STUDENT SUMMARIES OF SICHOT OF THE ROSHEI YESHIVA
Purim and the Sin of
Based on a sicha by
Harav Yehuda Amital ztl
Adapted by Matan Glidai
Translated by Kaeren Fish
Rambam (Hilkhot Melakhim 6:4) writes that the commandment to wipe out
Amalek applies only where Amalek refuses Israel's call to make peace. In his comments on the Rambam, Raavad
notes that it is not sufficient for Amalek to make peace with Israel; they must
accept upon themselves the seven Noachide laws.
The Kesef Mishneh maintains that this is what Rambam meant:
Included in [the concept of] "making peace" is the acceptance of the seven
[Noachide] laws. For if they
accepted these seven laws, they would no longer be included in the category of
the "seven [idolatrous] nations" [which Bnei Yisrael are commanded to
annihilate when they enter the land], nor in the category of "Amalek"; they
would be considered like [any other] fit Noachides.
From the above, we understand that the war against Amalek is not a national war,
but rather a cultural one. Judaism
has no problem with the people of Amalek, but rather with their culture and
ideology. If Amalek would change
their behavior and accept upon themselves the seven Noachide laws, there would
no longer be any reason to wage war against them.
What exactly is the culture of Amalek, against which we are commanded to wage
war? If we examine the sections in the Torah that speak about Amalek, we note
certain recurring elements:
Remember that which Amalek did too you, ON THE WAY when you came out of Egypt. For they MET YOU (karekha) ON
remember that which Amalek did to Israel, that they laid wait for them ON THE
WAY when they came up from Egypt. (I Shmuel 15:20)
Mordekhai told him of all that had HAPPENED TO HIM (karahu)
Midrash notes the connection between the first source and the third:
"Mordekhai told him of all that had happened to him (karahu)" He said
to Hatakh: Go and tell her (Esther), "The descendant of 'karahu' has come
upon you" as it is written, "They met you (karekha) on the way." (Esther
see here that what characterizes Amalek throughout the generations is the
concept of "mikreh" attributing everything to randomness and
coincidence - while Am Yisrael is permanently "on the way" (ba-derekh),
a concept denoting continuity.
Amalek maintained an ideology of non-ideology: everything is permissible; there
is no journey, no direction; everything is coincidental; there is no absolute
value that must be held dear. Am
Yisrael, in contrast is always "on the way" they have a direction and
an objective; they have clear values to which they cleave.
word "machar" (tomorrow) also occurs twice in the sections about Amalek:
TOMORROW I shall stand atop the hill, with the staff of God in my hand. (Shemot
TOMORROW I shall do as the king has said. (Esther 5:8)
Once again, Chazal connect these two verses:
"Tomorrow I shall do as the king has said" why did Esther say "tomorrow"?
Because all descendants of Amalek are destined to fall "on the morrow," as it is
written, "Tomorrow I shall stand atop the hill." (Yalkut Shimoni Esther,
Maharal explains that the word "tomorrow" expresses existential, moral duality:
today we do that which is appropriate today, and tomorrow we do what is
appropriate tomorrow. This expresses
constant flux, a lack of fixed priorities and values: that which is good today
will not necessarily be good tomorrow; everything changes depending on the
circumstances. Esther understood
that she faced an Amalekite worldview, and therefore she used the word
Judaism, by contrast, there are absolute ideals, and there is long-term
planning. All events are part of a
larger plan, as expressed in the following midrash:
brothers were busy selling Yosef; Yosef was busy with sackcloth and fasting;
Reuven was busy with sackcloth and fasting; Yaakov was busy with sackcloth and
fasting; Yehuda was busy with finding a wife.
