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Posted on February 28, 2023 (5783) By Rabbi Pinchas Winston | Series: | Level:

Friday Night

Who knows how many Germans that Hitler, ysv”z, sent to their deaths in the name of his ego? The Nazis could have surrendered earlier, and might have, had Heir Hitler not insisted on pretending that there was still hope for his Third Reich…just to keep his own ego inflated.

Then again, it was ego that helped to push Hitler to war in the first place, a world war that eventually caused the death of 72 million people, including the systematic death of six million plus Jews from across Europe. It had been a young and brash Hitler who had a terrible time accepting the defeat of Germany in World War I, and the humiliating terms of surrender imposed upon the Weimar Republic (even though he was born Austrian).

Ego is important for self-confidence and productivity, but too much of it destroys a person and usually others around them. A lot of “others” around them, especially if the egotist is devious enough to make it seem as if they are fighting the “good fight,” and on behalf of good people. That’s the Erev Rav for you, deception the entire way, taking advantage of the intellectually and emotionally vulnerable.

That’s only one part of the destructive equation. We have known world peace, more or less, for a long time now in the West. Even in Israel, it has been relatively quiet, thank God, enough that most have forgotten wartime. A lack of wartime death usually results in a reduced appreciation of life, and more liberal values. Wars tend to make people more conservative in outlook.

Another part of the equation is technology. Personally, I love and enjoy technology, but I also see the negative effect it has had on an entire generation. There is a certain amount of spiritual desensitization that has accompanied it, and dumbing down as well. Empowerment is a double-edged sword, leaving many intellectual and emotionally vulnerable.

If this can be true even of people who still believe in God and in absolute morality, then it is certainly true about those who don’t. A person might deny the existence of God and of their soul, but they can’t deny their decision making process. We can’t help but make decisions based upon what we personally think is “good” or “bad,” and if a person doesn’t believe in an absolute version of both, then both can only be personal opinion. Hitler also thought he was doing mankind a favor, and there are still a lot of people who agree with him.

The ironic thing is how selfish people can band together when they have a common cause. It’s not that they care about each other. It’s more that helping one another means getting what they want more expediently. It’s a common selfish desire that (temporarily) unifies them, something the Torah calls, “b’leiv echad k’ish echad,” with a single heart and like a single person, a very Amalekian approach to life.

Purim is about the opposite. It is not called Kabbalas HaTorah, Part 2, for no reason. At Mt. Sinai, to receive Torah, we had to achieve the opposite of k’ish echad b’levi echad, to become like a single person with a single heart. Selfish people have a difficult time accepting Absolute Truth because of the obvious implications. So God sent in Amalek to humble us in preparation for receiving Torah. Nothing protects against Amalek better than humility, which is the acceptance of God’s truth.

Shabbos Day

BUT I PREACH to the choir, no? Can you can’t talk to egotistical people about dissenting opinions? Remember Pharaoh? Even after his own people told him, “Hey, this Moshe fella might be right. It might actually be God Who is destroying our country,” Pharaoh held out. There’s a wall of ego that truth just bounces off.

It is not ironic that Parashas Zachor coincidences with Parashas Tetzaveh, because a kohen, and how much more so the Kohen Gadol, is supposed to be the antithesis of Amalek. A kohen is supposed to give his life over to the service of God and on behalf of the Jewish people. It doesn’t get much more selfless than that.

Furthermore, kohanim are supposed to be rodeif shalom, peace-pursuers, not war mongers like Amalekians, past and present. And if they ever reverse that role, like Pinchas ben Elazar ben Aharon HaKohen did when he killed Zimri, it would be to uphold Torah values, not tear them down. As the Torah testifies, Pinchas was zealous on behalf of God, not against Him, as Amalekians are. Before someone opposes Torah values they should make sure they aren’t from God, not just assume it.

As mentioned in an earlier Perceptions, it was an eyeopener for me to learn how our fast day, the 10th of Teves, was a day of celebration for the Iraqis for the same reason we mourn. While we recall Nebuchadnetzar’s successful attack against Jerusalem with sadness, they celebrate it. Nebuchadnetzar was our enemy, but he was their hero, and still is even thousands of years later.

The same thing is true today all over the world. One person’s hero is another’s enemy, and often for the same reasons, depending upon each person’s value system. A religious person sees those who wish to limit or abolish Torah laws as the enemy. A secular person trying to catch up with the rest of the secular world sees it just the opposite way. Who is right? What is the truth?

Peeling away all the heated emotions usually reveals the driving force behind each group. The non-religious side might argue that they are fighting for what they believe is right, but based upon what? What the rest of the secular world thinks? And that opinion is based upon what ultimate value? They may be the majority, but so were they in Noach’s time…until the Flood came along.

The religious side is full of opinions as well, but the core driving force is not an opinion. It is a belief that God is real and Torah is His truth, His absolute non-negotiable truth. They too have a yetzer hara with desires and which barks out orders, but at the end of the day, they know they have to answer for capitulating to it.

