By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
Ever since I was a child, I heard about Amaleik. As I grew older, I understood it on deeper levels. But I still wonder, and I think that others do as well, about the big to-do regarding Amaleik. Why are we so caught up with him? Why is he our eternal enemy, always out there somewhere ready to pounce on us? What threat does he represent that is different from that of the early Canaanite nations that we must be on the lookout for him, thousands of years after his nation apparently ceased to exist?
How does the story of Purim tie in to Amaleik?
Quite often, we meet up with a person whose position is not fueled by logic, information and intellect. That person begins debating us about something in current events, Jewish history or hashkofoh. Although the antagonist is not well-read and has sub-par knowledge of our history, he is convinced that he is correct. He is sure that the facts are the way he states them and refuses to listen to anything you say.
To us, we hope, facts are facts. They are stubborn things that cannot be shoved aside when they get in the way of an argument. However, to people with whom we tangle, facts are fungible and not definite. To people who are argumentative and think they know everything, facts are at most uncomfortable things that are easily discarded. Information based on assumptions and hearsay is as valid as established fact and proven reality.
To them, nobody can be trusted. Anyone who doesn’t agree with their position is corrupt and under the influence of evil people. There is always a story behind the story, which you are too foolish to know, because you are naïve and unwise to the ways of the world. There is always a conspiracy of people who never met, who make sure that the wrong narrative takes hold. You, of course, are too tied to your position to see what is plainly visible to them. You, your books and your teachers are closed-minded and foolish. So, to them facts are unrelated to the truth and truth doesn’t really matter anyway. It is only their position and their agenda, that has any value.
Such people are akin to the Amaleikis. The way they deal with the world and everything with which they disagree is the way Amaleik treats Hashem and Am Yisroel. From the earliest roots of Amaleik, his father, Eisov, portrayed the danger of our eternal enemy. The posuk (Bereishis 25:34) speaks of when Eisov sold the bechorah to Yaakov: “Vayivez Eisov es habechorah.” Rashi explains that the Torah was testifying to the wickedness of Eisov, who mocked what was important.
The Baal Haturim connects this posuk to the Megillah, which uses the same term “vayivez b’einov” (Esther 3:6) in reference to the way Haman mockingly viewed Mordechai. In Parshas Ki Seitzei (25:18), Rashi defines the essence of Amaleik. The posuk commands that we remember what Amaleik did to us when we left Mitzrayim. “Asher korcha baderech – They caused you to be cooled down from your fiery excitement.” All the nations feared the Jewish people at that time, for Hashem had miraculously led them out of enslavement. But Amaleik, as is his nature, instead mocked the Jews and declared war upon them. He did so to mock Hashem in front of His own people and in front of the entire world.
The Purim victory of the Jewish people over Amaleik is celebrated through the drinking of wine. As Chazal say, “Chayov inish levesumei bePuraya ad delo yoda.” Of wine it is said, “Nichnas yayin yotza sod,” for wine has the ability to reveal what is in the depths. Wine is a spiritual drink that affects the spiritual nature of man and reveals what is hidden within. Amaleik is a superficial being; his logic is superficial and he cannot see past the surface. One who mocks everything and everyone does not possess the ability to see and appreciate the depth of the person or matter he is denigrating.
We celebrate the victory by demonstrating that we appreciate the truth and the depth of life, and aren’t satisfied with pseudo-knowledge and glib simplistic shallowness. We aren’t impressed by the showiness and aren’t influenced by arguments that haven’t been thought through, but are based upon haughtiness and shallow thought.
It was immediately following Kabbolas HaTorah that Amaleik appeared to show his hatred for the truth as represented by Torah. He immediately pounced upon the Jewish people and sought to separate them from the Torah, mocking its essence and mocking them for abiding by its laws and truths. “Hashem isn’t as powerful as it appears,” Amaleik said. “The winds were blowing differently the night the Jews escaped.” They had an excuse and explanation for everything, and to prove that they were right, they went to war against the Jews, so convinced were they that they would quickly defeat the nascent nation.
This is perhaps why the Vilna Gaon writes in Even Sheleimah (11,8) that the baalei machlokes among us are called Amaleikim. The midah of Amaleik, his klipah, is to foment machlokes with and among the Jewish people, to cause division and postpone the redemption. The klipah of Amaleik always seeks to provoke hatred against the Jewish people through a variety of devices and contemptible propaganda.
Amaleik’s arguments are proven hollow time and again, yet that doesn’t stop the lies against the Jews. Every decade, it is a new struggle against a new group, led by a lunatic who leads people astray by peddling populistic nonsense introduced to the world by Amaleik and repeatedly disproven over the ages.
They formulate alternative facts, sell fiction as non-fiction, and spin wondrous tales of how much better off mankind would be if they would find a way to be rid of the awful Jews. If people believe in space aliens and a secret cabal that controls the world, why is it so difficult to convince people that they are poor and unhappy because of the Jews?
The more intelligent people become, the more wealth there is in the world, and the more democracy and capitalism expand opportunities for all, the more you would think people would respect the Jews for their accomplishments. In fact, the opposite is true. Over the ages, the more successful Jews became, the more people hated them. This is because Amaleik, who is at the root of the hatred for the Jewish people, is not concerned about the truth. He is only concerned with destroying the absolute truth and the Jews who cleave to it.
The internet empowers him. There was a time when misguided people were a minority and were often unable to find intellectual support for their failed theories. They were lonely and had no voice. Many faded off into oblivion. Today, though, any crackpot with a smartphone can connect to other misguided persons. They offer each other support and are no longer lonely in their fatuous senseless beliefs. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the internet is Amaleik, he and his ilk definitely use and benefit from it significantly.
A Jew-hater with no audience can now sit in anonymous comfort and engage in a daily dissemination of acrid poison against a group of people. He gains followers, who grow exceedingly brazen in their cantankerous language and calls for violence. Away from Facebook, they may appear to be normal individuals, who are kind to their pets and families, but in their hearts lie evil hatred. We never hurt them, we never interfered with them, and nothing we did impacted their lives. When we meet them and see the hatred pour out of their staring eyes, when we read their dribble online, we wonder why the antagonism and venom.
We read the history of Germany, a fine, advanced, cultured nation, and it boggles the mind. It didn’t take more than one madman to strike a match and a horrorful lust for blood overtook the entire country. The people turned into killing robots, engineered to kill millions of Jews in a bid to erase the children of Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov from the face of the earth. Such is the abhorring abomination of Amaleik, ever-present, hiding under a veneer of gentility, awaiting its resurrection.
Torah is the only antidote.
“K’shezeh kom, zeh nofeil.”
Hence the great joy of Purim, when the Jews accepted the Torah on a much higher level than they did at Har Sinai. “Kiyimu vekiblu.” Without being forced, they independently took upon themselves – through love – to follow the Torah.
Although Amaleik is still here, he still has not recovered from that blow. As long as we abide by the agreement the Jews accepted at the time of Purim, we will be able to overcome Amaleik each time. Devotion to Torah, coupled with unity among ourselves, will lead us to the day when we deliver to him a final blow and allow for the arrival of Moshiach.
May it be very soon.
Ah freilichen Purim.