Amalek At The Crossroads
PurimBurst, 1996 / 5756
Sarah Yehudit Schneider
Remember, HaShem, the offspring of Edom…the ones who say [about Jerusalem], “Destroy, Destroy to its very foundation”…Praiseworthy is he who repays [them] in the manner that [they] treated us. Praiseworthy is he who will…dash [their] infants against the rock (Psalms 137: 7-9).
To be frank, these verses make me squirm. I cannot face their rage straight on. I am ashamed of their raw hate and want to hide its savage fury under the rug. Is this our dream and our glory, to slaughter the infants of our enemies? A Jewish soul reviles cruelty and one who does not is of suspect lineage. The bloodlust of these verses cannot be literal and yet it must be true. What is their teaching?
Whenever Israel is about to access a new revelation of Torah, Amalek comes to sabotage the event. His murderous intentions always terrify, and always backfire. The threat of annihilation itself catalyzes a transformation in Israel that precipitates exactly what Amalek sought to avert.
Amalek attacked the Israelites en route to Sinai hoping to halt the revelation of truth that would engrave itself on the souls of an entire nation and impel its generations to be seekers and servants of God until the end of time. In the moment of attack Israel faced death and discovered a resource stronger than death…faith. The battle with Amalek burned a new reflex into the nervous system of the people: When evil attacks, look in and up and draw strength from there. This teaching, now body memory, prepared them to hold the light of Sinai. In 1312 BCE (less than two weeks after Amalek’s assault) the Jews received their Written Torah, a document of ink on parchment which records G‑d’s words in a sequence of letters and spaces that holds the world’s wisdom. “There is no truth that is not Torah.”
In 366 BCE the time approached for the Jews to accept, with whole and willing hearts, their Oral Torah, the living and evolving body of teachings that expand and elaborate the Written Text. This development was at least as momentous as Sinai. G‑d’s word found a new medium of expression. His teachings would form like drops of dew on the heart of His people seeding revelation from the inside out. The boundary between G‑d and Jew grew permeable. Amalek (as Haman) grasped the implications and launched a preemptive strike.
Esther, representing the Jews, accepted the possibility of death to both worlds if only G‑d’s people would live. Trusting each moment to reveal its teachings, she entered psychic battle with Amalek. Grace and inspiration supported her. At each step she scanned the horizon for options, waiting for her heart to whisper yes, and there she would move. A wine-party for three? …another? There were no neon signs or lightening bolts. The events themselves kept a poker face. Alone with her instincts, she had to find G‑d’s holy word, that speaks through them as surely as He spoke at Sinai. Esther redeemed her nation. She listened well and chose good. When all was done, the people created Purim and its status surpassed Yom Kippur. Amalek catalyzed an unfolding of events that fixed into the Jewish soul exactly that which he sought to destroy. God reveals Himself to every Jew who struggles to live with integrity. The cumulative insights of Esther’s people comprise the Oral Torah.
Our generation now readies itself for the Torah of Mashiach. All the sweet and holy teachings that fill our libraries; that have rejoiced the hearts and brightened the eyes of generations, are dull husks before the lights that will shine as the Torah of Mashiach. It is the Torah of rectified lives, the scroll of souls, that will communicate itself as a flood of joyous insight that sweeps through the heart as one encounters the beauty of each creature. Every Jew will embody their letter of the Torah in a dance of revelation that is simply their life.
Amalek has a dog’s nose for threat and knows that this is the big one. The war is on and the challenge is ours. But where is the battlefront? HaShem’s providential finger points in. There is no Amalek “out there” to fight, no nation carries that name. And besides, the outer war has preconditions that are not yet met.
How does one approach this war and recognize the enemy? Amalek is the root of impurity, the bad seed at the heart of every evil. Let us define terms. Evil is the illusion of separation and independence from G‑d. The word “illusion” is significant. Nothing can actually be separate from Divinity for G‑d is one. To the extent that something presents the appearance of self-containment, self-sovereignty, and multiplicity, to that extent it partakes of the quality of evil. To the extent that it communicates through itself the truth of G‑d’s goodness, oneness, compassion, and generosity, to that extent it is holy.
Evil is not a static phenomenon. The Talmud says, “The impulse to sin (יצר), the accuser (שטן), and the executioner (מלאך המות) are all the same thing.” They are evil in different stages of its life cycle. Every soul incarnates with impurities inherited from primordial times. At any given moment one or another of these dark knots rises from its depths and activates. The rest stay dormant till their time comes.
