Amalek is a Branch of Our Family Tree

PurimBurst, 2011/ תשע”א
by Sarah Yehudit Schneider1
purim.2011_thumbnail

The descendents of Haman study Torah in Benei Brak, and R. Shmuel bar Shilat is [is the most illustrious] among them.2 (TB San. 96b [Ein Yakov, Para. 163])

מִבְּנֵי בָּנָיו שֶׁל הָמָן לָמְדוּ תּוֹרָה בִּבְנֵי בְּרַק ומנו רב שמואל בּר שילת:

Everyone knows that we are built from shattered vessels, as the Torah hints in its second verse which describes the fallen state of reality before it was refurbished in the six creation days: “And the earth was chaos and void and darkness was upon the face of the abyss” (Gen. 1:2). Trapped inside the walls of those ancient shards were slivers of light (a euphemism for consciousness). Kabbbala informs us that when these vessels shattered, the highest sparks plunged to the lowest depths like a toppled wall whose capstones land farthest from the base.

Everything in our world—past, present and future—is a resurrected spark from this chaotic era of prehistory. The most fallen sparks enliven the most fallen creatures. Yet, even the most despicable evildoer possesses a splinter of Godly light, for otherwise he could not exist. The spark is like a fishhook that HaShem employs to tug His creatures toward the light. Most of the time, this method works—the person takes the bait and generates enough net good to assure his soul’s admission to the era of eternal life. Yet sometimes HaShem reels a soul in, but the person himself is so encumbered by crimes and cruelties that the hook snaps loose and though a splinter ascends the soul’s bulk gets left behind.  The sum total of folks who suffer this fate—who squander their portion of eternal life—comprise the elusive (and nefarious) nation of Amalek, Haman’s ancestral line.  So incorrigible is its lineage that Amalakite descendents (whether male or female) are refused as converts.3 No other nation is excluded from the Jewish people in this unequivocal way.4

Yet the Talmud/Ein Yaakov informs us that despite this ban, some among Haman’s descendents joined up with the holy splinters extracted from his soul, snuck their way into the Jewish people (through forced or illicit relations),5 sired Torah scholars, and R. Shmuel bar Shilat is one of them.

So the question becomes:  Who is this Shmuel bar Shilat that we salvaged from Haman’s Amalakite line? From the viewpoint of Chassidut he must embody a disowned spark—a secret flaw banished from our self-image, projected onto our enemy, but eventually repatriated and nursed back to health.6 It is always true, says the Baal Shem Tov, that enemies hold fallen slivers of our soul, estranged sparks that we do not recognize as pieces of our very own selves.  They choose us as their foe because they are trying, in their deluded way, to connect back to their root, which really is us.7 And Shmuel bar Shilat is exactly that, a spark of us inside Haman that found its way back home.

And what do we know about this mysterious luminary bequeathed to us by Amalek. The Talmud relays the following teaching about R. Shmuel bar Shilat:

“The enlightened shall shine as the radiant firmament, and those who turn multitudes to righteousness [shall sparkle] as the stars for evermore” [Dan. 12:3]…. It is taught that the first part of this honorific verse (“The enlightened shall shine as the radiant firmament”) applies [to those distinguished either by exceptional integrity and/or generosity,] a) to judges who give a true verdict on true evidence, and b) to those who collect charity and distribute it to the needy. The second half of this verse (“Those who turn multitudes to righteousness [shall sparkle] as the stars for evermore.”) applies to the teachers of young children. Such as who, for instance? Rav answered: Such as R. Shmuel bar Shilat. For Rav once found R. Shmuel bar Shilat in a garden, whereupon Rav rebuked him, “Have you deserted your post?” R. Shmuel bar Shilat replied: “I have not seen this garden for thirteen years, and even now my thoughts are with the children.”8