That said, then there are really only two possibilities. Either the Torah world is correct, and everyone else only thinks they are right and entitled based upon ignorance and subjugation to a yetzer hara they don’t even know they have. Or, the Torah world is delusional, and it is imposing its world on others with no justification. If the latter is true, then there can only be war and the strongest will win. If the former is true, and the secular world doesn’t come around, it will have to be resolved by God Himself. Is that why the world is shaking?

Seudas Shlishi

IF YOU DON’T believe in the Torah as God-given, and you have problem with its account of history, then the story of the Flood is no threat. Since the stories of Purim and Chanukah are part of the Oral Law, which many outside Orthodox circles do not trust, they can’t be relied upon as signs of Divine involvement in the affairs of man. Hester panim, God’s hiding of His providence, makes history murky at best, and easy for Amalek to do his thing and mislead man.

Can billions of people be so wrong, and only a handful get it?

That’s a good question, with an even better answer, if you’re willing to go the full distance to get to it. The fullest answer means learning some Kabbalah, and that’s something you can really only do after you have learned a certain amount of the levels before it. Anyone can read the words, but only a God-fearing person gets to know what they really mean:

The secrets of God to those who fear Him. (Tehillim 25:14)

Nevertheless, one thing is for sure, it is a mistake to think that you can’t know the truth about the Truth, as Amalek would have many believe. It’s like someone saying that good food no longer exists because it stopped being delivered to their door, and they’re not prepared to go out and find it. The fundamental reason why people believe in Torah, and others do not, is because the former has the knowledge and the latter does not. It is because the latter is not prepared to go after that knowledge.

It’s not imaginary truth, as Amalek says. It’s not made-up knowledge, as the yetzer hara likes to argue. It’s real, and here, as many ba’alei teshuvah have found out for themselves, willingly and unwillingly. Some religions may exist only on blind faith. But Torah Judaism, as God Himself told us, is something you can be SHOWN to KNOW that there is none other than God.

But there are two parts to this knowing. The first is you have to want to know, and the second is, you have to be willing to go in pursuit of that knowledge. The Gemora assumes that a person does not like to live with doubt, but it is amazing how they are willing to so when the doubt allows them to live the life of the yetzer hara. It’s quite Amalekian.

When this is the case, compromise does not seem possible between the two sides. Neither side seems able to give up too much to calm the situation down, the religious side because they fight for God-given values, and the secular side beside they want to live the unrestricted life to which they believe they are entitled. How will all this end, and when?

Ain Od Milvado, Part 41

WHEN MOSHE RABBEINU led the counterattack against Amalek, what did he think? To the average soldier fighting the battle below (Moshe was up on a hill overseeing the action), there was only the enemy. He was human and had a will of his own. He was armed and had a desire to kill or be killed. He warred against God, so God was obviously on their side. What more was there to know.

But how did it appear to Moshe Rabbeinu? Ain od Milvado meant that Amalek had no power of his own, which meant God was giving Amalek what he needed to fight the Jewish people. We may have hated Amalek and were disgusted by them, but they were God’s Creation, part of a world that God not only made, but He controls. Unless He says so, Amalek doesn’t exist. Unless God says so, Amalek doesn’t fight. So who do we really fight against when we fight against the “enemy”?

It’s easy to forget. It’s easy to get distracted. Here’s one example of someone who didn’t:

[The Romans] sent Neron Caesar against the Jews. When he came [to Jerusalem], he shot an arrow to the east and it fell in Jerusalem…to the west and it also fell in Jerusalem. He shot an arrow in all four directions, and each fell in Jerusalem. He said to a child: “Tell me a verse.”

He told him: “‘And I will lay My vengeance upon Edom by the hand of My people Israel’ (Yechezkel 25:14).”

He said: “The Holy One, Blessed be He, wishes to destroy His Temple, and to wipe his hands with that man [who does it].”

So he fled and became a convert, and Rebi Meir descended from him. (Gittin 56a)

For some reason, this Roman, a gentile, was able to see past his human enemy and instead see God. He then chose to not carry out what he had been sent by his superiors to do, and instead fled to the very side he had been sent to destroy. He realized that he became his own worst enemy if he ignored the Divine signs, and did the unthinkable for a Roman general.

Yes, the Jewish people have enemies, and yes many of those enemies exist within the Jewish people these days. But part of Parashas Zachor is to recall not just what Amalek did to us, but Who sent Amalek in the first place, God Himself. It was part of the process to prepare the Jewish people to receive Torah by first humbling them.

God sent Haman too, also as part of the process of Kabbalas HaTorah, Part 2. It was mostly to bring out something in the Jewish people that needed to be brought out of us at that time, a potential whose time for actualization has arrived. If it wasn’t for the crises, we might never accomplish very much in life or grow spiritually.

We may not be able to figure out what’s on God’s mind, what He wants from us individually or as a nation at any given time. But by at least being open to the idea that He wants something from us…for our own good…and that this is what is driving history at the moment, is usually enough to get the Heavenly help we need to go the next step, as Purim came to teach us. Purim Samayach.