`247 A Primer on Amalek Part 7 Amalek Then and Now
Chananya Weissman

December 19, 2022

 

The children of Israel descended to Egypt as seventy people, and quickly multiplied into a nation. Chazal tell us that the Jewish women gave birth to six children at a time, and had no need for midwives, let alone hospitals. They proceeded to raise their own children and take care of their homes.

Despite never donning an army uniform or climbing a corporate ladder, they found being a wife and matriarch infinitely more empowering and fulfilling than anything the “liberated” woman in perpetual struggle against God's will and nature will ever achieve. The world didn't run out of resources, and the climate did just fine. Of course.

The new generation of Jews became comfortable living in Egypt. They built permanent homes and lost interest in returning to the land of their forefathers, where they were meant to fulfill their destiny. They forgot that they were in exile, so they needed a harsh reminder. This would be the first of many times the same story would be repeated throughout history. Those who don't learn the lesson the easy way have to learn it the hard way, and we are watching it unfold one more time in our days.

For no apparent reason other than the prosperity of the Jewish people – something that benefited their host country, to whom they were most loyal – the Egyptians turned against them. Pharaoh decided one day that he had a Jewish problem that threatened his entire nation.

Pharaoh convened with three prominent advisers to decide what to do. As every Jew with a bit of education knows, they were Bil'am, Iyov, and Yisro. Bil'am advised Pharaoh to act against the Jews, Iyov was quiet, and Yisro fled (Sotah 11A).

It is difficult to take the Midrash completely at face value. First of all, Bil'am was killed shortly before the Jews entered Israel, approximately 150 years after this meeting would have taken place. It's not impossible that his adulthood spanned such a long time, but it's highly unlikely.

The next problem is that there is a wide variance of opinion over when Iyov lived (Bava Basra 15). This Midrash could not possibly square with all the opinions.

Therefore it seems most likely that the characters named as Pharaoh's advisers were archetypes for the people who were actually in the room (this is a common device in Midrash). There was the Bil'am type, the opportunist who told the king what he wanted to hear, with hopes of being rewarded (or at least keeping his head firmly attached to his body). There was the Iyov type, who had enough of a conscience not to actively participate in the atrocity, but who lacked the courage to protest it. And there was the Yisro type, who stood up to authority and objected to the evil, even though he was powerless to stop it.

The Midrash is teaching about the three choices people have when confronted with evil plans from the government: go along with it, look the other way, or resist however possible. Indeed, the Midrash immediately relates the consequences of these decisions. Bil'am lost far more than he profited in the short term; he was eventually executed and punished forever. This is the fate of those who rationalize their collusion with evil and put their personal profit over what is right.

Iyov figured that Pharaoh would do whatever he wanted anyway, so he might as well stay quiet instead of voicing a righteous objection. We have no way to know how influential his vote might have been, if his objections might have given Pharaoh pause. Iyov's silence wasn't necessarily tacit approval, but it was a sign that those who inwardly objected to what was about to happen weren't going to do anything about it. He avoided the wrath of a human king, but received the wrath of the King of all kings instead. This is the fate of all those who place their jobs, their social standing, and their personal conveniences above all else.

Yisro saw which way the wind was blowing, but he could not stay silent. He suffered mightily in the short term; he was forced to flee for his life, he lost his prestigious position, and his family became outcasts. In the end, however, Hashem richly rewarded his righteousness beyond anything he could have otherwise achieved. This is the fate of all those who pay a price in the short term to do the right thing.

If this is all we learned from the Midrash, it would be enough to teach a vital lesson to every human being, and hopefully galvanize enough of them to stop today's genocidal monsters in their tracks. After all, they cannot implement their plans without enough opportunists actively supporting them, and most of the rest of society looking the other way.

But there is another Midrash, one that is almost completely unknown to people nowadays, that sheds further light on this fateful meeting with Pharaoh. According to this Midrash, there were not three, but two advisers present, and it requires no stretch of the imagination for the people named to have been there in the flesh, not merely in spirit. Yisro was there, but not Bil'am or Iyov.