  1. Shmuel bar Shilat’s specialty is his concern for the wellbeing of children and his dedication to them. Yet since his soul spark spent generations buried in the subconscious depths of the Amalek lineage, it must have found an affinity there, for the Principle of Resonance states that sparks always gravitate toward hosts with whom they share common traits or interests. In the physical plane things are close when they are at the same address at the same time. In the spiritual planes, things are close when they are similar and distant when they are different. The fact that an exiled spark resides (even temporarily) in a certain person or people proves that it shares an affinity with them. And so it is curious that of all the nations in the world, the spark of Shmuel bar Shilat sojourned in the soul-depths of Israel’s archenemy, the Amalakites. What could his pure soul have possibly found in common with this nation of heartless scoundrels? And it is also curious that once this transfer occurred—once Shmuel bar Shilat’s spark was restored to the Jewish people—the Amalekite nation disappeared as a recognizable tribe and blood lineage.9, Yes, they continue to be a spiritual force, that “infects” individuals (and even nations) that are susceptible to their hate-filled contagion, but there is no longer an identifiable nation carrying their name.10

So what is the link? One obvious connection is that Amalek, the progenitor of Haman’s ancestral line, is the great-grandson of Isaac and Rebecca. The Jewish people trace their lineage back to Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rebecca, and the Amalekites trace their lineage back to Essav, Jacob’s twin brother.

Everyone knows that Essav was the elder son and heir to the family’s patriarchate. Yet Yaakov disguised himself as Essav and stole the blessing (and the charge) to shepherd the burgeoning Israelite clan through its next chapter of history. Essav then opted out of the tribe and founded his own nation, Edom, which grew to became the Roman Empire, aka the First Reich.

amalek.lineageNow kabbala asserts that children always carry something of the unactualized potential of their parents and, really, of their entire family line.11 When a soul enters a body at conception it inherits a lineage of neuroses that each parent transmits through his or her nature (germ cells) and nurture (child-rearing).  We are all carrying impurities from that primordial period of history called the Breaking of the Vessels that have been passed down though our particular family tree. HaShem gathers a pile of shards from our parents’ respective pedigrees and sends them down into incarnation as the soul of each of us. We clean up what we can, and (hopefully) give our children a better start by parenting them more skillfully because of the life-lessons we’ve learned.

And so is this true for Essav. As the child of Yitzchak and Rivka he imbibed their nature and nurture no less than Yaakov. Like all children, these twins contained the genetic stuff of their parents in every cell of their body and were enveloped by their parent’s nurture— both as deliberate instructions and subtle role-modeling. Consequently, if we want to understand Essav’s wayward path and the Amalekite nation that sprang from his grandson, we must start our search with his family of origin.

Essav’s parents, Yitzchak and Rivka, were a saintly couple who devoted themselves to promoting the ethical monotheism of their Shem-ite lineage, a mission they inherited from Avraham and Sarah (Yitzchak’s parents). So dedicated were they to this holy task that they actually attained the rarified status of archetype (in Hebrew, מרכבה, literally, chariot),  which means that now every move they make has cosmic and eternally enduring repercussions that live on (in full strength) even after they (as individuals) have passed. Yitzchak is the archetype of gevurah, a kabbalistic term which means might, justice, discipline, awe, and restraint.

Yitzchak is best known for his stirring self-sacrifice, called the Binding of Isaac (in Hebrew, akeda), where he willingly submitted to Hashem’s shocking command for Avraham to sacrifice his beloved son (i.e., Yitzchak) and proffer him as a burnt-offering. (As we know, in retrospect, HaShem prevented the fulfillment of that command, and never actually intended for it to occur, but was also testing their willingness to obey if, in fact, it was His will).

Our tradition extols the purity of Yitzchak’s devotion to his father expressed by his plaintive assent to his own immolation at none other than his father’s hand.

Yitzchak spoke: “Do not feel distressed, father. You must fulfill your Creator’s will through me.  May my blood serve as an atonement for the future Jewish people.”12…They both walked together, one to slaughter and one to be slaughtered, happy in their hearts to do G-d’s bidding.13… Father, even though my heart is happy to do G-d’s will, my body might quiver as the knife approaches.  Tie my hands and feet well so I do not flinch and invalidate the sacrifice…Avraham built the altar with the joy of a man who is preparing for his son’s wedding, and Yitzchak helped him with the joy of a groom who is readying his chupa.14

This is the story we know and tell from generation to generation. And it is absolutely true…but it is not quite the whole truth. There are other midrashim that preserve some lesser known features of that event.

