Archive | March, 2011

Every Nation and Their Amalek

22 Mar

Missiles are dropping on southern Israel….again.  And it seems to me that it  is no mere coincidence.

As the Arab world lends its tacit support to the allies in their bombing of  Libya, blurring the traditional lines that divide between the good guys and bad guys in the Middles East conflict, no doubt the order has come down from Iran to Hamas that they need to heat things up on the Gaza border.  Dragging Israel into conflict is all about reminding and uniting the Arab world around their common enemy – the Jews.

I have been thoroughly enjoying my read of a short but powerful book by Eric Hoffer, called The True Believer – Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements.The book was written in 1951, in the aftermath of WWII and the Holocaust.  I find every page to be chock full of great wisdom.

This past Shabbat, Shabbat Zachor, we fulfilled the Torah commandment to remember the evil of the nation of Amalek, gathering in the synagogues throughout the world to hear the Torah’s call to us:

Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the LORD your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget! (Deut. 25:17-19)

Leading up to Shabbat, I had just read the following words by Hoffer:

Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.  Usually the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil….Common hatred unites the most heterogeneous elements.  To share common hatred, with an enemy even, is to infect him with a feeling of kinship, and thus sap his powers of resistance.  Hitler used anti-Semitism not only to unify Germans but also to sap the resoluteness of Jew-hating Poland, Rumania, Hungary, and finally even France. ..Every difficulty and failure within the movement is the work of devil, and every success is a triumph over his evil plotting.

The Jewish Nation too was established around a faith in God that was combined early on with a pervasive hatred for the devil in our midst – the nation of Amalek – and the divine call for the blotting out of Amalek’s existence. Uniting against Amalek is clearly a critical part of our doing God’s bidding. (See the book of I Samuel, Chapter 15) – Amalek is our devil. Isn’t that why Haman is called a descendant of Agag, that is, of Amalek? As we sit in the synagogue on Purim each year and teach our children to blot out Haman’s name with our noise-making, we are essentially, it seems to me, focusing our national ire on the Amalekite – rehearsing that aspect of our national unity that is based upon our commitment to the destruction of our eternal arch-enemy.

And so, Amalek is our devil…..and we are the “Amalek” – the devil of the rest of the world. Just take a look at the listing of 55 cities, states and provinces  from around the world who are participating in the 7th Annual Israel Apartheid Week. Anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism, and universal hatred for Israel –the devil of the world –  is what continues to bring together even the most vehement of enemies.

What makes our Amalek different than theirs? It seems to me that for us, Amalek is not, in the words of Haman, “a certain people,”  living in a certain place at a certain time.  When we unite against Amalek, we are uniting against anyone that shows injustice, that takes advantage of the weak and unprotected as ancient Amalek did to us as we left Egypt.

Our Amalek is no longer a certain nation, race or religion per se – look at the extent to which Israel has embraced Germany just a little more than 60 years after the downfall of the Third Reich. The Nazis were the manifestation of Amalek in our modern world, but today a reformed Germany does not bear that label.  Germans are not Amalek, nor are Russians or Romans – not even Iranians or those who call themselves Palestinians are considered nations that we must unite against.  For us, any and all nations can display Amalek-like behavior – at any time – and it is this around which we unite – being on the lookout for Amalek-like behavior and uprooting it – this is part of our calling as a nation – to rid the world of prejudice, injustice, oppression.

For the Jewish People, Amalekites will come and go – the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation. (Exodus 17:16) We are forever on the lookout for the next Amalek, and as a nation, we stand eternally united against him wherever he may turn up.

Perhaps it is specifically this commitment to eradicate evil wherever it exists that has contributed to our becoming the Amalek of the world.

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