Amalek Lecture I
The Rise of Antisemitism: A Glimpse Into Amalek’s Tortured Soul
Rabbi David Fohrman
Founder and Lead Scholar
What is the struggle with Amalek truly about? How can we understand the command to utterly destroy them? Join us as we explore the four confrontations between the Israelites and Amalek throughout history. Perhaps, through intense textual analysis we may come to understanding Amalek's internal struggles of self-loathing.
In this series, Rabbi Fohrman uses a set of Powerpoints to compare texts. Unfortunately, those Powerpoints have been lost to the ravages of time. We're very sorry about that, and we hope you still enjoy the series!
Rabbi David Fohrman: I think that what I want to do (inaudible) from your feedback -- it seems like it could, kind of, work. I always felt that one of the mistakes that people make when they think about books in general, they think about even Torah learning, is that everyone is focused on content and chiddushim (original new thoughts) and all of that and you think that that's the way you judge a work, which is, you know -- you take a sober look at the content and what is being said. That's true, but to me what's always ignored is how you say it also -- the presentation.
My personal feeling is that there's a very thin line and almost no line between content and presentation. To me, what I was aiming to do in presentation was not just to put the ideas out there, but to try to put them out in an engaging, captivating kind of way that, sort of, drew you in and maybe you want to keep on reading and gave you the feel that you are reading a novel that you didn't want to put down. To me, that is a real accomplishment, because most of the time when you pick up a sefer (Jewish learning book) you're thinking, oh, you know, I have to learn, so I'm going to struggle through whatever it says, because at least I'm going to get the insights. People just don't pay that much attention to how they put ideas down. They figure it's (inaudible) justification that it's learning and that it's Torah and I can put it down any way I want.
To me, it would be a real coup if you could create a book that people read -- would pick up not even because it was Torah, just because they wanted to pick it up and they felt that they couldn't put it down. To me that, in a way, it is almost what the Torah itself is talking about.
When you think of -- even in Shema, we don't always think of these words a lot, but if you think about what we say in Shema about Torah, right, "veshinantam lebanecha". What are the next words? "Vedibarta bam beshivtecha b'beisecha u'belechtichah bederech u'beshochbecha u'bekumechah." If you think about what those words mean, they don't just -- we have a halachic way of doing those words, when we wake up we say Shema, when we go to sleep we say Shema. But the p'shat of what those words mean is that you should be so in love with Torah that you are talking about Torah "vedebarta bam" you just, like, are talking.
When you talk to people you talk about Torah. It should be the first thing that you talk about when you wake up. It should be the last thing that you talk about when you go to sleep. When you are at home you talk Torah, when you are -- in other words, why? Because you can't stop thinking about it; it just invades your thoughts. It captures your imagination. That is the, you know -- that's the, kind of, thing -- so if you can put something together that captures people's imagination in that kind of way, it's a great, great thing. That's, kind of, what I was trying to do.
Today I am sharing -- I'm doing something which I -- I wouldn't say that I don't often do, because with you I actually do this, but, in general, outside this group I don't often do. You guys are my official guinea pig group (laughter). I use you to try things out with and, basically --
Audience Member: We feel so honored.
Rabbi David Fohrman: You feel so honored.
Audience Member: Because we're graded GP.
Rabbi David Fohrman: You're graded GP, that's right.
Audience Member: Guinea Pigs.
Rabbi David Fohrman: Not, PG, but GP. So here is the thing. What I want to share with you today and probably next week and maybe the week after that is something new that I have been developing that I just started developing. I am very excited about it. This began to come to me last Friday night and I have been working on it ever since. I have lost some sleep over this. It actually happened when, the Shabbos before Purim, I happened to pick up this book on Friday night as I was sitting down before Kiddush waiting for my girls to get home from Eish Kodesh which could take a while. I happened to just open it up randomly and -- kind of, like the king in the Megillah -- it opens up to the right page and you just start reading.
Audience Member: What was the name of the book?
Rabbi David Fohrman: The name of the book is -- this is a great book. I do recommend it; it's Yehoshua Bachrach's Kitvuni Ledorot. I recommend anything by Bachrach. Bachrach was a teacher at Michlalah and a great scholar and he wrote Ma Bein Shaul LeDovid, Yonah and Eliyahu, Machar Chodesh.