Said Yitzchak to Avraham: “Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Avraham answered, “You are the offering my son.”…In that moment Yitzchak expressed through speech his agreement to be slain, but in his heart he cried out, “Who will save me from my father’s hand?”… [Avot d’ Rebbe Natan, manuscript, as brought by Torah Shelayma Gen. 22:7, par. 92]15, 16

This midrash shows that though Yitzchak was resolute in his decision to cooperate, another part of him was begging to be saved from his father’s hand. While his mouth voiced assent his heart silently screamed for help.

Another account admits that Yitzchak survived the akeda but not entirely unscathed.

And Avraham returned to the young men…. (Gen. 22:19) Where is Yitzchak? One would have expected the verse to read: “Avraham and Yitzchak returned to the young men…” Yitzchak was cloistered in Gan Eden for two years healing from the wounds that his father inflicted upon him when he was very nearly slaughtered. [Hadar Zekanim, brought in Torah Shelayma 22:19, in the notes of par. 204]17

This conveys that Yitzchak was actually harmed by that traumatic event though not a scratch was made on his body. The midrash reports that Yitzchak spent the next two years healing from the soul-wounds that were (unintentionally) inflicted by the akedah.

Yitzchak, as the archetype of restraint, subdued his natural instinct to fight for his life. And that self-sacrifice was his offering, and it was so great that we (his progeny) are still drawing from its nearly inexhaustible merit. And yet, the Torah teaches that we all carry a child inside us that responds to the immediate impact of a moment independent of its corrected interpretation.  For example, even though we know we are reading a story, our body still clenches in fear.

For this reason Hashem decided that even Moshe, the most enlightened man that ever lived, should not initiate the plague of blood by striking the water with his staff.  Why? Because striking would be a hurtful gesture toward the river that had saved him when he floated in his ark. HaShem understood that the child in Moshe would interpret that whack as a callous act of ingratitude, though Moshe himself clearly knew that it was not.18

And so it was for Yitzchak. He knew (without a doubt) that he and his father were fulfilling HaShem’s mysterious will and that their act would produce unimaginable good.  Yet the child inside viewed the scene more starkly: His father held a knife to his throat and was prepared to slaughter him…His trusted parent who was supposed to protect him was about to take his life. Yitzchak’s inner child (aka, his heart) was traumatized by that event and it was two years (or some say three) before he could collect himself and reenter the world.

Yitzchak adopted the corrected narrative of the akeda for that really is the truest truth. Yet for a master of gevurah it can be hard to discern whether inner consensus reigns because alternative views have been persuaded or quashed. The Tanya says that one can never be sure.19 A midrash reports that Yitzchak’s eyes weakened as a result of the akeda, and this refers not only to his physical sight. It is partly why he did not see though Essav’s veneer of false piety.20

And so, in Yitzchak’s case it seems that there must have been some residue of trauma buried in his depths that got pushed off to Essav’s line as part of the nature and nurture that was providentially directed to that branch of the family tree.21 Soul wounds are like knots in a piece of wood.  At their heart is an intense sliver of potential but it is surrounded by a gnarled tangle of broken threads and misshapen attributes. They are islands of chaos in the psyche that would be invisible if not for their telltale symptoms of anger, fear and hypervigilance.

For a tsadik like Yitzchak these soul-knots (if present) are drowned out by the blaze of his awareness.  Yet when they got pushed off to Essav’s portion, there was no counterbalance. In Essav’s psyche they erupted as chaotic impulses that took root and flourished. Their spark of holy potential was drowned out by the stormy reactivity that swirls around a soul wound. By age fourteen Essav was already a felon with murder, rape, and theft on his crime sheet.22

As the Ari maps out in his Treatise on Reincarnation, a soul-wound clickety-clacks down through the generations via the nature and nurture that governs our psycho-spiritual inheritance. The trauma gets reenacted in ways that might appear unrelated, but upon closer inspection are simply variations on the original theme, which in this case is (the semblance of) parent harming child. It is logical to assume that a nation of cold-blooded psychopaths like Amalek, is also a nation of merciless parents and traumatized children. But at some point down the line a paradigm shift occurs when someone in the lineage finally makes the turnabout. A synchronicity of courage, grace and circumstance converge to produce a hero who turns his or her soul-wound into a mission of helping others and changing the world for good.

