As we experience Purim and our victory over Haman, let us delve more deeply into the unique spiritual and existential battle that the Jewish People must continue to wage against the philosophy of Amaleik. Amaleik first appeared on the scene when they attacked the Jewish People in the midbar (desert), on their journey to Har Sinai. The most striking aspect of this attack was its timing. Hashem had just performed the makos (plagues) and split the Yam Suf (Red Sea) for the Jewish People, acts that had worldwide reverberations. The Jewish People were viewed as invincible, untouchable. And exactly at this moment, Amaleik chose to attack the Jewish People, undertaking a (practically) suicidal battle with zero provocation. What was their motivation in undertaking such a mission? This question can be extended to the Purim story, as well. Haman, suddenly promoted to second in command, makes it his mission to wipe out the entire Jewish People. As a descendant of Amaleik, he is clearly continuing their legacy of Jewish obliteration. Why is it that, throughout history, people have made it their singular focus to wipe out the Jewish People? And why is this the spiritual legacy of Amaleik? In order to answer this question, we must examine the fundamental principles of Jewish belief (based on the Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith).
Three Fundamental Principles
The first fundamental principle of Jewish belief is that Hashem is the Creator of the world. He is the Source of time, space, and all of existence.
The second principle is that Hashem has a direct relationship with this physical world. This is the concept of hashgachah (Divine providence), that Hashem oversees and controls the events of this world.
The third fundamental principle is that there is a purpose to this world and our lives within it. There is not a single aspect of life that is random; rather, each and every occurrence and interaction is part of an infinitely beautiful grand plan, a cosmic symphony, a masterpiece designed by Hashem.
While Amaleik does not tend to focus on the first of these principles, their entire existence is devoted towards destroying the second and third of these principles. Amaleik claims that although Hashem may exist, He has absolutely no connection to us or our world. Our lives are therefore meaningless, and this world is devoid of spirituality.
This destructive conviction is embodied in the pasuk describing Amaleik’s attack on the Jewish People. As we read in Parshas Zachor, we must remember what Amaleik did to us: “asher karcha ba’derech” – how they “happened” upon us while we were traveling (D’varim 25:18). The word karcha is peculiar, and Rashi therefore quotes three interpretations of this word, each fundamental and significant.
1- Randomness and Happenstance
The first explanation of the word karcha is based on its connection to the word “karah” – happenstance. This interpretation reflects Amaleik’s claim that everything in this world is random and meaningless. There is no hashgachah, no Divine providence. Anything that happens to you, whether bad or good, has no deeper meaning or significance behind it. Amaleik implied that they just “happened” to be here with swords in hand, ready for battle; they simply “chanced” upon the Jewish People as they were on the way.
This is the exact approach that Haman took when plotting to kill the Jews. He did not rationally calculate a date on which to kill the Jews; rather, he specifically chose one through a pur, a lottery. A lottery represents and embodies randomness and chance. Haman let the luck of the draw determine when he would kill the Jews, an act of devotion to “karah” (happenstance). The g’matria (numerical value) of Amaleik is safeik (doubt). Amaleik represents doubt and uncertainty, randomness and chaos.
2- Keri: Spiritual Marriage
The second interpretation offered by Rashi connects the word “karcha” to “keri,” a concept linked to marital impurity. Judaism views marriage as a lofty mitzvah; the relationship between husband and wife holds incredible spiritual potential. The Ramban explains that the relationship between man and wife ideally reflects the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish People. It is a relationship of spiritual and existential oneness, where potential is developed and actualized.
Amaleik, however, claims that marriage is no more than animalistic mating, a relationship devoid of higher meaning and spirituality. Perhaps the reason for this is rooted in Amaleik’s very conception. Amaleik was the result of Elifaz’s relationship with his concubine, Timnah (B’reishis 36:12). Unlike Jewish marriage, which is rooted in a devoted and loving commitment, a concubine reflects a purely physical relationship, lacking the spiritual components of true marriage. The very nature of Amaleik’s creation became their national ethos. Amaleik has divorced the physical from the spiritual, viewing the physical as detached from any higher spiritual source. The physical urges of man are the ultimate motivation in this world, as there is nothing deeper to the world or human interaction than its physical façade.
The name Amaleik shares its root with the word m’likah, which is the process of removing the head from the body of a bird before it is offered as a sacrifice. The head is the highest part of the body, representing the mind and the spiritual; the body is the lower part, representing the physical. Ideally, the two are harmoniously connected, and the head (spiritual) influences the outer expression of the body (physical). Amaleik attempts to disconnect the head from the body, to disconnect the spiritual (head) from the physical (body), claiming that there is no spirituality within the physical world, no meaning, no connection to Hashem or anything higher.