Audience Member: Where can you get his books? Can you get his books around here?
Rabbi David Fohrman: Can you get his books around here?
Audience Member: Ima shel Malchus.
Rabbi David Fohrman: Ima shel Malchus, about Ruth, right. Basically he's great and, you know, he writes all these wonderful little books on Tana"ch and they are fascinating. I highly recommend them.
Audience Member: This one is (inaudible)?
Rabbi David Fohrman: This one is Kitvuni Ledorot which is on the Megillah.
Audience Member: English or Hebrew?
Rabbi David Fohrman: Hebrew. Anyway, he's great. So I just happened to pick up this book and I just happened to open it to this page and I am reading this Chazal -- actually it was, like, two pages -- and it hits me like a ton of bricks. I couldn't sleep that night, like the king (laughter) and like Achashverosh (Ahasuerus) actually, Haman came to the door.
Audience Member: Who was Haman?
Rabbi David Fohrman: Haman were the ideas. Everything that this was about was Haman; it was actually literally Haman coming to the door. It opened up Haman in this whole new way which I haven't been able to stop thinking about. Not just Haman, but really Amalek in general. It's almost like a glimpse into the dark heart of Amalek's soul. It seems to me that Amalek was one of the -- so that's really what I want to talk about. Amalek is one of those things that is the most mystifying aspects of the Torah, one of the most difficult, most mystifying aspects of the Torah. I know this is really -- Oh, there's no battery left in here, so I am going to have to rely on your thingybob (sic.).
I am a little nervous taping this, so I am not sure how far -- so do me a favor and just don't put this tape out there right now on the internet. You can circulate it among friends if you like, but what I am talking about is speculative.
Amalek is very, very tough. Here you have this decree to wipe out an entire nation; man, woman and child. You have a king that was deposed, because of his inability to completely fulfill this decree. It's just a strange law. The idea that we must never, ever forget what it is that Amalek did to us and people that -- we are supposed to be told that we are not in the revenge business. We are warned against revenge and yet, what is this idea that we must never forget what Amalek did to us? Does that contradict our idea of revenge? The whole Amalek idea is just one of those things which seems inexplicable. I never had much of a p'shat on it. I struggled with it a bit 10 years ago after 9/11 actually and I had some thoughts then which are interesting, but I don't think that I really got to the heart of the matter.
This passage from our Sages began to just open up this whole new window and I began to discover. You know, with my sort of methodology -- my sort of methodology -- the methodology I use -- others use a similar methodology -- it's one of the criticisms that I got for the book and you can find it on the internet if you like. The Dov Ber blog wants to know whether Rabbi Fohrman's book is controversial and whether it should really be damned, just like Rabbi Slifkin's books; even more than Rabbi Slifkin's books. Why? Because, you know, there were no Chazal (passages from our Sages) in the book. It was all original thought and are you really allowed to think that much (laughter)? So that was really the issue.
Audience Member: No.
Rabbi David Fohrman: What? That's right.
Audience Member: Have we heard that voice (inaudible) too?
Rabbi David Fohrman: Yes, yes. We have heard that voice from the (inaudible) too. The truth is I am not one of these anti-Chazal kind of people. Like, I am not the kind of guy to think that every one before was really stupid; listen to me, I am so much smarter. I really don't think that's the case. As a matter of fact, what I think I'm doing which is very complimentary of the Midrash and it's really just observing what Midrash does, seeing the tools that they use and, kind of, using them.
Between you and me -- I don't know historically -- but I doubt that we really have all the Midrashim. Everything of this time was written down; it was never edited the way Bavli was edited in a systematic kind of way. There weren't any computers, there weren't information retrieval systems. There were no tape recordings. Do we really know that we even have anything approaching a complete record of what our Sages thought of on Chumash and Midrash? Therefore, is it wrong to at least observe what they did so effectively and so incisively and try to make use of that and see what else is out there? To, kind of, connect the dots with what they do say and fill in the pictures. That is how I view what it is that I do.
Ironically, 36 hours after this thing went off on the internet whether my book is controversial engendering a flurry of 70 comments back and forth about whether I really should be banned.
Audience Member: That's really mean.
Rabbi David Fohrman: It is kind of mean. It would be fun if I didn't have daughters to marry, let's put it that way (laughter). It's like everyone says, yeah, it's great for sales and I say, you don't have daughters to marry.
