November 28. 2022
If studying Chumash and Rashi is beneath most Orthodox Jews once they can read a few lines of Gemara, they are unlikely to ever see the inside of Divrei Hayamim. It is as if much of Tanach – written by our greatest of prophets – has been deemed unworthy of study and unofficially banned.
This is most unfortunate, because one of the most inspiring and instructive encounters we ever had with Amalek appears only in Divrei Hayamim II chapter 20 – it does not even have a parallel in Melachim – and hence it is virtually unknown.
It was during the times of Yehoshafat, one of the righteous kings of the house of David. The chapter begins as follows: “And it was after this, the sons of Moav and the sons of Ammon came, and with them from the Ammonim, to wage war against Yehoshafat.”
Ammon and the Ammonim?
The commentaries speculate that there may have been two nations with similar names, but Chazal pull the mask off this mysterious enemy. Rashi and others quote the Midrash: “This is Amalek. And why were they called Ammonim? Because they changed their clothing and language to be like the Ammonim, and they assimilated with them, and they came to do battle against Israel.
“And so it is evident below in the episode (20:22) 'And at the time they started with joyous songs and praises, Hashem set hidden attackers against the sons of Ammon, Moav, and Har Se'ir, etc.'. [Being that Har Se'ir is the domain of Esav] it turns out that the Ammonim that are mentioned here are Amalekites who changed their language and clothing...”
Amalek was up to their old tricks, playing dress-up, as we already saw in Parshas Chukas. On the most basic level, this should reinforce our understanding of their methods against us, for there is nothing new under the sun. The names of the nations have changed, as have the clothing and the languages, but Amalek's blueprint is the same as it was thousands of years ago. This is who they are, and this is what they do, to this very day.
What also hasn't changed is the way we suck the power from Amalek and defeat him: turning to Hashem en masse and demonstrating rock-solid faith.
When Yehoshafat heard about the massive army coming against Israel, he gathered all the Jews for prayers and a public fast. He then stood in the Beis Hamikdash and uttered a straightforward, sincere prayer to Hashem – nothing fancy or exotic required. Hashem immediately sent him a prophetic message that the Jews should have no fear of the huge enemy army, for the Jews wouldn't even have to fight. Hashem would take care of everything.
The Jews fully trusted this prophecy and began celebrating their victory with songs of praise to Hashem right then and there. More “rational” people would have believed them insane – imagine the memes if social media existed back then – but such “rational” people are not nearly as smart and clever as they think, nor close to Hashem at all.
The Jews at that time reached an extremely high level of faith and closeness to Hashem. Amalek and company didn't have a chance.
When we look closely at Rashi's words we find something very interesting. Here he writes that Amalek changed their dress and language to disguise themselves as another nation. In Chukas, back when the Jewish people faced them in the desert for the second time, Rashi writes that they kept their usual dress, and only changed their language.
According to Rashi's source, the Yalkut Shimoni, Amalek changed both their dress and their clothing back then as well. Commentaries on Rashi, such as the Maskil LeDovid, note this difficulty with Rashi and wonder about the contradiction. Perhaps Rashi had another source that is unknown to us, or a different version of the Midrash before him.
In any case, according to Rashi's words the following remarkable observation can be made. The first time Amalek disguised themselves as another nation, they didn't go all the way with it. One can wonder why they might change their language and not their dress, as the Maskil LeDovid indeed wonders, but they were still discernible for who they really were.
Centuries later, in the times of Yehoshafat, Amalek had become more sophisticated. They learned from their defeats and continued to fine-tune their methods. No longer would they neglect to disguise themselves fully when coming against Israel.
Tanach is not merely a record of Jewish history, but a study guide for the present. As it states in Shemos 17:16, at the end of our initial battle with Amalek in the desert, Hashem swears by His throne that there is a war between Him and Amalek from generation to generation. Obviously, Hashem does not need to wage a continuous war against anyone, Amalek can do nothing to Hashem, and Hashem can destroy him in an instant.
The real war from generation to generation, therefore, is between Amalek and Hashem's people. It is a proxy war. Amalek wages war on Hashem by waging war on His people and His creation. Hashem commands us to always remember and never lose sight of the fact that this war is ongoing at all times. There may be respites in the military conflict, but the war never stops, and Amalek never stops learning, planning, and preparing for the next round.
After the Holocaust we foolishly allowed ourselves to be convinced that the Nazis were defeated, evil had been destroyed, and the world would never allow something like that to happen again. The Nazis were not defeated. They inflicted incredible harm on the Jewish people and the world, and relatively few of them were ever brought to justice. While the world sought to move on from the past, preferring ceremonies and slogans to substance as they always do, Amalek never lost sight of its mission. They assimilated back into the nations of the world like the devious shape-shifters they are, changed their clothing and language, and got right back to work.
While the Jews were defiantly but mindlessly chanting “Never again”, Amalek was leering at them and muttering “You wait and see.”
The Jewish people by and large violated the Torah's commandment – and warning – never to forget what Amalek did to us, and that this war continues from generation to generation until it is finally finished. We allowed ourselves to be distracted and let our guard down against our ultimate enemy.
Just as Amalek learned to refine their methods back then, they have continued to learn throughout history. They learned a great deal during the Holocaust – lulling millions of people into a false sense of security, stripping them of all their liberty and possessions while convincing many of them it was all for their own good, and discovering both the most brutal and efficient ways for murdering them by the myriads. Amalek has some of the best doctors, the most brilliant scientists, the greatest experts, and they take their research very seriously.
The dress and language have changed, their conspiracies are more sophisticated, but at the core their methods are the same as always. So is the antidote. We have a mitzvah to always remember, to never forget, to see Amalek for what they are, and to fight the war from generation to generation until we finally merit to destroy them. We fight them by turning to Hashem en masse with sincerity, praying for Him to fight for us, and facing our enemy with rock-solid faith.
All this comes from a short story buried in Divrei Hayamim, perhaps the least-studied book of Tanach. Amalek would love for us to continue to ignore our ancient teachings or intellectualize them to the point of irrelevance.
Amalek would also love for us to remain unaware of a remarkable Midrash about Haman that lays bare even more of their tactics, which they have employed throughout the generations to this very day.
Amalek is going to be disappointed.
To be continued.
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