Shmuel bar Shalit is such a one. As the redeemer of the Amalakite lineage his soul was conceived at the akeda, but lay buried for generations until, says R. Tsadok HaKohen, Queen Esther finally set him free. So treasured is the spark of R. Shmuel bar Shilat that, according to R. Tsadok, King Shaul forfeit his crown to preserve its precious cargo when he spurned HaShem’s command and gave Agag a night’s reprieve.23  Haman’s lineage was conceived that night and the spark of R. Shmuel bar Shilat, now saved from extinction, passed with Agag’s seed to the great, great grandfather of wicked Haman whose soul touched ground that fateful eve.24

And Esther follows Shaul’s lead when she gives Haman a short reprieve. She did not request his death first thing but invited him to lunch with herself and the King. R. Tsadok explains that Esther hoped (by her wine and grace) to arouse the spark of R. Shmuel bar Shilat that was locked inside Haman’s soul. If she could revive that inner tsadik Haman might awaken to teshuva. Who knows what miracle HaShem would employ to redeem his holy nation. The turnabout could easily be for Haman to see the light, renounce his hatred, and dedicate his life to God and good and truth.25

Esther’s plan actually worked…for a moment, says R. Tsadok. “Haman [left the banquet] that day joyful and of good heart (שמח וטוב לב).”26 Scripture does not employ that phrase (good heart) casually. It is an honorific term for joy that comes from tasting light (and truth). When referring to more material pleasures, Scripture adds a qualifier, and the phrase then reads, a kind of good heart (כטוב לב).27 There is no qualifier here, notes R. Tsadok. Esther kindled the holy spark and Haman awakened to teshuva…for real!28

Yet when Haman left Esther’s presence he could not sustain this awakening. His narcissistic tantrum resurged triggered by Mordecai’s refusal to bow. Haman lost his “good heart,” his teshuva collapsed, and the spark of R. Shmuel bar Shilat transferred to Mordecai via the channel of hatred directed toward him. And now, without this holy spark to prop him up, Haman plummeted to his demise.29

What enabled Esther and Mordecai to extract this precious spark when all previous generations had failed?30  Based on the Principle of Resonance, their potent tug on Shmuel bar Shilat’s spark must reflect an exceptional affinity they shared with his soul. Esther and Mordecai embodied the two poles of Shmuel bar Shilat’s odyssey.  Esther was orphaned at birth, a tragic fate that cannot help but leave its wounds. And Mordecai was her protector. He adopted Esther and dedicated himself for decades to her well-being.

Mordecai and Esther were the perfect tools for releasing Shmuel bar Shilat from his 1,252 year exile among the Amalakite gene pool. Esther the orphan mirrored his rocky beginnings in Yitzchak’s wounded heart, while Mordecai and Esther—hero and heroine—resonated with his (yet to be realized) triumph over his Amalakite roots, when he would became the archetypal “guardian of children” in the Oral Torah.

The Komarna Rebbe states that our crowning glory as a people—the lights that form the halo around our head—are the sparks we’ve pulled from the lowest depths, from evil empires and the like.31  This surely includes R. Shmuel bar Shilat, our shining star, mentioned by name as both Haman’s offspring and the Jewish exemplar of one who “turns multitudes to righteousness.”

Through Shmuel bar Shilat, Yitzchak comes full circle and beyond. His soul-wound whose legitimate plaint was partly addressed and partly (unintentionally) stifled got pushed off to Essav’s lineage because there was no place for it in his (and our) rectified version of that celebrated event. In this way a sliver of Yitzchak incognito sojourned among the Amalekites, the only nation with soul-wounds that are so malignant they leave nothing left to salvage. Yet even the Amalakites could not exist without a holy drop of life, and that smidgen of vitality that sustained them for all those years was the wounded sliver of Yitzchak’s soul that got shunted off to Essav’s line, rescued by Esther and Moredecai, and eventually incarnated as Shmuel bar Shilat, the devoted educator of children.

Yitzchak’s integration of his Shmuel bar Shilat spark—the wounded child turned guardian of children—is illustrated by the following midrash which tells how, in the end of days, Avraham and Yaakov will be willing (metaphorically) to “sacrifice” us, their children, for HaShem’s glory. Yitzchak conversely stands up against HaShem, argues on our behalf, and thus assures our redemption.