Audience Member: (Inaudible) said was paranoid.
Rabbi David Fohrman: What?
Audience Member: It means that (inaudible) said was paranoid.
Rabbi David Fohrman: Yeah, I suppose so, but, anyway -- but within --
Audience Member: Because you go to (inaudible)?
Audience Member: That's right.
Rabbi David Fohrman: Right. So, 36 hours after this went up I actually got this e-mail from this rabbi in Riverdale, Kenny Hain's son-in-law -- son, Shmuel Hain, Rabbi Hain's son. It was this wonderful e-mail; he read the book and he really loved it and he said, by the way, here are three passages from our Sages that support what you say. In fact it was; they were these out of the way passages from our Sages in the Yalkut Shimoni and other places that I never really saw. He is right; they do support the thesis of the book. So I will put them in the second edition. But it just goes to show, when you get on to something, when you find something in the text, you know, often times our Sages will have seen it; it's just that you have to figure out where they saw it and you have to track it down. It was there.
Audience Member: Did you (inaudible) e-mail? Did you (inaudible)?
Rabbi David Fohrman: I decided not to respond to the whole piranha fest. I really felt that if I got involved with that that it wasn't going to do anybody any good, so I didn't respond. I just didn't think it was a good idea, because you don't win. If you put that out there, so then -- how come you didn't put it in the book? Well, I didn't really see it at that time. Well, what were you doing publishing something if you didn't see? You know what I mean? You can't really win. So I didn't put it out there and then in the second edition maybe I'll put it in there.
But the idea is that you can start either way, in other words, the way the passages from our Sages work -- and this is relevant what I am about to talk to you about. Midrash has its own language and one of the problems is that if you don't bother to understand the language, you can just misinterpret everything they say. Unfortunately, there are books out there that do this consistently. There are books on Midrash that seem like very nice books. You know, it's not just the Midrash Says or The little Medrash Says or -- there are other books like that. This sort of innocent compilation midrashim, but they don't seem to be attuned to the language that Midrash is using and when that happens, you run the risk of making it sound like just a bunch of fables and child stories and crazy things.
I actually had some people lose faith in our Sages, much more than they gained faith in our Sages, because they seem things that are just strange. But one of the things about our Sages is that they use an allegorical language; they touch on ideas and it is sort of like hameivin yavin. In other words, we're showing you the tip of an iceberg and if you want to do your digging, you will see the rest of the iceberg. You know, see you -- that's our Sages signing out.
That's basically it. It's like you're on the bridge of the Titanic and you just saw that little iceberg and you know there is a whole lot underneath the water and you just have to decide whether you're going to look. So, you know, that's the case, you can go either way, which is that sometimes you stumble upon this whole subterranean network of stuff in the text and eventually you will find a passage of our Sages or two that are alluding to that, you know, look at this, look at this, look at that, which is what happened in the book. Sometimes it works the other way, you see this passage from our Sages that's the strangest thing in the world and it's this key into this whole subterranean network in the text that you never even imagined was there. It works that way.
In this case, what I am about to show you today -- that's the way it worked; I found the passage from our Sages first and then that just led you into a cave. The cave is a remarkable cave. It's this warren of these underground textual connections that really connect so much. What I'm about to share with you in the next few weeks is especially exhilarating, because it connects so much. One of the best metaphors I have to -- the work that I do is jigsaw puzzle work. A lot of times people say, you know, like, you give a class and people say, wow, that's so amazing. How did you come up with all these different things? It's like, boy; you must be the most brilliant guy in the world.
The truth is, no, it really is not so much a function of brilliance. What it is, is that anybody who does jigsaw puzzles knows how jigsaw puzzles work, right? First you put the (inaudible) pieces over here and you put those aside. If this is a very big jigsaw puzzle it can take you a few years, you know, but you've got the face over there and you've got this over there. Then once in a while you'll find a few pieces that click together and that connect major parts of the puzzle and then all of a sudden you see a whole new larger picture of the puzzle. You can see that in five minutes and then all of a sudden things change and you talk about it, but it's not something that developed in five minutes; it's something which was put together over time.
