December 12, 2022
Aside from our encounters with them in the desert, Amalek historically does not wage war against the Jewish people by themselves. They insinuate themselves into positions of influence with other nations and seduce them down the path of greatest evil. What the snake was to Chava, and what the Erev Rav are to Israel, Amalek is to the nations of the world.
The clearest, most detailed example of this is Haman. A cursory reading of Megillas Esther leaves no ambiguity about Haman's wickedness. He talked Achashverosh into authorizing a worldwide extermination of the Jewish people and personally oversaw this planned holocaust. However, many important details, including the tools of his trade, are revealed only in a remarkable Midrash, Esther Rabba 7:13:
“If it is good in the eyes of the king, let him write [an edict] for them to be exterminated” (Esther 3:9). Resh Lakish said, when Haman said to Achashverosh, “Come, let us exterminate Israel from the world,”Achashverosh said to him, “You are unable to do this to them, for their God will never allow it altogether. Come and see what He did to the earlier kings who came before us who stretched out their hands against them. They were greater and more powerful than us, but everyone who went up against them was destroyed from the world, and those who plotted against them were canceled from the world, and were a parable for all the generations of the world. We, who are not great like them, how much more so! Cease talking about it and give up on the idea.”
Nevertheless, Haman the wicked badgered Achashverosh all the time about this idea, and would give him evil counsel about Israel. Achashverosh [finally] said to him, “Being that this is the case, let us consult with our wise men and sorcerers.”
Immediately he sent and gathered all the wise men of the nations of the world. They all came before him. Achashverosh said to them, “Is it your desire that we should exterminate this nation from the world?”
They all said together, “Who is it, and which one is it, who would deign to do such a thing and wants to send out in this matter? For if you exterminate Israel from the world [the world itself will be destroyed]; the world only exists because of the Torah that was given to Israel...And someone who wants to send out his hand against the close ones and children of the Holy One, blessed is He, how will he escape? For He rules over the upper and lower worlds, and the soul of every living being is in His hands to raise up or cast down, to kill or to give life. Consider the first kings from the past, such as Pharaoh and Sancherev – they stretched out their hands against Israel, and what did it do for them?”
Before we continue with the Midrash, we need to make a few observations.
1) Haman was advising Achashverosh to commit genocide against a noble people for the fabricated crime of having their own way of life and “not being worth keeping around” (Esther 3:8).
This might be the earliest invocation of “useless eaters”, a canard that has been used throughout history to demonize innocent people and justify their wholesale slaughter for “the greater good”. They aren't worth keeping around.
2) When Haman first broached this idea to Achashverosh, we might have expected the king to react with outrage. How could Haman dare advise him to commit such an atrocity? At the very minimum Haman should have been deposed from his high position and banished.
Yet Achashverosh did not reject Haman's advice on moral grounds or even political grounds, but strictly on practical grounds; God would never allow it, those who tried in the past were destroyed, and Achashverosh was no better qualified.
This was all the opening the snake needed to inject his poison. Haman had what to work with. Fears could be assuaged. Practical considerations could be overcome. As long as Achashverosh lacked moral convictions, he was easy prey for Amalek's descendant.
3) Achashverosh and the wise men of the nations of the world believed in God and were afraid of His wrath. They took the lessons of history seriously. They also understood that the Jewish people played a vital role in the world, and it was in their own best interests to preserve them. The nations of the world were far from righteous, but, unlike atheists and those who ignore history, they weren't fools.
Nevertheless, once again, their objections to annihilating the Jewish people were based entirely on practical, self-centered considerations. Once again, this was easy pickings for Amalek.
Immediately Haman said to them, “The God that drowned Pharaoh in the sea and performed miracles and mighty deeds for Israel that you heard about – He is old already and is unable to do anything, for Nevuchadnezzar already went up and destroyed His house, and burned down His sanctuary, and exiled Israel and scattered them among the nations. Where is His power and His might? He has already become old...”
When he said such things to them, they immediately accepted his words and agreed to destroy Israel, and they wrote letters and signed them.
Here Haman presented – and possibly invented – two classic false assertions that have been leveraged ever since to abandon fear of God and persecute the Jews. First he claimed, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary from Tanach and the miracle of Jewish persistence, that God rejected the Jewish people. Entire religions are predicated on this falsehood, and Haman provided the seed for this corrupt fruit.
Haman also claimed, based on a gross misinterpretation of the harsh punishments the Jewish people suffered – all of which were foretold by Moshe and subsequent prophets – that God is powerless to protect Israel from its enemies. It would take more time for new religions to be invented based on Haman's claim, but the Jews had no shortage of enemies eager to believe they could wage war on them without fear of the God of Israel. Haman gave them that boost of confidence, and made it “kosher” to boot.
Long before there was an Evian Conference, or a United Nations, or a World Economic Forum, Haman gathered the leaders of the world and addressed their Jewish problem. He destigmatized the idea of committing genocide against an entire people, he made it acceptable to discuss it in polite company, and he allayed their fear of consequences.
But there was still a critical piece of the puzzle before the conspiracy could be implemented. The citizens of the various countries, the ordinary people, needed to be on board with the wholesale destruction of their Jewish neighbors – if not enough to actively participate, then at least to remain passive and look the other way.