3- Kor: Cooling the Flame
Rashi’s third explanation of the word “karcha” is based on a midrash that relates the word to “kor” (coldness). The Midrash describes the mashal of a boiling hot bath of water that nobody dares jump into for fear of being scalded. Along comes a man and boldly jumps into the boiling water, severely burning himself in the process. Although he burned himself, he has now cooled the water enough to allow others to follow suit and jump in, as well.
This is what Amaleik did as the Jewish People traveled from Egypt to Har Sinai. After Hashem performed the ten makos (plagues) and took the Jewish People out of Egypt, Hashem’s providence was flamingly clear in the world. The nations of the world were ready to accept Hashem and His Torah, and they began flocking towards Har Sinai to join the Jewish People in accepting the Torah. (The Ramchal explains at the end of Derech Hashem that until the Torah was given, any nation could have joined klal Yisrael.) The Jewish People were at the height of their success, about to receive the Torah, and the other nations were ready to accept the Torah along with them. At this point, Amaleik attacked the Jewish People, undertaking a nearly suicidal mission. Although the Jewish People won, Amaleik showed the other nations that the Jews were not as invincible as they seemed. They “jumped into the scalding bath” – attacked the Jewish People, and “cooled the waters” – showed the other nations that the Jewish People were vulnerable to attack. Why did Amaleik do this? Why were they willing to burn themselves simply to weaken the Jewish People?
The Philosophy of Amaleik
Amaleik rejects Hashem’s connection to this world, or any connection between the spiritual and the physical. Essentially, Amaleik denies Hashem’s control of this world and the ability for man to uplift himself to the level of the spiritual. Torah is the epitome of both of these principles and provides the guidelines for how to achieve this spiritual elevation. It is based on the axiom of Hashem’s connection with this world, and it is the means for elevating ourselves and all of physicality to a higher purpose. Amaleik stands in direct opposition to this, and when they saw that not only the Jewish People, but the entire world, was ready to adopt the Torah way of life, they had no choice but to attack. Amaleik’s entire existence is predicated on a lack of connection between Hashem and this world; therefore, a complete acceptance of that principle by all the nations of the world would mean the cessation of Amaleik’s existence.
Amaleik attacked the Jewish People in order to prevent Matan Torah, to stop the world from accepting Hashem’s Torah and the truth that lies within it. And although Amaleik was sorely beaten, with only a few survivors, they still managed to slay a few Jewish warriors. They showed that the Jews were not invincible, “cooling” down the excitement of all the nations of the world and paralyzing their readiness to accept the Torah.
Amaleik won. Physically, they lost, but in a deeper way, they won. The nations of the world walked away, turning down the opportunity to accept Hashem and His Torah.
Why Isn’t Hashem Mentioned in the Megillah?
Megillas Esther is unique in that it is one of the only books in Tanach in which Hashem’s name is not mentioned. This is because Purim marks a transition in history, when our battle against Amaleik manifested in a new form. Until Purim, history was permeated with consistent open miracles, n’vuah (prophecy) was common, and Hashem was openly revealed in the world.
The second stage, ushered in by Purim, is characterized by hidden miracles. In our present world, Hashem is no longer openly manifest and clearly visible. In this stage, we must choose to see Hashem within the darkness, to peer past the façade of a meaningless world. It is in this stage that Amaleik’s claims are all the more tempting to believe, as it is so easy to ignore Hashem’s involvement in this world. Our challenge is to see past the surface, to see the miraculous within the natural, the ethereal within the mundane, the infinite within the finite.
Our Spiritual Battle
Amaleik fights for a God-less reality, devoid of spirituality and meaning: a world of Haman, of doubt, where a gap exists between us and Hashem. Only when you look more closely, deepening your gaze, do you see the deeper layer of reality, the transcendent root. Hashem is echad – one – and our goal is to see the spiritual oneness inherent within every event and object in this world. Amaleik seeks to hide the truth, to disconnect us from our Source, and thus to strip all meaning from life. Only when we see past the surface, when we trace everything that happens in this world back to Hashem – our spiritual Source – will we ultimately defeat Amaleik and all that they stand for.
Shmuel Reichman is an inspirational speaker, writer, and coach who has lectured internationally at shuls, conferences, and Jewish communities on topics of Jewish Thought and Jewish Medical Ethics. He is the founder and CEO of Self-Mastery Academy (ShmuelReichman.com), the transformative online course that is revolutionizing how we engage in self-development. You can find more inspirational lectures, videos, and articles from Shmuel on his website: www.ShmuelReichman.com.