Parshas Ki Teitzei; Remembering Amalek
The majority of our sedra this week deals with forbidden mixtures/'coming togethers' of 2 things; for example Shatnez, Kilaim, rape, returning a lost object, and others. [A real must-see this week is the Or HaChaim on 22;1-4 who darshens the psukim returning to returning lost objects to refer to returning those who are spiritually lost. See it inside!] Anyway, right at the end of the sedra we are given the command(s) to wipe out and remember the nation of Amalek (it is in fact a machlokes amongst our sages as to whether these are two parts of 1 mitzvah or 2 separate mitzvos). Now, as with most mitzvos of which we do not experience day-to-day performance nowadays, this mitzvah is somewhat lost to us. True, we do read parshas zachor before Purim and thus fulfil the command of remembering Amalek, but we have a bit of a lack of clarity still. And the position on Amalek and their enmity to the Bnei Yisrael is so severe that Bilam in one of his prophecies

(Bamidbar 24;20) says 'reishis goyim Amalek' ie the original enemy of the Bnei Yisrael is Amalek (Targum, Rashi). Now the first time a concept appears in the Torah is always the epitome of that concept, and serves to define that concept. Thus, Amalek are 'the quintessential enemy of the Jewish People. In what way? The question is essentially who exactly are Amalek and what do they represent that we must remember what they did, and indeed wipe them out? (the vast vast vast majority of the following ideas are not mine, but I cannot remember where they are from!)

There are many things which seem strange if all Amalek are is a people; and destroying them is solely based on the fact that they were the first nation to attack us after we left Egypt. Firstly, Rashi (Devarim 25;19) points out that the mitzvah to wipe out Amalek does not mean to just wipe out the people of that nation, but rather it includes their animals too – the reason he gives is so the animals should not be a vehicle for the mentioning of the name of Amalek; ie people would say 'this is Daisy, the cow of an Amalekite.' If the point is to destroy a nation only, what is so bad if someone mentions the name of the nation once they are already gone? Furthermore, there are those who imply from the precise wording of the Rambam, who writes (hil. Melachim 5;5) that the mitzvah to remember what Amalek did is 'tamid' ie forever – even after the nation themselves no longer exists. Again, if they are merely a people, why need to remember them after they are gone?

Thus, there are those who show that the root of Amalek's evil is not their genetic makeup of belonging to one people, but rather in the concept and ideology that they carry and represent. (There are even those who take the idea so far that they are of the opinion that a Jew can be Amalek too if they share their ideology.) The gematria of Amalek is 'safek' ie doubt. The idea is that Amalek's goal is to break the world into disparate parts and thus 'sever it from it's Creator.' They put doubt into the fact that HaShem runs the world in trying to disconnect our seeing that HaShem runs the world. In short, they try and put doubt into our Emnuah & Bitachon. Thus, Rashi (Shemos 17;16) explains that pasuk to mean that the name of HaShem will only be complete when Amalek are removed from this world. This means that HaShem willl only be reflected fully and only seen by us from this world when Amalek are gone, ie when the instrument of doubt is removed. A precedent for this is found in gemarra Psachim (50a) where the gemarra brings the pasuk that we say every day at the end of Aleinu; ' on that day HaShem and His Name will be one' (this is supposed the be the end pinnacle of the davening and a kavanna-filled statement of belief to take us into the day.) Anyway, the gemarra asks 'is HaShem not one now?' and answers that HaShem is indeed not one now, for there are different brachos said upon hearing good news and bad news. On that day, there will only be one bracha. What does this mean? It means not that HaShem is not perfect, not that He is not complete, but rather that since our perception is that good and bad do not both emanate from Him, His revelation in the world is not expressed by us in the fullest. [In fact there was a story one where a fresh baal teshuva came to Rav Noach Wienberg – head of Aish HaTorah – and explained why he had decided to become religious. He told that he was riding on a motorbike on a cliff and a truck came suddenly at him from the other direction and knocked him off the road and down the cliff. And miraculously he surived. He continued that it must be that G-d saved me, and thus I have decided to become religious. R' Noach asked this person 'and who do you think it was that caused the lorry to hit you in the first place?' The point is that we are all to quick to ascribe things to HaShem when those things are good, but He is the source of what, at least in our perception, is bad too.] Again, the point is that the lack of recognition of HaShem's complete running of the world is expressed in terms of a muffling of Him/ His Name. [And the same idea follows suit into the next part of that gemarra which answers the question of 'why is it that only on that day will His Name will be one?' by saying that it is because now His name is written differently to the way it is pronounced. Again, the idea is that there is not a full revelation of kavod shamayim in this world, expressed as a change in His Name.]
Thus, Bilam says that the typical and first enemy of Bnei Yisrael is Amalek. The 'tree of knowledge' in the sin of Adam HaRishon is called 'ilana desfeika' ('the tree of doubt'), for the sin brought doubt into the world; caused by the serpent. This serpent was the first enemy, and represented the goals of Amalek. Additionally, Amalek attacked us at the start of our journey into the wilderness, for that journey was a spiritual journey too, and not just a physical one – and they wanted to prevent it. This is why they attacked at a time when Bnei Yisrael had fallen spiritually (Rashi Shemos 17;8). And Hamman (descendent of Amalek) in the Purim story argues that the Jews should be killed because "they are separate and scattered" and "are not following the orders of the King" (Esther 3;8) – and the gemarra says that when the words 'the King,' without reference to king Achashveirosh, appears then this is a veiled reference to HaShem. (ie the pasuk is thus saying that the Jews were not obeying HaShem's Orders) Again, the point is that Amalek attack when we are not spiritually strong enough to prevent succumbing to doubt – and thus a prerequisite for fighting them is a king (Rambam hil. Melachim 1;1)).
This entire idea is expressed wonderfully by a Chassidishe Rebbe. He notes that at the very end of parshas Beshalach (17;16 ), the words 'midor dor' ie from generation to generation – referring to the constant war against Amalek – are written very strangely – they do not have a Vav; only Daled and Reish. Why? He points out that in parshas Ki Tissa (34;14) there appears a big letter Reish in the pasuk 'do not bow down to another god' so we should not read the word 'acher' (other) and 'echad' (one), which would dramatically change the pasuk to say do not bow down to one god; which is obviously not the Jewish monotheistic teaching. So too in the shema (Davarim 6;4) there is a large Daled in 'HaSHem echad' so that we should not read the last word of shema as 'acher' which would again invert the meaning from 'HaShem is one' to HaShem is another (ie two gods). The task of Amalek, the Rebbe continued, is to blur the Reish and the Daled, and thus there is no Vav separating the Daled and Reish in parshas Beshalach. And this is donw by removing the Vav – a Vav is a connector (it means 'and' and a hook in Hebrew) in that it connects the lower and higher worlds. (R Tatz) This means that Amalek try to blur HaShem being one and the bowing down the other gods in putting doubt into the world. He further explained that this is what HaShem was telling Moshe when He said 'lech raid' (lit. 'go down') when the people had sinned with the golden calf, ie the people have 'raid'; they have put the Reish before and Daled and mixed them up in creating another power. And so too did HaShem say to Adam after his sin that (Bereishis 3;18) 'dardar will grow' – dardar is Daled Reish Daled Reish; meaning that from now on due to your sin, the world will be one of increased doubt and it will be less easy to see HaShem's Hand in everything.

Have a great, doubt-free Shabbes

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