The other adviser was Amalek.

Not the nation, but the man himself, the grandson of Eisav who had made it his quest to destroy the children of Israel and the rest of the world along with them.

The Midrash appears in Shemos Rabba 27:6, and tells us all we need to know in six simple words: “עמלק ויתרו היו בעצה עם פרעה ”.

Amalek and Yisro were in the advisory meeting with Pharaoh.

This version of the events is entirely plausible in literal terms, for both were alive at this point in history. In addition, Amalek was surely a prominent man, and had intimate knowledge of the Jewish people from their very origins. Yisro was one of the leading religious figures of the time and possessed great wisdom. Who better to counsel Pharaoh regarding his Jewish problem?

This adds an incredible dimension to the story of the Jews being enslaved in Egypt and brought to the brink of destruction. It never really made sense for the Egyptians to turn against the Jews so severely, so quickly. They might have been jealous of the Jews' prosperity and resented their lifestyle, which stood in stark contrast to the idolatrous ways of the Egyptians, but that's hardly an impetus to brutally enslave one's fellow citizens and murder their babies.

Unless Amalek is there to stoke the fears and hatred, to make it kosher, and guide them every step of the way.

Not only was Amalek always there throughout history waging war against Israel and subverting the nations of the world, but their namesake was there at the very beginning, doing just that with Pharaoh and the Egyptians!

In light of this, we can well understand why the nation of Amalek traveled from their land deep into the desert to attack the Jews right after they crossed the sea. Amalek was surely monitoring the situation with the Jews, eagerly anticipating their spiritual and physical destruction – only for everything to turn on its head as Hashem redeemed them with miracle after miracle. After the greatest miracle of all, the splitting of the sea and drowning of the Egyptian army while the Jews crossed on dry land, Amalek's plot was completely foiled.

The nations of the world were in a state of shock and awe before Hashem and His people. Enraged, the nation of Amalek took matters into their own hands. They sent an army after the Jews to cool them down in the eyes of the nations. Yisro and those like him would draw the correct conclusions from world events and draw closer to Hashem and His people. Most of the world, however, would be drawn after Amalek and his lures to fight Hashem and His people.

Amalek was a real person, the nation of Amalek is a real nation, and the real people who comprise this nation are still waging the same war, using the same tactics.

They subvert other nations, erode their already shaky morality, convince them that the greatest evil is the most necessary good, and lead them to the abyss.

They approach Israel dressed as other nations, dressed as friends, with their swords hidden.

They watch the Jewish people, study them, gather data on them, and devise plots to destroy them from within and without. They erode their moral convictions and prey on those who are weak. They conspire to lead the Jewish people to sin so they will lose divine protection, and strike when they are vulnerable.

Amalek leads people to doubt the reality they see with their own eyes. Amalek convinces masses of people that deadly shots that never made sense are quite safe and effective, and that if people drop dead right in front of them after taking the shot, there is no reason to suspect the shot had anything to do with it.

Amalek convinces even religious Jews that closing shuls and yeshivas, driving a barrier of terror between every human being, and curtailing Torah observance is in fact God's will and the only thing that will save us. That, and his injections.

Amalek leads people to doubt what is a man and what is a woman, to defy God's will and nature, to doubt whether objective truth exists at all.

Amalek convinces people that having children is bad for the world, that the only way to save the world is by destroying it, that everything that our bodies and minds – our very souls – warn us against is actually healthy and virtuous. Studies show it.

Amalek never had technology, media, corporations, and international organizations at his disposal like he has today.

Yeshaya 59:15 states: “ותהי האמת נעדרת וסר מרע משתולל וירא יהוה וירע בעיניו כי אין משפט ”.

The truth will be missing, and those who depart from evil will be thought of as crazy. Hashem will see this and it will be bad in His eyes, for there is no justice.