[The midrash weaves its parable around a verse in Isaiah:] “For you [Isaac] are our father. Abraham does not know us, and Jacob does not acknowledge us.”32… As we approach the End of Days HaShem will complain to Abraham. “Your children have sinned against Me.” Abraham will answer, “Master of the Universe! Let them be wiped out for the sanctification of Your Name.”’HaShem will say to Himself: [Time for plan B.] I will lodge my complaint with Jacob who experienced the pain of raising children, perhaps he will plead for mercy upon his progeny. And so HaShem will say to Jacob, “Your children have sinned against me.”’ But Jacob will respond exactly as Avraham: “Master of the Universe! Let them be wiped out to sanctify Your Name.”’HaShem, taken aback, will comment to Himself: “There is no reason in old men…” HaShem will then turn to Isaac and repeat his complaint: “Your children have sinned against me.”’ But Isaac shall answer: “Master of the Universe! Are they my children and not Your children? At Sinai, in their glory, when they gave precedence to doing over understanding33 You called them, ‘My child, my firstborn.’ But now You renounce all connection to them! And furthermore, how much could they have really sinned? How many years does a person live? Seventy. Subtract twenty, since the heavenly court does not hold a person accountable for their actions until the age of twenty.34 … Subtract twenty-five which comprise the nights…Subtract twelve and a half for prayer, eating, and Nature’s calls…That leaves twelve and a half. If You can handle that then fine, and if not then I will share the burden with You fifty-fifty. And if You refuse Your share then You can place it all on me. For, I have already covered their portion when I offered myself up before You as a sacrifice!” When the people hear Isaac’s loyal advocacy, they will say: “You [Isaac] are our father.”35

The paradox here is that Yitzchak boldly argues against Hashem, yet the midrash clearly indicates that Hashem was actually seeking someone to do just that—to defend the children even at His expense, even if it meant snubbing an opportunity to sanctify HaShem’s name.

And the midrash closes with another surprise.  When the people turn to Yitzchak and hail him as their savior, Yitzchak responds:

“Don’t laud me, rather praise HaShem.” Isaac will then conjure the Presence of HaShem so powerfully that the people will actually see G-d’s semblance with their eyes. They will gaze heavenward and proclaim, “You, HaShem, are our father…” (Isaiah 63:16).

  1. Tsadok HaKohen interprets this midrash as a testimony to Yitzchak—who he is (as the archetype of gevurah), and who he will become by integrating all the pieces of himself (especially the spark of Shmuel bar Shilat that sojourned for centuries among the Amalekites). R. Tsadok notes that it is Yitzchak (the chariot of gevurah) who conjures the visage of Hashem so concretely that the people see Divinity with their fleshy eyes. Yet HaShem is not material so what did they see? With the spark plucked from Amalek as his crown, Yitzchak models the strength, compassion, complexity and mysterious will of HaShem so perfectly that there is nothing of Divinity that is not embodied through Yitzchak in that moment. And what shone most brightly was his fierce (even heretical) dedication to the children—his concern for them outweighed his concern for the sanctity of HaShem’s name.

And so it must be, that in our ongoing war with Amalek, Shmuel bar Shilat (the minder of children) is still a key player. Though the nation of Amalek is technically extinct, the battle has reconfigured as an intramural campaign.36 Our challenge is to emulate Esther and Mordecai by applying the Principle of Resonance to make our Jewish nation a place that exerts an irresistible tug upon all the Shmuel-bar-Shilats trapped within the wounded children of our people (and really of the world). And that will only happen if we turn our community into a place that embodies R. Shmuel bar Shilat’s selfless dedication to the wellbeing of children as modeled by Yitzchak in the above midrash.

And the truth is, we all have a wounded child inside our heart. And because we are ashamed of its vulnerable, silly, angry, timid, delinquent or sacrilegious impulses, we try to pretend it doesn’t exist. And yet this host of banished sparks, as long they remain disowned, provide the psychic nurture for Amalek these days. Yet truly it is those very sparks, once they integrate, that will become our crowning glory.