This is one of those things where there are these really large parts of the jigsaw puzzle, but they aren't fitting. This passage from our Sages and the network that it uncovers really connects a huge amount of Torah, from the Exodus from Egypt to -- much of the book of Genesis to, indeed, a fair amount of Jewish history and, I think, glimpses into the nature of anti-Semitism in general and particularly Amalek. Strangely enough the key to it all is Amalek. Yeah?
Audience Member: (Inaudible) one minute, can you clarify for me --
Rabbi David Fohrman: Can I just ask somebody in the back if they would just -- can you get me a glass of water or something to drink. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks so much, yeah?
Audience Member: When it says you cannot marry into The Children of Israel, you can't marry an Egyptian, I mean, ever, right -- some three generations. Is this the same thing with Amalek?
Rabbi David Fohrman: No, one of the interesting things about Amalek is that Amalek -- there is no sin against marrying somebody from Amalek if they convert. Not only that, but the mitzvah to wipe out Amalek does not apply to -- first of all, A, it doesn't apply to individuals. If you look at the Rambam (Maimonides) carefully you will find -- baruch Ata Ado-noy Elokeinu Melech ha'olam shehakol nihiyeh bidevaro.
Audience Member: Amein.
Rabbi David Fohrman: We need an amein group, right? What is interesting is A, the command to wipe out Amalek is not a command to wipe out any individual Amalekite. In other words, if you find an Amalekite in the street and you know he's from Amalek. He has his family tree and stuff like that; you are not required to kill him. Why? Because it seems in Maimonides that it is not an individual's mitzvah. It is a mitzvah on the tzibbur (the nation) as epitomized by the king. In other words, the king has to take the nation to war to wipe out Amalek as a whole. It's not an individual thing that individual people have to wipe out individual Amalekites.
Similarly, if an Amalekite would renounce the tenets of Amalek -- in other words, if they would say -- Maimonides is very clear on this. If Amalek as a whole or individuals within Amalek would say we accept the Seven Noahide Laws and we're going to be good boys and girls, then there is no war against them. You accept them and they become regular geirei toshav and you have all the halachos in Maimonides at the end of Rambam Hilchos Melachah about how you have to visit their sick and you have to give tzedakah to them and you have to do all of those things. They can have an Amalek family tree that goes all the way down through history and yet you have to be nice to them and you treat them and you give them special privileges and they fly first class in your societies.
This makes it all the stranger, because, you know, I think the standard way we look at Amalek is not racial. The standard way that we look at Amalek is -- I think, the way that we are, sort of, taught in schools -- to the extent that we are taught about this, which isn't that much -- that we believe that there is this, sort of, metaphysical warfare and that somehow the Jews are the light side of the force. Amalek is the dark side of the force and we are the good guys in shining armor and we represent everything that is fine in the world and Amalek must represent absolute evil. They just are evil and they're evil incarnate and, therefore, they must be killed.
My thoughts are not completely settled on this, but I do have to tell you that I can't say that I am entirely at peace with those notions. It is a little scary to talk about abject evil, evil incarnate within people. I mean, if you think about it, we as Jews, reject the notion of the Christian devil. We don't believe in evil incarnate in the supernatural realm, so it's a little bit funny that we would believe in evil incarnate in the human realm. Because it's almost like -- the way we think of Amalek is almost like, Amalek is just the devil, but it just dressed up as people.
So what is the difference between, like, the Christian devil and the Jewish devil, as the Jewish devil is Amalek? Do you get it? I get a little -- one second, let me just -- I'm venting right now (laughter). I may be wrong. It's just an instinct. It's just an instinct, but the notion that Amalek is absolute evil and that our job is to wipe out evil -- and then you have to ask yourself, if your job is to wipe out evil, don't you become evil yourself? I mean, if you have a job to wipe out every single man, woman and child of another people then what makes that good? Like, wouldn't you say that that would be evil?
So you get into this, sort of, paradoxical, kind of -- do you know what I mean? It's just very troublesome, especially -- I'm still venting -- especially in the wake of the Holocaust when we were subjected to genocide. We know what it's like. You know, it's just tough, you know? Rabbi Dale Gottlieb, I remember, once said the one issue which he will never deal with -- which is one of the reasons why I don't want these tapes circulating around -- the one issue that he will never deal with in public is the issue of Amalek. The one issue he will never speak about it Amalek. He never speaks about it to ba'alei teshuvah, he doesn't talk about it and if he were asked about Amalek in public forum with ba'alei teshuvah around, he would find a way to change the subject.
