by Rabbi Heshy Grossman
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"Amalek - Am Lak, who came to lick the blood of Klal Yisrael, as a dog."
(Yalkut Shimoni, Shmos, 262)
The name of a nation, or any person or place, captures its essence, succinctly defining their nature and personality. Amalek is known for the evil they bring to the world, and we keep alive the memory of their brazen attack. Yet, of the many characteristics we would expect their name to express, the Torah chooses to reveal this: they lick the blood of the Jewish people.
Could not a better name have been chosen? Is it this trait in particular that captures the essence of Amalek?
In our shiur this week we will answer this question, explaining how Amalek drains the life-force of spirituality from an unsuspecting world.
The Rambam delineates three aspects of the Mitzva to wipe out the memory of Amalek.
"To erase the seed of Amalek - To remember the deed of Amalek - Never to forget his evil deeds and his ambush upon the road" (Hilchos Melachim, introduction)
Why is it necessary to remember that the attack of Amalek took place 'upon the road'? How is it that this seemingly incidental detail merits special attention?
Amalek is not one of the four kingdoms, those that subject the B'nai Yisrael in exile. Rather, they are categorized together with the seven nations of Canaan, those who forestall the entry of the Jewish people into the promised land.
They stand in the way of destiny, keeping Klal Yisrael from achieving their goal.
The Bnai Yisrael perceive this world as a corridor, a passageway to eternity. It is this perspective that provokes the enmity of Amalek.
Imagine: A family is sitting in their living room, enjoying the food, the comfortable furniture, the music, and their giant TV. A stranger knocks on the door, enters, and walks through the house. As he exits out the back, he apologizes, "Excuse the intrusion, I'm just passing through."
This is extremely rude.
He takes their home, a permanent dwelling, and transforms it into his own personal passageway.
Precisely what Klal Yisrael has done to the world of Amalek.
Our world originates with "B'reishis Bara Elokim", a beginning that leads to an end. Every moment has meaning and purpose, and we strive to extract lasting value from all that we do. Amalek's world is here and now, he scorns any hint of eternal design.
It is here that Amalek attacks, on the road of spiritual growth, insisting that all of life is a matter of chance.
"Remember what Amalek did to you, on the road, when you exited Mitzraim."
"Asher Karcha BaDerech - Who happened upon you on the road..." (Devarim, 25, 17-18)
"Asher Karcha BaDerech - A language of 'chance'.... (Rashi, ad. loc.).
Life is all coincidence in his distorted view, and he hopes to contaminate the people whose hope and destiny threaten to ruin his fun and games.
The human body (as well as every physical entity), conceals the true essence of man's being. The body is passive and dormant, a few pounds of flesh that are to be utilized by man for spiritual ends.
The soul of man is his true self, revealing the comprehensive depth of G-d's creation.
Our Sages refer to the body of man as a 'shoe', the vehicle by which man travels through this world. It is for this reason that one removes his shoes when entering the Temple, or on Yom Kippur. At those times, man is more like an angel, with limited freedom of movement, a Divine agent compelled to heed the word of G-d.
Shoes don't move on their own. They are mere tools, enabling man to reach his destination. It is the soul that gives direction to a body that is unaware of its origin and ignorant of its goal, conscious only of the present moment's physical sensations.
Blood is the connecting byway between body and soul. Its endless current brings life to the outer reaches of man's frame. Blood is the basis of human drive and energy, conductor of instinct and desire. Its flow enables a lifeless body to relate to a higher entity, providing direction to a physical entity that has no purpose of its own.
Amalek licks the blood of the Jewish people.
In contrast to eating, licking at food is for pleasure, not nourishment. It is enjoyment rather than purpose. A meal for dogs, not men.
While Klal Yisrael yearns to fulfill G-d's every command, striving for a place in a world of grand design, Amalek divorces this world from its heavenly source, wallowing in the vain pleasures that siphon true life from a physical world.
Although the nation of Amalek has long ago disappeared, their impact still remains. It may be impossible to physically erase them from the earth, but we can still remember.
Mitzva 189: "We are commanded to remember what Amalek did to us, first to cause us harm. To hate him constantly, at all times. To arouse the souls, with words, to do battle with him. To encourage the nation to hate him, so that the Mitzva not be forgotten, so that hatred of him not be weakened, or lost from the soul, with the passage of time....." (Rambam, Sefer HaMitzvos)
The Rambam is teaching an important lesson. Not only are we required to destroy Amalek, and remove all trace of their name. Remembering their evil is an integral part of this command. This is how Klal Yisrael goes to war.
It is for this reason that we gather in public to read aloud of their vicious attack, commiting ourselves to the battle ahead, vowing to remove all trace of Amalek.
Let us begin with our own hearts.
A FREILICHE PURIM
Any questions or comments? Please address them to grossman @actcom.co.il
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