Once again, Amalek knew just the right buttons to push.
The Midrash records the text of the letter they sent back to their respective lands. It's a tour de force of revisionist history, psychological manipulation, and antisemitic tropes that are regurgitated to this very day. It's too long to present in its entirety in this article, but the following excerpts will suffice for our purposes.
“Infinite peace to you! Let it be known to you that there is a man among us, and he is not from our place, but he is from royal seed, and from the seed of Amalek and one of the great men of the generation, and Haman is his name. He made a small and light request of us about a people that is among us, the most despicable of all the people, and they are of haughty minds. They desire our harm and a curse against the king is common in their speech.
“What is this curse of them against us? 'Hashem is the King forever and ever, he abolishes nations from His land' (Tehillim 10:16). And they also say, 'To take vengeance against the nations, discipline against the kingdoms' (Tehillim 149:7).
“And they are ungrateful to those who do favors for them...”
Haman's letter then launched into a lengthy distortion of Jewish history, the likes of which would receive admiration from much of the media and “academic world” today. Here is a synopsis.
Egypt received the Jewish people graciously, let them settle in the best part of the land, sustained them during years of famine, and fed them from the best of the land. All they asked in return was that the Jews build a few palaces for them, a small favor, really. Then the Jews came upon the Egyptians with trickery and made up a ruse about going to the desert to offer some sacrifices. They asked the Egyptians to lend them gold, silver, and garments. The Jews cleaned out the country of all its wealth and ran off like thieves.
Pharaoh, the poor victim, went after them to retrieve his money. The Jews had a man with them, Moshe son of Amram, who used black magic to split the sea – how he did it is unknown – and when Pharaoh and his men followed them, Moshe drowned them all, and repaid their kindness with evil.
Of course, Haman left out some details, such as Yosef saving Egypt from the aforementioned famine, enriching Egypt and making it the most powerful nation in the region, that the Egyptians repaid the Jews' contributions to the country by enslaving them and brutally persecuting them, that they sent police door to door hunting for Jewish babies to murder, that Pharaoh bathed in the blood of Jewish infants to treat a skin disease, that the citizens supported and participated in all of this...small details like that. As they would say today, these details didn't suit the narrative.
But since Haman told people what they wanted to hear and was an official “expert” to boot, the fact-checkers didn't flag his spin-filled letter for missing context, disinformation, and hate speech.
Haman's letter continued by referring to Moshe's disciple, Yehoshua, as “extremely cruel, without mercy”, because, after all, Yehoshua dared lead the Jews into battle after Amalek attacked them in the desert. If you've ever read a media account of Israel's engagements with its enemies, you would know that when Jews are attacked it's because they deserve it, and it is an atrocity for them to fight back, let alone with vengeance, let alone actually win.
That was Haman's point. If he lived today he would receive a Pulitzer and a Nobel Peace Prize, and would be welcomed on college campuses the world over.
His letter then outlined how the Jews stole the land of Israel, used sorcery to slaughter its inhabitants without mercy, and some man by the name of Shmuel cruelly murdered Haman's ancestor, Agag. Then along came David, who destroyed kingdoms without mercy, followed by his son, Shlomo, who built some house that he called the Beis Hamikdash. Wrote Haman: “I don't know what they had inside it, but when they went to war they would enter inside it and perform sorcery, and when they exited they would murder and destroy the world.”
Today they would call it projection...unless they would be nodding vigorously in agreement.
Now that Haman had his readers whipped up into a righteous frenzy against the Jewish people, he dropped all pretense of rationality and went for the kill:
“And from all the good they had, they rebelled against their God, and furthermore their God became old, and Nevuchadnezzar came and burned their house, and exiled them from their land, and brought them among us, and they have still not changed their ugly ways. Even though they are in exile among us, they mock us and the faith of our god.
“Now we have all agreed with one mind, and cast lots to annihilate them from the world, and [to determine] the time when it will be possible for us to destroy them, and the lottery fell in the month of Adar on the thirteenth day. Now, when these letters reach you, be ready for that day, to utterly destroy and kill all the Judeans among you, young and old, women and children, in one day, and do not spare from them any remnant or survivor.”
The letters were then signed by the world leaders and given to Haman to distribute.
These same canards and blood libels against the Jewish people, first put into writing by Haman over two thousand years ago and preserved for us by Chazal, have been recycled throughout history to sanitize pogroms and holocausts in the eyes of vile boors and noblemen alike.
This is how Amalek operates. He spins the greatest of evils into the greatest of virtues, and turns ordinary people with moral defects into soulless monsters. He finds a dark place deep in the hearts of people and corrupts their entire beings. Then he sends them out to do his dirty work, waging war on the Jewish people, and by extension the God he so detests, and by extension fulfilling his age-old desire to destroy the world – all in the name of saving it.
Amalek's tactics have become more sophisticated with experience and the advancement of technology, but the playbook is exactly the same as it's always been. His war against God, the Jewish people, and all of humanity seems to be reaching a culmination in our time.
It's all so clear, if only we are willing to see.
To be continued.
Download Tovim Ha-Shenayim as a PDF for free!
If yo want to receive future articles directly, please send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.