Amalek: Existence and Non-Existence
There is a commandment to remember Amalek’s audacious attack on the Jewish
nation at Refeidim shortly after their exodus from Egypt. This incident
has to be perpetuated as all trace of the Amalekite nation and their evil
must be obliterated (See Exodus 17:8-15 & Deuteronomy 25:17-19).
The Jewish people’s deadliest foe and bitter archenemy is Amalek.
Throughout the centuries, there has been many-a-nation that has plotted
against the Children of Israel and persecuted them. If so, why is Amalek
singled out as being so irredeemably bad that they are to be eradicated?
The injunction to recall and “never forget” what Amalek did, is an
awareness that this nation and its ideology opposes the very existence of
the Jewish people and, in fact, runs contrary to the purpose of creation.
Creation of the universe was yaish m’ayin, “existence from non-existence”.
Herein mankind must see G-d from His handiwork and accordingly, commit
their lives to serving Him. This is best expressed in the first word of
the Bible – bereishis “creation was for the Children of Israel, called
reishis, first and for [their observance of the] Torah that is also called
reishis” (Rashi, Genesis 1:1). Their exclusive existence is to observe the
Torah and uphold its laws through which they reveal the Name and Majesty
of G-d to the world.
A Jew sees G-d everywhere; Amalek sees him nowhere.
The Jewish nation only exists to proclaim and enact a lifestyle wherein G-
dliness permeates every aspect of existence; a life where Divine
Providence, both operating through supernatural acts and the veiled
framework of nature, exists. Because it is G-d Himself who creates and
defines a state of yaish, “existence” out of ayin, “non-existence”.
Therefore, I am, only because He exists and wills it.
Amalek’s assault was nothing less than a battle waged against G-d. Where a
rebel is unable to get close enough to harm the king personally, he
resorts to defacing a statute of the ruler. In the same vein, Amalek
cannot harm G-d. So instead, they maliciously target the Jewish nation
conscious that this people were chosen as G-d’s ambassadors within
The incarnation of evil, Amalek dismisses creation and “existence” as a
fluke, or as “korcha, happenstance” - this root describing
Amalek’s “chancing” of the Jewish camp (Deuteronomy 25:18). Theirs is a
denial that G-d is running the show – to violate the world’s very
foundation as fomented by Israel. G-d’s glorious Name and Throne are, by
definition, incomplete so long as Amalek exists. For the ultimate good to
manifest – namely the revelation of G-d – evil, most prominently seen by
Amalek, must be vanquished forever.
His being, like evil itself, is ayin, “non-existence” but which, quite
convincingly, masquerades as yaish, “existence”. Amalek’s pernicious
influence makes “yaish” into “ayin”. This explains the background to
Amalek’s initial strike after the Jewish people themselves posed the
question: “does G-d exist (ha’yaish) Hashem– in our midst or not (ayin)?”
Here the chosen nation experienced a “weakening of hands” in Torah (rofu
yidahem related to the location of the attack - Refeidim) the blueprint of
creation and existence. And at the time of Purim, there was also a laxity
in their Torah commitment. In such instances where they fail to live up to
their mission of G-dliness, Amalek dominates and threatens the true nature
of “existence” itself. Worse still, he emerges to project himself as an
alternate reishis to the Children of Israel (Numbers 24:20).
It is up to G-d’s chosen people to stop this antagonist in his tracks.
Only by a systematic counter-attack of Amalekite ideology, namely to
reinforce Israel’s raison d’etre of creation, will Amalek and his memory
be eradicated once and for all. The proponents of seeing Divine Providence
and G-dliness everywhere and anywhere, the Jewish people’s very existence
is the ultimate negation of everything that Amalek holds dear…as is their
tenacious survival through the generations and to observe the Torah. Only
the constant reminder of Amalek’s personification of evil that must be
stopped forever, will the revelation of G-d, the Source of
all “existence”, be revealed.
Purim celebrates seeing G-d’s Hand manipulating natural events behind the
mask – even though His Name is noticeably absent from the Megillah.
Significantly, this marks the Children of Israel’s reacceptance of Torah
values, realigned to the purpose of creation and existence, and the
negation of the ayin, the “non-existence” of Amalek. This sets in motion
the mechanism to the future redemption: of true existence; where evil
disappears forever; where G-dliness will permeate the world; and where G-
d’s Name and glorious majestic Throne be complete.
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene and Torah.org.