And the Holy One was busy creating the light of the king Mashiach. (Bereishit
Things do not happen coincidentally, simply according to whatever is going on
right now. Am Yisrael has
certain objectives, and the nation must act in the world in accordance with its
aims and aspirations. In the story
of Avraham, we encounter the expression "the way of God": he educated his
children and household to know that there is a way, a direction, according to
which one should behave.
point to the sin of Am Yisrael that caused Amalek to come and wage war
Rabbi Levi said: To what could Israel be compared? To a person who had a son; he
carried him upon his shoulders and led him through the marketplace. The son saw things that he liked, and
he said to his father: "Buy it for me" and he bought it for him, a first time
and a second time and a third.
son saw someone and said to him, "Have you seen my father?"
father said to him: "Silly boy you are riding on my shoulders, and everything
that you ask for I give to you, and you ask this person, 'Have you seen my
What did the father do? He cast him off his shoulders and a dog came and bit
it was when Israel came out of Egypt: the Holy One surrounded them with seven
clouds of glory
; they asked for manna and He gave to them. Once He had provided all of their
needs, they began to wonder and ask, "Is God in our midst, or not?" (Shemot
17:7). The Holy One said to them, "You question My Presence? By your lives, I
tell you that a dog will come and bite you" and what did this refer to? This
was Amalek. (Yalkut Shimoni, 261)
After all the Holy One had done for Israel, how was it possible for them to ask,
"Is God in our midst, or not?" Such a question could only arise if the
assumption was that nothing could be deduced from the past to the future. In the past, God indeed accompanied
and assisted Am Yisrael, but who can guarantee that this is still
the case? Every period is characterized by its own values and ideas; that which
was appropriate yesterday is not necessarily relevant today. Everything is good in its own time,
but is not necessarily applicable to every place and every time. This approach represented the
worldview of Amalek, and therefore this sin led God to teach Israel a lesson
through the attack of Amalek.
Another midrash has a different view of the sin of Israel:
[The name] "Refidim" implies that they were lax (rafu yedeihem) in Torah;
therefore Amalek came upon them. (Tanchuma, Beshalach 25)
This sin, too, relates to the worldview of Amalek. One of the factors that leads to
laxness or weakness (rifyon) in Torah learning is studying everything in
a localized and limited way, without regard for the overall picture. Chazal say of certain people
that "their Torah becomes many fragments" (Sanhedrin 71a). The Torah is a single system with
fixed values and a clear objective; it is not a collection of ideas, each one of
which stands alone.
festival associated with the wiping out of Amalek is known to us as "Purim"
named after the "pur" (lot) cast by Haman.
This would seem to be a peculiar choice of name: why emphasize
specifically the issue of casting lots? Surely, the important message of the day
is that Haman wanted to destroy Am Yisrael; why is it important how he
chose the day to fulfill his evil plan? The answer is that the "lot" symbolizes
the Amalekite ideology, according to which everything is based on chance, on
luck, on coincidence; there is no absolute value.
Torah commands us to wipe out the memory of Amalek, because Amalek has lost the
right to exist. Every nation and
ideology fulfills some role in the world.
Within that system, there is room for every individual, even if he is a
negative influence, just as we include galbanum among the ingredients of the
incense, even though its odor is unpleasant.
But Amalek is not part of this whole, because according to their view
there is no whole, nor any obligating value: everything is permissible and
everything is coincidental. This is
a most dangerous ideology, and the furthest removed from Judaism. Every type of idolatry has something
in common with Judaism, since it includes an acknowledgment of and search for
divinity. Amalek possesses no common
denominator with Judaism, since they reject the very idea of seeking any sort of
Since Sancheriv mixed up the nations, there is no nation that is identified as
Amalek but the Amalekite world-view still exists. This view finds its contemporary
expression in the trend known as postmodernism.
Modern culture upholds progress and other values, but postmodern
philosophy denies the existence of any absolute values at all. It posits that there is no need to
aspire to progress; in fact, there is no need to aspire towards anything. There is no ideology, everything is
permissible just as Amalek maintained.
Judaism is therefore completely opposed to this view.
the individual level, Chassidism teaches that every person contains a small
degree of "Amalekism," and each person must work on himself in order to wipe it
(This sicha was delivered at seuda shelishit, Shabbat Zakhor 5756 .)