I want to bless us as individuals and as a people, that on this holiest of holy days, when the world turns upside down, and HaShem invites our inner child to take the reins and romp and play—that this surge of playful moxy on this child-friendly day pull all the sparks back to their roots, safe passage guaranteed. But if we are going to keep them here for more than just one day, then we must make it worth their while, nay preferable to stay.

Please HaShem let it finally sink into our heart, bones, cells and spaces that our wounded children (both within and without) are the Achilles heel in our battle with Amalek.  They are the “feeble stragglers, picking up the rear,” vulnerable to ambush.  And let us face the fact that when we hush offenses of this sort, claiming to protect the Torah from disgrace, we are really just avoiding our own discomfort—the shame that, if exposed, might finally prompt a potent teshuva and instigate real change. The midrash makes it clear where Hashem’s priorities lie. Let’s catch the Purim updraft and bring mashiach NOW.

Whatever is true in this teaching, let it come in, take root, and let us be transformed by it (both as individuals and as a community)…Whatever is false let it pass through and leave no impression. With your help, Hashem, we trust that it will be so.

פורים שמח … וטוב לב משתה תמיד

_____________

[1] ©A Still Small Voice, 2011 / 5771

2 Since Shmuel bar Shilat is the only one named, he is, apparently, the most illustrious.

3 Mekhilta, Parshat Shelach (toward end); Pesikta d’Rav Kahana, Piska 3, Sec. 16 (toward end).

4 The defining feature of an Amalakite is a complete lack of remorse (which is also what characterizes a sociopath).  And without remorse, teshuva is impossible. And without teshuva there is no way to come clean.  And yet only a person with clean hands and a pure heart can enter eternity (the world to come).

5 R. Tsadok HaKohen (RTsHK), Pri Tsadik (PTs), Purim 2, part 2. The Talmud does not explain how these sons of Haman came to be Jewish. R. Tsadok speculates that an Amalakite seduced (or worse) an Israelite woman and sired a child through this unsanctioned union.

6 Sarah Yehudit Schneider.  You are What You Hate—A Spiritually Productive Approach to Enemies, is an elaborated translation of a text by R. Y.Y.Y. Safrin of Komarna on this subject.

7 Baal Shem Tov on the Torah, Parshat Noach, Amud HaTefila, ot 156-158.

8 TB BB 8b.

9 Haman is the last Amalakite mentioned by name in Biblical and Midrashic writings.  There is speculation in rabbinic literature that certain enemies of Israel (since this time) were (or are) Amalakites, but there is no clear blood lineage asserted. Most authorities rule that since Sancherev conquered Israel and its environs and purposely mixed up the nations, we are no longer able to identify the Biblical nation of Amalek and cannot, therefore, at this time, fulfill the obligation to extirpate the Amalakites.

10 In the Torah’s lexicon of symbols, Amalek becomes the token of pure evil. Today, there are no living people carrying that name. Yet, according to kabbala, there are always individuals (and sometimes nations) who embody the archetype of Amalek in every generation. Every other creature has at least a sliver of soul, a ray of God that dwells within and sustains its life. Yet there are hollow men, who absorb their life juice through their skin.  They feed off the sparks that fly from the clashing of matter and psyches in conflict. They are chronic provocateurs, for their survival requires exactly this. If conflict would cease, so would they, for they have no inner wellspring from which to draw life. These empty creatures with a void at their core are the spiritual offspring of Amalek. Like viral spores they float through history, invisible, until they find a host who is susceptible to their hate-filled contagion.

11 In a partzuf, the lower three sefirot of netzach (N), hod (H), yesod (Y) contain the reproductive organs of the parents (seed stock, etc.).  And also these three sefirot are understood to hold the unconscious roots of emotion (as opposed to chesed, gevurah, and tiferet which are the conscious emotions). And so, kabbalistically, the NH”Y of the upper partzuf (or parent) is what extends into the lower partzuf (or child) to form and sustain him or her.  This means that something of these three sefirot (from the upper partzuf or parent) are permanently present in the child as the genetic stuff that is transmitted through the germ cells, and the ingrained behavior instilled in the child from the parents’ habitual ways of moving through the world during the child’s impressionable years.

