Amalek – Parashas Zachor

For Parashas Zachor, I present here a piece dealing with Amalek from the Maggid’s commentary on Esther 7:5-6 (adapted from Voice of Rejoicing and Salvation).
Regarding the Nation of Amalek, the Torah declares (Bamidbar 24:20): “Amalek is the first of nations.” In general, when something is called first (rosh or reishis), this means it is a primary source. Whatever is first is the root, while all events or entities that follow are branches growing forth from the root. For instance, our Sages tell us that Rosh Hashanah is the root of all the events that will unfold during the course of the entire year (Kerisos 5b-6a). Similarly, the Sabbath is the root of the entire week.
In the same way, Amalek is the root of all hatred toward the People of Israel. All the other gentile nations that are led by the Nation of Amalek to hate us are like branches growing forth from this root. Amalek is the prime descendant of Eisav, who hated Yaakov while still in his mother’s womb. Because Amalek is the root of hatred for the People of Israel, this nation will be the primary target when Hashem comes to avenge the People of Israel in the end of days. As our Sages put it (Bereishis Rabbah 63:8), the Holy One Blessed Be He, Who is called first, will take vengeance on our behalf upon Eisav, who is also called first.
There is a basic difference between Amalek’s hatred for the Jewish People and that of the other gentile nations. We can elucidate this difference with an analogy. A person usually does not keep wood in his house all the time. When he needs some wood, he goes out to where he can get it and brings it home, but one will not find wood in his house without a reason. However, one will find wood in the forest at all times and for no specific reason, because the forest constitutes the source of wood. Similarly, most gentile nations feel hatred for the Jewish People only when there is a reason. But the Amalekites hate the Jewish People for no reason, because Amalek is the source of all the world’s hatred for the Jewish People.
Thus, in Esther 7:6, Haman the Amalekite is called ish tzar v’oyeiv – the man who is an oppressor and an enemy. The title ish tzar v’oyeiv given to Haman can be compared with the title ish sadeh – man of the field – that the Torah gives Eisav (Bereishis 25:27)..This title indicates that the field was Eisav’s province. Similarly, hatred of the Jewish People was Haman’s province. Haman was the fountain from which all hatred for the Jewish People flowed.
When Esther told Achashveirosh about the evil adversary who plotted to wipe out the Jewish People, Achashveirosh asked: “Who is this? Which is the one who dared to do such a thing?” He wanted to know both who it was who hated her people so much, and why he hated them so. Esther replied that the adversary was Haman, the ish tzar v’oyeiv, the source of all hatred for the Jewish People, who hated the Jewish People for no reason. We had not wronged anyone, and so the other gentiles did not hate us. They only hate us when there is some conflict between them and us. When the conflict ceases, so does their hatred. But Edom’s hatred never ceases, because it is not dependent on any cause.
Similarly, the Torah tells us that Amalek “happened upon us” on our way out of Egypt. This is a true sign of their deep-seated, total hatred of us. They came upon us without any prior reason. We did not enter their territory; rather they happened upon us on the way. Since they attacked us for no reason, it is clear that they are a true nemesis, with whom there is no possibility ever to make peace.
The depth of the Amalekites’ hatred becomes even clearer when we consider the nature of their combat against us. Suppose, by way of analogy, that at the end of a banquet, one of the guests starts eating the scraps of food left on the table and drinking the leftover wine in the cups. What sort of person would do this? Clearly not someone who eats and drinks simply to satisfy his hunger and quench his thirst. No such person would take the slightest glance at these leftovers, for they would hardly help to refresh anyone. Anyone who would go around the table gulping them down is obviously a glutton and a lush.
Similarly, a typical warring nation is satisfied when most of the enemy camp, including the enemy’s warriors, is wiped out. The attackers will leave alone the remaining weak segment of the enemy population. But not so with Amalek. Of Amalek it is written (Devarim 25:18): “And he struck the hindmost among you, all the weak ones at your rear.” Edom, whom Amalek represents, calls out in battle against Yerushalayim with the words (Tehillim 137:7): “Raze it, raze it, down to its foundation.” Why do they care about the foundation, if the house is already burnt down? It is because they hate us utterly – they are the source of hatred against the Jewish People, a nation of people who need no reason to hate Jews and attack them.
Therefore Hashem commands us (Devarim 25:19): “And it will be, when Hashem your God will give you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that Hashem your God has given you as an estate to inherit, that you must blot out the memory of Amalek from beneath the heavens – do not forget.” After all the other gentile nations have made peace with us, we will still need to blot out the memory of Amalek, for we cannot trust this nation to make true peace with us. As Yeshayah puts it (Yeshayah 57:21): “There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.” We cannot be secure that we are free from them until there no trace of them left in the world.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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