck a cord. As he went on, he had the crowd more and more enamored and they all knew it.
But there was one young man in the crowd who was frightened by what he was seeing. Where his
friends going to get more serious? He wasn’t interested in any growth and didn’t want anyone else to be either! What could he possibly do to prevent the Maggid’s words from seeping in and having their desired effect?
After the talk finished, he walked over to a friend of his who was clearly impressed with what had
been said and simply added, “Did you notice that his shoe is untied?”
In a brief moment he was able to undo much of what had been accomplished. Such is the work of
Amalek and the power of mockery. It can take anything holy and destroy it in an instant.
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