By Rabbi David Begoun
Dedicated in Loving Memory of Harry Mitnick [Tzvi Herschel bar Moshe]
by his granddaughter, Rita Matcher Silverman.
“You shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven, you
not forget.” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 25:19) How does one wage war against
unidentifiable enemy? The Torah states (Shemos/Exodus 17:16) that the war
against Amalek in one that rages in every generation, but today we can not
pinpoint who this foe is. We are left to conclude that our contemporary
enemy of Amalek, against whom we must gird our loins, is the spiritual
force of Amalek within us. The prophet Yeshaya (Isaiah, 43:10) informs us
that the Jewish People were singled out from among the nations to be G-d’s
witnesses, to bear testimony of His existence and remove any doubt of His
Oneness. Amalek, whose name equals the numerical value of the word
“safek” - doubt in Hebrew - exists to do just the opposite, to widen the
chasm between the Creator and His creations.
As Jews we are told that our job is two-fold: “You must know this day
internalize it in your hearts that Hashem is the only G-d…”
(Devarim/Deuteronomy 4:39). It is never sufficient to allow our
of G-d’s existence to remain purely in the realm of the intellect.
Rather, we must find the tools to internalize what we know into the realm
of the emotions so that the knowledge can translate into action.
The force of Amalek is the power that seeks to intercept our knowledge and
obstruct it before it can transfer from the head to the heart. Shem
MiShmuel (1) explains that the name Amalek is a composite of two smaller
words: “am”, meaning nation, and “melika”, which refers to a certain
aspect of the bird offering in the Temple service. Specifically, melika
was the process of breaking the back of a bird’s neck in preparation for
its elevation on the altar. Amalek is the nation with a strategy of
melika, the nation that attacks Israel by cutting off and seizing their
knowledge of G-d while it remains in the head, before it can pass to the
heart, via the neck. This power is Amalek’s inheritance from his
grandfather Esav (Esau), whose intellectual awareness of G-d was intact
but who failed in translating his knowledge into an inner consciousness.
Esav excelled in the “you must know this day” but failed at “internalize
it in your hearts.” This is why his head merited to be buried in the Tomb
of the Patriarchs while the rest of him did not.
The Talmud tells us that on Purim one should drink until he does not
differentiate between blessed is Mordechai and cursed is Haman. This is
not an encouragement to reach an unconscious drunken stupor; there is a
more profound explanation. Perhaps we are being told that on Purim we
should utilize the power of wine to remove the obstacles between head and
heart, to facilitate this internalization process so that we do not just
know this, but to assure we bring it beyond the realm of the intellect
into the emotions.
If the knowledge that we, as G-d’s eternal witnesses, possess remains
intellectual without internalization, Amalek has the upper hand. Our
personal war against Amalek, to which we rededicate ourselves annually on
Purim, is the internalization of the reality that G-d is always behind the
scenes conducting every event in world history to lead towards the
ultimate revelation of G-d and His Oneness. To the degree that we succeed
in this task is the degree to which we are victorious in the war to
Have a Good Shabbos!
(1) the teachings of the Chassidic Master, Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein of
Sochaczew; dealing with each weekly portion of the Torah reading, the
books represent the teachings of the Polish Chassidic school of
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi David Begoun
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