The first form that evil takes (its infant stage) is as an impure thought that triggers some urge to sin. When (ח”ו) a person acts on this impulse he rips himself from equilibrium. Every sin leaves the soul contorted, like a rubber band twisted and taut. This tension constantly seeks release and its unrelenting tug back toward rest becomes an accusing voice, a nagging reminder that someone has sinned and not paid dues. Thus evil’s second stage is called satan (the accuser). Next comes the executioner who collects the debt, a process which entails a fixed measure of suffering, yet it also releases the torque. As the soul relaxes back to equilibrium an amazing thing happens. Like matter encountering anti-matter, when evil runs its course, and consequence meets its cause, a knot of evil evaporates from the universe forever. Like a bee that stings and dies, evil causes its own demise. And since, unlike light (and good), there is a finite quantity of evil in the universe, and each time it activates it also annihilates, evil loses even when it wins.
Our battle with Amalek begins in the mind, for he appears first there as an urge to sin. Though evil loses either way, we suffer greatly if we heed its corrupt advice. Quality of life depends on one thing: Our capacity to nip evil’s life cycle in the bud and avoid the discomforting fallout of wrong action. As thoughts arise we must recognize the infants of Amalek and dash them against the holy rock of truth. Any thought that is spiritually unproductive builds on some falsehood that becomes its own undoing.
The war with Amalek is a spiritual practice and this is its technique. Become mindful of the stream of thoughts that pass through awareness. Identify those that are spiritually corrupt and label their flaw (i.e. jealous, vengeful, judgmental, etc.) Find the truth that undermines its fallacy and formulate it clearly. For example:
Jealousy—HaShem knows my life’s mission even better than I. He designed it, He wills it, and He is bound by an irrevocable covenant to assist its fulfillment from cradle to grave. Not a moment passes where He fails to provide the resources required for my next step in personal and spiritual growth. The blessings that I covet in other people’s lives would only be obstacles to my soul’s work. This moment is perfect. It has all that I need. I KNOW that this is true.
Write a prayer like this for each “infant” that contaminates your stream of thought. Identify those that are the current themes in your life. Recite their prayers two or three times in the day. Say them slowly and feel each word resound in your soul. They are true, and this is their strength. Throughout the day, when the thought occurs, speak its counter-truth, or just call “HaShem…” and allude to the words you have written. Victory is assured to all who follow this practice.
KNOW that you are drawing down a beam of light that is dissolving evil at its root. By exposing the lie at its core, the ground crumbles beneath it, for the bedrock of existence is truth. Purim is a time of grace when the forces align to facilitate this work. Seize the moment. Hold clean thoughts. Dash the infants of Amalek against the Rock of Truth, as it says, “G‑d is…my rock, there is no falsehood in Him”. May HaShem prosper our path. May it be a Purim of liberation from the vexation of Amalek in all his guises, and all his battlefronts.
 TB Yevamot 79a. Even in the rare circumstance where it is necessary to slay infants as with HaShem’s commandment to Shaul concerning Amalek (I Samuel 15:3) a Jew does not rejoice in that task.
 See PurimThemes, p. 3.
 TB Rosh HaShanna 29a, Maharsha.
 TY Rosh HaShanna 3:8.
 At Sinai the Jews accepted the written Torah with free will and whole hearts when they said, “We will do and we will understand.” Yet, regarding the oral Torah, the midrash says that HaShem compelled its acceptance by metaphorically “holding a mountain over their heads.” On Purim they accepted the oral Torah again but now with full hearts. (TB Shabbat 88a as interpreted by R. Tsadok HaKohen, Resisei Laila, p. 158 (56).
 R. Tsadok HaKohen, Tu B’Shvat, p. 115; Zohar 234b.
 Esther 4:16; R Tsadok, Tikanat HaShavin 5:2, 10:3.
 The commandment to observe Purim is not of sinaic origin. It was instituted later by the Sanhedrin (Supreme Rabbinic Court) and thus carries rabbinic status.
 TY Megila 1:5; Midrash Mishley 9. See PurimThemes, p. 4 for a discussion of the relationship between Purim and Yom Kippur.
 Tanna d’bi Eliyahu Rabba, Chapter 9.
 R. Tsadok, Pri Tsadik, Chanukha 2 (p. 142); Likutei Maamarim, P. 80-82; Yisrael Kedoshim, p. 152.
 Kohellet Rabba 11
 The midrash teaches that the letters of the word, ישראל (Israel) stand for: יש ששים ריבוא אותיות לתורה (There are 600,000 letters in the Torah).
 Zohar, II 65a
 R. Tsadok HaKohen, Pri Tsadik, Parshat Zachor, 2.
 TB Baba Batra 16a.
 Leshem, HaDrush Olam HaTohu, II:146, left.
 Leshem, HaDrush Olam HaTohu, II:4:12:7 (ד”ה מלאכת); and numerous other places in his writings.
 R. Shimon Agassi, Benei Aharon, a commentary on Shaar HaGilgulim, Hakdama 3, ff 21.
 Leshem, II:4:17:1 (p. 138-139).
 Benei Aharon, ibid.
 Leshem, ibid.
 Psalms 92:16