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Purim – Putting Amalek in his place!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had Purim on my mind now for almost two months. I was in a grocery store and I saw a package of Hamantashen and right then and there, the Purim spirit, the whole excitement of the month of Adar and the days leading up to the actual Yom Tov, came rushing back to me and has been with me ever since. I whistle Shoshanas Yaakov in the car, I called some of my old Yeshiva buddies and I even thought about which silly looking bow-tie I’m going to wear this year. (The same one as last year – the same one as every year!) And I even made sure to actually remove the Megillah from the silver Megillah holder before the silver is polished! Oh, and by the way, in case you’re wondering, I ate the whole package of Hamantashan! (I hope my wife isn’t reading this!)

Another thought that came to me was about Parshas Zachor, the three posukim that we read on the shabbos before Purim, reminding us about the wickedness and coldheartedness of the nation of Amalek and how we must eradicate them from the earth and never forget what they did to us. The obvious connection here with the holiday of Purim is that Haman (I did stamp my feet as I wrote this!), the antagonist in the well-known Purim story, was a descendant of the nation of Amalek, and just as they tried to destroy the fledgling nation of Bnei Yisroel thousands of years before, he too, tried to incite an all-out massacre against the Jewish nation. So, we have Purim – Haman – Amalek and presto! we read Parshas Zachor. It’s as simple as that!

But it’s not! Because if one were to stop and think about it, Haman being a descendant of Amalek is really the only link between Purim and Parshas Zachor. For, whereas the entire nation of Amalek swooped down upon the unsuspecting and unprepared Bnei Yisroel in the desert, with the intention of destroying them and their renewed faith in G-d, Haman was but one single man, an individual Amalekite. The armies that were to wage their destruction upon the Jewish people, however, were made up of men from 127 countries, ranging from Hodu to Cush (India to Ethiopia, according to some), with no evidence of any other Amalekite people amongst them. Although, Haman may have incited the war against the Jews, and he had the money and influence to make the king see things his way, basically all he did was allow previous prejudices and hatreds that simmered just beneath the surface, to legally manifest itself amongst the majority of nations of the world toward the Jewish people. A war consisting of armies and soldiers from a consortium of countries and nations, willfully destroying and cognizantly terrorizing the Jewish people, with the blessings and approval of one single Amalekite, does not make this an all-out war between Bnei Yisroel and the nation of Amalek. For the purpose of comparison, let me give you a modern-day example. During the Persian Gulf war, the combined allied armies, with all it’s divisions, platoons and hundreds of thousands of soldiers, was led by then Commanding General of the Allied Armed Forces, General Norman H. Schwartzkopf. From his name alone, we derive that he is of German descent. However, the war which pitted the U.S.-led forces against the Iraqi aggressors, could not in any way be construed or even remotely considered a campaign by the German nation, just because General Schwartzkopf is of German descent! So why, when the king of Persia allows his subjects, from 127 different nations, free reign to pillage and massacre innocent Jews throughout his vast territories, is this considered a monumental battle between the Chosen people of Hashem and their mortal enemies, the nation of Amalek?

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To truly understand the evil of Amalek, we must first examine the method of their madness. Chazal tell us that, in truth, Amalek had nothing personal against the Nation of Israel, rather their intentions were to dissolve and destroy any faith in Hashem that was to be found in the world. They attacked and battled Bnei Yisroel, simply because they were the exclusive defenders of G-d’s faith, although, their true enemy was G-d himself. This constitutes the absolute lowest of the low, for to deny Hashem’s existence, or even to fight against a particular culture, is utterly reprehensible. For instance, historians have said, that the Israeli-Arab wars of the 20th century, were not so much a battle of ideology – Jew versus Arab –  but more so a territorial land dispute. The Arabs claim it for themselves, while we Jews know that it was our G-d-given land of milk and honey. However, to understand and admit that there is a G-d with omnipotent power (the entire world had just seen and experienced the great miracles that Hashem performed in Egypt and by the splitting sea), and to attempt to fight against and control Him, to show that their own miniscule, flesh-and-blood existence is stronger than His all-mighty hand, well, that’s just inexcusable – not to mention downright stupid! – and must be dealt with harshly and erased from this world forever.

Haman, as we all know from reading the Megillah, was an egotist to the highest degree, who paraded around believing he was some kind of deity and forcing people to bow down to him. However, when Mordechai Hatzaddik refused to do so because he would only serve his one, true G-d, Haman became enraged and vowed revenge, not against Mordechai personally, but rather against his people, the people who serve and defend this all-powerful G-d. Thus, the lots were drawn and the rest of the Purim story unfolded in unbelievable, if not understated, fashion. But the intention of Haman was clear: His will was to destroy the belief, and consequently, the believers, in Hashem. To this end, he imposed his will, through bribes and deceit, on all 127 countries that he was able to get jurisdiction over. Although the people may have been Persians or Babylonians who did the actual fighting, the impetus, the incitement, the driving force and the call to arms were all clear impositions of Haman, the descendant of Amalek. The people may have wanted the Jew’s money, but Haman wanted their very essence, their existence as defenders of Hashem. Thus, the war was a direct result of the pervasive evil that Amalek represents, in this case represented by  Haman, the enemy of Hashem in those times.

In truth, there have been untold instances of hatred and destruction against the Jewish people, throughout our entire existence. Some have been political, relating to jewish influence with a ruler, jealousy over perceived jewish wealth, or about the Land of Israel. However, where the detestment of Bnei Yisroel is a result of a detestment of Hashem, this is the hand-print of Amalek. Throughout the years, Amalek, and the evil it represents, has taken on various forms and semblances. Whether it be the Crusaders, the Spanish Inquisiton, pogroms or the Nazis YM”S, Amalek’s influence was the driving force that was felt and that attitude fuels still further persecutions. However, although in every generation, there arises an Amalek who schemes to do away with the holiness that is the Bnei Yisroel, we know that the one thing that bothers them the most – our faith in Hashem – is the one thing that will always remain with us. And Hashem, who loves us as a father loves his children, will always reward our faith with His infinite love and protect us from all harm.


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