That's the way I felt also. How do you even talk about this? It's just very hard to figure out. What I want to argue -- today, what I want to do is argue against this vision of Amalek that we all have; the vision of Amalek as evil incarnate. In a certain way that is going to make it harder to figure out what's going on, because if Amalek is not evil incarnate, so why are you supposed to wipe him out? But then we're really bad if we're not even wiping out evil. But it is hard for me to argue that Amalek is evil incarnate. If they were then there should be a mitzvah upon every individual to kill evil incarnate wherever it is.
What difference does it make whether it's a mitzvah on the tzibbur or on the individual? When you meet evil, you get rid of evil. This guy is evil; if I met Hitler I would kill him. So if these are all the most evil things, so then I should be killing them. I should be walking around with Raid, I should be exterminating evil. I think the notion that -- plus, also, if you notice the mitzvah to wipe out Amalek is also a mitzvah that only appears at certain particular times. It's strange. There is this Rambam, it comes from the Gemara; "shalosh mitzvos nitztavu B'nei Yisrael besha'as kenisasam la'aretz", there are three mitzvos that we have when we go into the Land.
There is the mitzvah "som tasim alecha melech" there is the mitzvah to get yourself a king. There is the mitzvah to wipe out Amalek and there is the mitzvah to build the Beit Hamikdash. If it were the case that Amalek was evil incarnate, why should it only be when you come into the Land that you have that mitzvah? I mean, anytime, wherever you are that you meet evil incarnate, you should be getting rid of them. There's a trigger for wiping out Amalek and it is at that particular time. So how is it that we -- so, I think, that we need a more nuance picture of Amalek then -- one minute, no questions yet; let me just finish making my case.
We need a more nuance picture of Amalek then that they are just evil incarnate. I think we have to figure it out and that is what I, kind of, want to do. What I want to ask you is, what's the nature of the struggle? I guess, here is how I want to get to it. What I really want to ask is in a certain way a more fundamental question than what's the morality behind all this and what are we doing? Really the issue is, like, what is the struggle about? What exactly are we fighting about? Is it just this, sort of, you know, light side of the force and dark side of the force and we're the good guys?
You can find this in the Maharal a little bit, this idea that Amalek represents the exact opposite of everything that Israel stands for and, I guess, that's possible, but what are they really fighting about? Or what is Amalek really? Another way of talking about it is what is Amalek -- Amalek evidently hates us; we hate them. What do they hate us so much for? I mean, they attacked us in the desert -- like, why? Like, what was that about? What are they so upset about? Is there a way of understanding what the motivations of Amalek are when they are attacking us? Is it just that they don't like good? Is that what it is? I think that's what we normally think. They don't like good; they don't like God. They are haters of God. We represent God; Amalek hates God. They are the ultimate atheists and it's up to us to completely destroy them.
Is that the case? Is that what it's about or is it about something else? What I want to argue today and next week is that that's not true, that Amalek does not hate God. Actually, I think that Amalek likes God.
Audience Member: (Inaudible)?
Rabbi David Fohrman: One second.
Audience Member: (Inaudible)?
Rabbi David Fohrman: Yeah. I am not arguing that we don't have a mortal battle with Amalek, right? I am just arguing that I don't think it's the case that Amalek hates God. Now, it is true that you have the language "ki yad al keis kah" that the hand of Amalek is on the throne, so to speak, of God. That's not the same thing as saying that Amalek is trying to wipe out or kill God. What it's saying is that, if anything -- in other words, what I want to argue is that there is a difference between Amalek hand being on the throne of God and Amalek being the mortal enemy of God. Those are not necessarily the same thing. You have to understand what it means.
Audience Member: Do you want to rephrase that?
Rabbi David Fohrman: Okay. It is possible. Let's try to assemble the evidence and try to figure it all out. What we are going to do is just look at a bunch of evidence; a bunch of language evidence, a bunch of our Sages evidence and just try to, kind of, put it together. Yes?
Audience Member: (Inaudible) today, because of the struggle for our survival when you hear --- I mean, is that not the same?
