Amalek – Blinded by Nature
by Rabbi Yehudah Prero
“And this (calling out and trumpeting when tragedies befall the nation) is from along the paths of repentance. At a time when tragedies occur and they call out about it and trumpet, all then know that because of their evil deeds, the suffering came . . . and this is to cause them to remove the suffering from upon them. However, if they do not call out and they do not herald the suffering, but they say this is natural event, an occurrence in the course of the world, and this suffering just happened, this attitude is from the path of brazenness and causes them to cling to their evil ways, and additional tragedies will occur. . . .” (Hilchos Ta’anios 1:2-3)
The Rambam (Maimonides) in the passage cited sets forth the fashion in which G-d deals with His creations. There is a system of cause and effect. To the untrained eye, it appears that the whole world operates on action and reaction, cause and effect. One event triggers another, a certain choice results in a specific action. It is possible to attribute all that happens in one’s life to this series of events that appear to be part and parcel of nature. A person, therefore, may take precautionary actions, choices to prevent a negative turn of events in the course of nature. A person’s whole life may be centered on positioning himself so that he only benefits from life, and is spared the suffering nature casts upon others. If a person does live such a life, he is enslaved to nature. He has fallen into the trap that the Rambam describes: if a person writes off the possibility of divine intervention, and believes wholly in himself, he will cling to his evil ways. G-d will act with him accordingly.
A person does have the ability to detect G-d’s presence in the world. He can comprehend that G-d is the One who causes the cause and effects the effect. G-d causes the existence of the world and sustains it. When a person lives with this principal as central to his being, he can appreciate the role of divine providence, the heavenly role in “nature,” and react properly, as the Rambam says, to that which may befall him.
The Medrash (Bereshis 63:8) writes “AND THEY CALLED HIS NAME ESAV (Bereshis 25:25). It is for nothing, for falsehood, (“shav”) that I created him in My universe.” Rav Gedalia Schorr explains that in the creation of the world, G-d fashioned a creation that has no rational connection to reality. The foundation of this creation is the belief in the happenstance. This creation, which negates G-d’s existence and focuses on the battle versus that which “nature” has wrought, is Esav, primarily his descendant Amalek. Amalek epitomizes the belief in nature. The Amalekite attack on the nation of Israel right after their departure from Egypt is described (25:18) as ” How he (Amalek) happened’ upon you by the way. . . ” Amalek is a nation that does not recognize G-d and His power.
Amalek’s power over the nation of Israel exists only when the nation of Israel itself fails to recognize G-d. The Talmud (Rosh HaShana 29a) writes: “[It is written] and it came to pass, when Moshe held up his hand that Israel prevailed (in the battle against Amalek).’ Now, did the hands of Moshe wage war or crush the enemy? Not so; rather, the text signifies that so long as Israel turned their thoughts above and subjected their hearts to their Father in heaven they prevailed, but otherwise they fell.” During the battle against Amalek, when the nation of Israel saw the hands of Moshe outstretched towards the heavens, they realized that it was G-d who was going to dictate the victor of this battle. Amalek attacked the weak stragglers, hitting the nation at its most vulnerable point. Nature should have ordained that the nation of Israel was doomed. However, when the nation remembered G-d and prayed to Him, when they recognized His providence, G-d gave them the strength to overcome. And overcome they did.
Amalek demonstrated their disbelief in divine providence when they attacked the nation of Israel. The entire world had heard of the miraculous exodus of the nation of Israel from Egypt. Word of the plagues and the splitting of the sea had spread. The nations of the world feared the nation of Israel, who clearly had divine protection. Amalek dared to attack, nonetheless. They disregarded all the miracles. They dismissed any notion of divine protection. And they attacked. This was an unequivocal statement by the nation of Amalek that G-d has no role in the workings of the world. This was a pronouncement of Amalek’s firm belief in the sole dependency upon one’s own actions for success. This underlying belief of the nation of Amalek flies in the face of reality. It is a falsehood. Falsehood can not be tolerated.
Amalek, the descendant of Esav, is the nation of falsehood. The nation of Israel is commanded to eradicate the nation of Amalek because this falsehood can not exist. Random happenstance does not exist in the world. It is merely the product of the imagination, a superficial method of explaining away events. Amalek’s entire existence is based on the non-existent. Therefore, we are to treat Amalek as they believe: we treat them as if they are a freak of nature, an anomaly never intended to exist, and therefore, under the laws of nature, subject to destruction, relegated to the realm of nothingness. Not even the memory of the nation of Amalek should exist.
The holiday of Purim is centered on recognizing divine providence (See I:66, III:29, 30). The villain of the Purim story, Haman, was from the nation of Amalek. Haman did all the right things, as far as nature goes, to ensure the destruction of the nation of Israel. However, he failed to recognize, as did his forefathers, that G-d is running the show. Haman was defeated by those he thought were doomed. He and his entire family were wiped out. His downfall was his belief system. And as the Rambam states, we have to assure that we do not meet the same fate.
For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.