Thursday, March 13, 2014

Amalek

When I was a teenager the rabbi at our Reform temple said something in his pre-Purim talk that I have never forgotten. He stated that one of his colleagues always told over the Purim story with a slight twist to the ending. This other rabbi’s conclusion had Mordechai and Haman making up, sitting under a tree together, and becoming the best of friends.
If I remember correctly I was enthralled with this new ending. After all, growing up in that oasis of time of the fifties and sixties overt anti-Semitism was something I learned about but did not experience. How I wish my children and grandchildren could think the same way I did. Hatred to the Jewish people is such a reality for them. Friends have been murdered on their way to Torah classes. Playmates have been stabbed to death while sleeping in their beds. All this and more has been done by Arab terrorists who want to destroy Israel. Unfortunately, my children and grandchildren know firsthand there is no truth to that other rabbi’s happy ending.

As I left adolescence I learned more and more about my Jewish heritage and discovered that Haman was a descendant of Amalek. There is a commandment in the Torah, (Deuteronomy, Chapter 25, verse 19) that once HaShem has given us the inheritance of the Land and rest from the surrounding enemies we need to erase the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. Who is this Amalek and why were we supposed to annihilate him? Amalek was the grandson of Esav, Yaacov’s twin brother, the twin brother whom he had at one time sworn to murder after his father died. That did not happen but his animosity continued and was passed down. So much so that after the Children of Israel crossed through the Sea of Reeds, while all their Egyptian pursuers drowned and the world was in awe of the Jewish nation and HaShem, Amalek came to attack. (See Exodus, Chapter17, verses 8-16) Our sages teach us that Amalek’s aspiration was not to fight the Jewish people, but rather HaShem. This is why we are commanded to eradicate him and his nation.


As history progressed we have lost sight of who exactly is from the Amalek nation. Of course, sometimes it is easy to guess. Surely Hitler was a descendant and no doubt Ahmadinejad is, also. Probably the organizers of Israeli Apartheid are part of the same illustrious family. If, indeed Mordechai and Haman had had a lovely picnic lunch with each other, then we would not have suffered through the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Pogroms, the Holocaust, and current anti-Zionism.

 

The rabbis teach us that when the month of Adar, the month of Purim, enters, joy increases. The last six years I have had problems with this dictum.  Six years ago at the beginning of Adar my neighbor’s son, along with seven other boys, was shot to death in the gruesome Mercaz HaRav Massacre.
Three years later my grandson’s buddy from down the block, four-year-old Elad Fogel, was stabbed to death along with his mother, father, older brother, and baby sister.
How can joy increase when there is such evil?  And yet, there is a commandment to feel joy.

 

We read in Megillah Esther (third chapter, verse eight) that Haman tells King Ahasuerus that there is one people scattered and dispersed among the people in all of his lands. Haman is, of course, referring to the Jewish people. We are taught that scattered and dispersed does not just mean geographical location.  It also means that we are scattered and dispersed ideologically and do not get along with one another. I do not see the end of all the hatred and evil against us coming via a pleasant rendezvous between the Mordechais and the Hamans of this world. Instead, I see the responsibility is firmly in the hands of all of the Jewish people. 

 

It is my belief that once we can start overlooking our differences we can begin to eradicate much of the hatred against us. If only the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim, the Charedim and the National Religious, the Israelis and those living overseas, the observant and the non-observant, the Rightists and the Leftists, the kibbutznikim and the city dwellers would begin to concentrate on our similarities! Although this seems almost like an impossible dream I know that each one of us can help bring it to reality. If I can stop judging the way someone dresses and where he lives and instead look at his soul maybe I can make a chink in the walls of hatred. With this goal I can again begin to hope that we can indeed bring Redemption. I can begin to feel the true joy of knowing HaShem has a plan even if I don’t understand it. I will find comfort for all the tragedies we have suffered. Then, again, my joy will increase as soon as Adar enters.  Perhaps even those who hate the Jews as Amalek did will truly repent and indeed be able to sit under a tree with Mordechai’s descendants.   

 

Many thanks to Hyndi Mendolowitz, Rivkie Segal, Riki Rabinowitz, and Rabbi Breitowitz for their Torah

classes that inspired me to write this article.

 

For more about The Mercaz HaRav Massacre see:

The Missing Guest: Jan. 2nd, 2014

A Blizzard In Shilo: Feb. 8th, 2013

Akeidat Yitzhak: Aug. 29th, 2011

Three Years Ago: March 5th, 2011

 

And about the Fogel Murders:

Thoughts on the Horror in Itamar: April 4th, 2011

Another Look at Terror: April 4th, 2011

How Do I Mourn on Tisha B’Av: July 31st, 2011

They Murder, We Build: Dec. 25th, 2011

And After Tisha B’Av: Aug. 5th, 2012

In Cold Blood: Nov. 8th, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





3 comments:

Esther Jacobs said...

As always, your postings make me think. I think we led a sheltered life in Wichita. As Jews, we were accepted as the people we were. The Docs in the family gave us a great reputation in the community. I never really felt anti-Sematisim til I went to college. You make me think!
Thanks, Esther

Ester said...

Thank you!!!!!

Batya Medad said...

This post is included in Shiloh Musings: Havel Megillah Havelim, The Poorhim Edition.  Please read all the other posts, comment and share thanks.

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