Rabbi David Fohrman: Okay. So here's the thing. You always have to be a little bit nervous about seeing Amalek everywhere, seeing Amalek today. The Jews have always had enemies. Not all of the Jews enemies are Amalek. We don't know who Amalek is anymore. Nevertheless, that having been said, I will say one -- one of the questions that I would ask is -- well, hold on. Let me just share something with you. You know, especially, I think that any thinking person living today -- and this is really what the (inaudible) for my book was about even though my book itself does not really about this -- has got to look at the Holocaust and ask himself what is the deal with that?
The reason why there you have a stronger case for thinking that this was a confrontation with Amalek is, because if you actually look at confrontations with Amalek over the centuries and you look at the Holocaust, you really see a lot of chilling parallels and it just has this Amalek feel to it. Why? Let's talk about Amalek in the times of Haman if Haman is really an Aggagi and a descendent of Amalek.
Here you have an officer of Persia -- I make this case in the (inaudible) from the book -- as Persia sweeps to power with something that looks very much like Blitzkrieg, coming to world domination, wiping out Babylonia, it just happens to hatch this vendetta against the Jews. Not only this vendetta against the Jews, but, to my mind -- and maybe I am wrong -- but in the long sweeping history of 2,300 years of anti-Semitism, going through the Romans and the Babylonians and the Assyrians and the Crusaders and the Byzantine emperor. The first crusades and the second crusades and all of that and Ta"ch veTa"t and through it all, it seems to me that there are only two times in the last 2,300 years where there was an organized attempt to wipe out every man, woman and child among the Jews; literally to exterminate every last member of the Jewish people.
The only times that I know of were in the times of Ahasuerus with Haman and 1939 to 1945 in the Holocaust. Those seem to me to be the only two times. There is that Blitzkrieg parallel and there is also the way they did it. If you look in the Megillah there is this careful use of euphemism by Haman, where he is not really talking about the killing; he is talking about the "osei hamelachah" the doers of the work. There is this gentle attempt to not really be so upfront. It doesn't really name the people, "there is this people" and there is an attempt to hide behind a façade, a façade of euphemism and also a façade of law and order. Everything is done kada'at (according to law); kada'at, kada'at. Everything is according to the law and it's just like Nazi Germany, in that, sort of, way.
There are euphemisms, there are final solutions -- you know, we won't talk about the killing and yet, there is this bureaucracy. There are all these laws and you hide behind the laws. I think I told you about my friend the daughter of the art dealer? Did I tell you about her? No? It's in my book or in my something.
Audience Member: (Inaudible).
Rabbi David Fohrman: What's that?
Audience Member: It's on one of your tapes.
Rabbi David Fohrman: It's on one of my tapes, this divine (inaudible) tape. My friend Monique (inaudible) in Baltimore, she is a child survivor of the Holocaust and she was a -- her father was an art dealer and she said they came in and they looted the whole place, but they didn't loot the whole place. They made them sit down and document for an entire day the provenance of each painting and what it was from and who it was from and sign it over to them. It was all done kada'at. So there was a whole paper trail and everything and it was crazy, because they were just stealing his stuff, but they were going to do it by law and you have to sign all the papers and everything. Then, lo and behold, ironically, now she is getting the art back from museums in Austria, because the paperwork still survived and it's a paper trail now. She's in struggles against several museums trying to retrieve these paintings.
It is hard to resist the notion that there is something about the Holocaust that smells Amalek-like. It's not just us who have that notion. It was actually the Nazis, too. The Nazis believed it. I just did a quick little search here, actually pointed to by a friend of mine. If you look in Wikipedia, you'll find this yourself. Look at Purim in Wikipedia, and then look under the section, Purim and the Holocaust. You'll find a lot of interesting things.
You'll find that Hitler, although there were decrees at various points sporadically against Jewish observance at various holidays, but specifically banned and forbade the observance of Purim. He also declared it a capital offense for either Christians or Jews to be in possession of the Book of Esther. You would be killed if you were a Christian and you had the Book of Esther.
In a speech made on November 10, 1938, which is the day after Kristallnacht, Streicher, who was one of the guys who was hanged an Nuremburg, surmised that the same way that the Jews killed out all the Persians, if the Jews would succeed in bringing a world war upon Germany, this is what they would do to Germany, too. It would be a reenactment of Purim. Jews would've instituted a new Purim festival in Germany. Nazi apostolate Jews were timed often to coincide with Purim. They would make a practice of finding 10 Jews to hang on Purim, in revenge for the hanging of the 10 sons of Haman.