12 Midrash Hagadol 20:6.

13 Midrash Hagadol 22:8.

14 Yalkut Shimoni, Parshat Vayera, chalek 21, 99.

15In Hebrew:

…, באותה שעה היה יצחק מסכים בפיו, ולבו היה אומר מי יצילני מיד אבי, אין לעוזר אלא הקב”ה שנא’ עזרי מעם ה’ עושה שמים וארץ,…

16Another midrash that conveys the pain and ambivalence of both Yitzchak and Avraham: “Staring with unbearable compassion into his son’s eyes, Avraham lifted Yitzchak and laid him on the altar that they had just prepared together.  Yitzchak gazed heavenward. Avraham was crying, his tears flooding his eyes and dripping down his body until he became completely drenched with tears. He spoke to Yitzchak: ‘My son, since you took this first step of offering your life, willingly, at HaShem’s command, may your selfless deed call forth a reprieve from on high—your Creator should respond from on high and prepare a substitute korban that will be offered in place of you.’  At that moment [Yitzchak] sobbed and wailed and his eyes let loose their tears? He looked toward the Shekhina, raised his voice and spoke the following verse: ‘I lift my eyes to the heavens from whence comes my salvation.’” Yalkut Shimoni, 22:101.

17 The full Hebrew citation:

וישב אברהם, ויצחק היכן הוא אלא שנטמן יצחק בגן עד ושתי שנים כדי לרפאתו מן החתך שחתך אביו כשהתחיל לשחטו:

18 Eliyahu Desser, Michtav M’Eliyahu, vol. 3, p. 100-104. Moshe understood that really, the hitting itself would elevate the water, not degrade it.  That river would become the instrument of an awesome revelation of Divine might and presence.  It would move out of the category of “ordinary” into an elite class of objects that transcended their “natures” and proved the truth of G‑d, through miracle, to the eyes of all.  This was an honor, not a disgrace.  And still Moses could not do it because of the subtle callousing effect it would have on his heart.

19 Likutei Amarim (Tanya), Chapt. 13. Pri Tsadik, R. Tsadok HaKohen, Par. Zachor, ot 2.  R. Tsadok actually says that the mitzvah of remembering Amalek is a call for tsadikim to remember that as pure as they have become, they must constantly remind themselves that there are still Amalakite impurities lurking in the depths of their soul.

20 Gen. R. 65:10. And his eyes were dim from seeing: “As a result of that akeda; for when Abraham bound his son Isaac, the ministering angels wept…,and their tears dropped from their eyes into Isaac’s eyes, and left their mark upon them, and so that when he became old his eyes dimmed….Another interpretation dim from seeing: At the akeda, when our father Abraham bound Isaac on the altar, Isaac turned  his eyes heavenward and gazed at the Shechinah…therefore, said HaShem, his eyes shall be dimmed for that impertinence.”

21 BR Gen. 68:11. “…The grime (pesolet) within Avraham passed into Ishmael, the grime (pesolet) within Yitzchak passed to Essav….”

22 Pesikta d’Rav Kahana, Piska 3.

23 RTsHK, PTs, Purim 2. See: I Samuel 15 for the story of Saul and Agag the Amalakite.

24 Ibid.

25 Ibid.

26 Esther 5:9.

27 Esther 1:10.

28 RTsHK, PTs, Purim 2.

29 Ibid.

30 Every person contains two souls, a vital soul transmitted by one’s parents that integrates their two respective blood lines, and a Divine soul that has a lineage of its own, perhaps unrelated to one’s parents (or perhaps not).  These two souls (vital and Divine) fuse together at conception. Shmuel bar Shilat’s vital soul was conceived via the illicit union of an Amalakite male descendent of Haman and a Jewish female. The Divine soul that joined up in that union was the holy spark (originating with Yitzchak) that Esther and Mordecai extracted from Haman.

31 R. Y.Y.Y. Safrin.  Zohar Chai. II:33 (ד”ה כד אתייהב).

32 Isaiah 63:16.  The verse actually uses Yaakov’s other name, Yisrael, but because I didn’t want to confuse readers that were less versed in Bible knowledge, I substituted the more familiar name, Yaakov, which is actually the name that is used in the subsequent midrashic [aggadic] discussion.

33 “We will do and then we will understand” (Ex. 4:22).

34 Rashi, Num. 14:29.

35 TB Shabbat 89b.

36 RTsHK, PTs, Purim 2.

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