Friday, March 10, 2017

Amalek in Our Generation

By Rafi Ostroff
Head of the Religious Council of Gush Etzion

In Chassidic writing, “Amalek” has two meanings: The “external Amalek” is the physical enemy of the nation of Yisrael, while the “internal Amalek” is the evil inclination of an individual.

Here is what the Rebbe of Husiatyn wrote:

According to true wisdom, the forces of evil came into existence during the creation of the world in accordance with the heavenly plan of wisdom which is beyond the understanding of the creatures, and it will cease to exist when full mending of the world is accomplished. The forces of evil take on three forms: (1) In its basic form it is an angel, and the sages gave it many different names: Sama’el (known as the abbreviation samech-mem), Satan, the prince of Eisav, the prince of Amalek, the primordial serpent. (2) In this world it appears as the oppressors of Yisrael. (3) Internally in people, its form is the evil inclination. And that is what the Kedushat Levi wrote: “The eradication of Amalek includes the destruction of the evil part hidden in the heart of man, which is also called Amalek.”
We are not capable of understanding why G-d found it necessary to create evil in the world. But in any case it exists and appears in many forms – in the heart, internally; as a spiritual force; and as the enemies of Yisrael.

Amalek – Evil for its Own Sake

Why is it that Amalek was chosen as a symbol of world-class evil? The Rebbe explains:

All evil appears in Amalek, in its perfect form. Normal behavior in the world is that war is fought for one of three reasons. (1) To capture new lands. (2) As retaliation. (3) To be recognized as heroes. None of these reasons was valid for the war fought by Amalek. (1) Yisrael did not have any territory of its own. (2) At that time, Yisrael had not yet attacked any other nation, they were still in the beginning of their national existence. (3) Winning a war against Yisrael was not recognized as a heroic act. And that is what the Torah tells us. “You were tired and weary” [Devarim 25:18]. Thus, the evil people do evil acts because they love them, like the Germans now, who are also called by the nickname Amalek.

In practical terms, there was no reason for Amalek to fight a war against Yisrael. It was simply a war of evil against good – a war against the appearance of the name of G-d in the world. G-d chose Yisrael as the means through which His Kingdom would be revealed to the world. Amalek’s war against Yisrael was meant to prevent this revelation. And therefore the war of Amalek was in essence a war against G-d, which continues throughout all the generations, until His name will be revealed to all.

And here is something else we know from our prophets. In the future the evil will be no more, the world will be full of good. Then everybody will know that whatever G-d did was for the good. The nature of the evil force is that it delays the good that G-d sends us, thereby holding back the spreading of the Kingdom of Heaven (since as we noted the two are intertwined with each other).

Remember the Evil of Germany

The war against Amalek is the war between the good and the bad, between those who promote the word of G-d and the good in the world, and the evil in the world which rejects G-d. When the Rebbe wrote these words, evil was felt in all its strength.

And just see how all the evil has been revealed in the evil ones on the earth. They are like Amalek (who stands over us in an effort to destroy us, heaven forbid). The more a nation reveals that it is evil, the greater is its hatred of Yisrael, since Yisrael carries the banner of the Kingdom of Heaven. (That is why the sages said, anybody who hates Yisrael also hates the One who created the world by His word.) Germany is the Amalek of our generation, and remembering its evils and how it pursued Yisrael is included in the mitzva of remembering what Amalek did to us.

Doubts in Faith

When the Rebbe wrote the above words (in 5701, 1941), the people in Eretz Yisrael were not yet aware of the dimensions of evil spread by Amalek in our generation.

And now we see that the war of Amalek (the war between good and evil) continues until the arrival of the Mashiach. The heavy burden of the war was not the same in all generations. There were some generations when because of the war Bnei Yisrael were close to being destroyed, heaven forbid: The generation of the destruction of the Temple, the time of Rabbi Akiva, the era of the Crusades, the times of expulsion, the times of moranos in various different lands. However, the tragedy and the Holocaust in the current war against Amalek cannot be compared to anything that happened in the past. And Amalek continues to fight us now from inside and from outside. From the outside, millions of Jews have been murdered with great cruelty. From the inside, faith has been weakened, leading many people to thoughts of doubt, as is written, “G-d does not see us, G-d has left the land.” [Yechezkel 8:12]. We need Moshe, for what do Moshe’s hands provide? It is faith. “And his hands provided faith!” [Shemot 17:12].

The Rebbe insists that the Holocaust was unique and unlike any persecution of Yisrael throughout all the generations. And the physical war that entailed the murder of millions of people was combined with a spiritual war. The fact that the Germans had such success in their attempt led some people to lose faith. What doubt was there among the people? Could it be that G-d had abandoned His nation, as many people said after the Holocaust? Such thoughts appear as a result of the actions of Amalek, since his war against Yisrael is first and foremost a spiritual war against the revelation of the name of G-d in the world.

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