Chazal teach us that this will occur in the generation in which Moshiach comes (Sotah 49B). At no point in history has there been such a relentless war on truth from all directions, where there is so much information at our fingertips, yet the truth is so obfuscated. Indeed, those who resist this onslaught against reality are mocked and jeered, while the Amalekite governments prosecute them or declare them insane, with all that entails.

Haman reassured the nations of the world that God is old and powerless to protect the Jewish people. Of course, he didn't really believe it, otherwise he wouldn't have gone to such great lengths to cause the Jews to sin. But that's what he tells the other nations, who don't stop to consider the absurdity of his words, but eagerly take the bait.

Today his disciple, who professes to be a Jew, declares that “God is dead, it just takes a while to get rid of the body”, among other blasphemies. He literally took the words out of Haman's mouth. Many Jews throughout history have strayed from the proper path and even rebelled against God, but no Jew, no matter how corrupt, would ever utter such words. That's how Amalek talks.

Now do you understand why there is a mitzva to destroy the nation of Amalek without mercy, to spare no remnant of them? Now do you understand why we are commanded to remember what Amalek did to us at all times and yearn for their destruction? Now do you understand that this doesn't “make us just like them”, as their pernicious agents would have you believe, but makes us truly on God's side?

*

Esther Rabba 7:13, which we quoted extensively in previous parts, relates that Haman was in great spirits after the world leaders signed his letter. He and his group left their Evian Conference, their United Nations meeting, and encountered Mordechai walking ahead of them.

Mordechai saw three children leaving school and ran after them. Haman and company were intrigued, and followed him. Mordechai asked the children to recite a pasuk that they had learned that day in school.

The first child replied with Mishlei 3:25: “Do not fear a sudden terror, and the darkness of the wicked when it comes.”

The second child replied with Yeshaya 8:10: “They plot their conspiracies and they are foiled, they speak a word and it will not come to pass, for God is with us.”

The third child replied with Yeshaya 46:10: “I am the same God even until you get old, and when you are hoary I will carry you. I made you, and I will carry you, and I will save you.”

Mordechai understood that this was a divine message through the innocent children that Hashem would save the Jews from Haman's plot, and he rejoiced.

Haman asked Mordechai why he was so happy about whatever it was the children had told him. Mordechai replied that they had given him good news that he need not fear Haman's evil plot.

The Midrash then says as follows: "Immediately Haman the wicked became enraged and said, 'These children will be the first ones I kill.'"

When you tweak Amalek ever so slightly he cannot help but bare his true colors. And, as always, Amalek relishes the thought of destroying children most of all. Children are the most pure and innocent of people, the breath of their Torah keeps the world going (Shabbos 119B), and they represent the future and hope of the world.

When Achashverosh elevated Mordechai and Haman was forced to help Mordechai mount the king's horse, Mordechai gave him a solid kick (Megilla 16A). Haman challenged Mordechai; doesn't it say in your own books that "When your enemy falls do not rejoice" (Mishlei 24:17)? Even then, Haman was trying to erode Mordechai's convictions, perverting the Torah against him.

But Mordechai was not vulnerable to Amalek's games. He would not doubt the justice of stomping on Amalek or be put on the defensive. "That is only referring to a Jewish enemy," he retorted. "About you it says, 'And you shall tread on his high places' (Devarim 33:29)."

This is the enduring lesson for how to defeat Amalek. We must not allow him to cause us to doubt the truth, erode our convictions, or lead us astray from the Torah, no matter how he tries to terrorize us or sway us with perverse arguments. We must protect our children and our way of life no matter what.

And, whenever we have the chance, we should give Amalek a solid kick.

Hashem will not tolerate those who claim He is old, or dead, or otherwise is not fully in charge of everything, now and forever. May we merit to see the total destruction of Amalek in our days, and may we merit to follow Moshiach into war against them and fulfill this mitzva with our own hands.

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