By Rabbi David Begoun
Dedicated in Loving Memory of Harry Mitnick [Tzvi Herschel bar Moshe] A”H, by his granddaughter, Rita Matcher Silverman.
“You shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven, you shall not forget.” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 25:19) How does one wage war against an 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 and internalize it in your hearts that Hashem is the only G-d…” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 4:39). It is never sufficient to allow our knowledge 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 obliterate Amalek.
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 Pshyscha
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