Hitler, himself in a speech on January 30, 1944, said that if the Nazis were defeated, the Jews would celebrate a second Purim. Then, of course, there's that famous thing where Streicher, as you know, yells out Purim fest 1947 from the gallows as he been hanged, the 10th of the Nazi war criminals. It seems like the Nazis themselves took it pretty seriously, this idea that we're in mortal combat with the Jews and that Purim is somehow there.
One of the interesting questions, I think, that we need to ask when considering Amalek, looking throughout the broad sweep of Jewish history, there are three and maybe four times, when we seem to be in confrontation with Amalek. I'm going to argue later that there is a fifth, but for now, let's say three and maybe, four. After the splitting of the Red Sea, when we meet Amalek for the first time and they attack at Rephidim, that's the first time.
The next major battle against Amalek is in the times of King Saul, where King Saul fails to kill Agag. The next major battle against Amalek is in the times of Purim and King Ahasuerus, and maybe, the Holocaust.
One of the interesting questions that I think we should be asking, or we can ask, is there any rhyme or reason to when Amalek attacks? Does it just happen to be that they happen to be that the battle was joined at these four moments in history, or is there a reason that the battle is being joined at these four moments in history?
Audience Member: (Inaudible) into the land.
Rabbi David Fohrman: Is there an issue?
Audience Member: (Inaudible) into the land.
Rabbi David Fohrman: Right, okay. The question is what's happening at these four moments in history that's provoking a battle with Amalek? I think that you're right about that and there's a Midrash that says the same thing. What is happening at the time of Ahasuerus? What is happening as the Jews cross at the splitting of the Red Sea? What is happening at the time of King Saul? Even at the Holocaust, what is happening?
Audience Member: And now.
Rabbi David Fohrman: Right, and now, what's happening? What's happening, it's all the same. What's happening is the time of transition, where the Jews are on the move and are going into the land. If you think about it, it's hard to see it because we know that the Jews were in the desert for 40 more years before they got into the land, but it wasn't supposed to happen that way.
After the splitting of the Red Sea, they were 11 days away from Israel. They were at Mount Sinai, and from there, it's 11 days to Israel. That was supposed to happen immediately. The spies messed everything up, but that wasn't supposed to happen. When Amalek attacked, they were 11 days away from Israel.
King Saul is the first king beginning to organize Jewish life in Israel, from a period of central chaos in the times of the Judges. What's happening at the time of Ahasuerus?
Audience Member: (Inaudible).
Rabbi David Fohrman: That's right. We have permission to go back. You have the beginnings of Jews going back to resettle the land that's (inaudible). Well, they did and they didn't. They didn't do it as well, but they're not doing it as well now either.
Audience Member: (Inaudible). Why can't you (inaudible) the other part about (inaudible)? Even if they're having their transition, we were weak. At those points in time, we were weak.
Rabbi David Fohrman: Okay. It could be. We were weak in commandments. (Inaudible) Torah, according to the Sages that's true. Do you know what a seismograph is? A seismograph measures tremors in the earth. That's what you measure earthquakes with. If you had a seismograph to measure just movements of the earth in Jewish history and you had that seismograph along for the last 2,300 years, when would you have the two biggest quakes in Jewish history in the last 2,300 years? They would be the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel, and they happened within three years of each other. Now, is it possible to believe that that's coincidental?
In all of 2,300 years, the two biggest shakes, whether for good or ill, is the establishment of the State of Israel and the Holocaust is happening within three years of each other. You can't just say, well, it's really just the non-Jews felt guilty about the Holocaust, so they gave up the state.
Yes, there probably was a little bit of guilt that helped people, the partitions don't pass, but that wasn't true because historically, the move towards the settlement of Zion had begun with the first aliyah well before the Holocaust and continued through. Ben Gurion and everyone else, was in Israel at the time of the Holocaust draining the swamps and building the walls of Jerusalem and it was happening contemporaneously. These two things are coming to a head at the same time. Is all this a coincidence? It's hard to argue it's a coincidence. Yes?
Audience Member: I'm saying you have to (inaudible).
Rabbi David Fohrman: Yes.
Audience Member: Maybe that's why the commandment is (inaudible).
Rabbi David Fohrman: It's a commandment, right. It's not just the land, you're right. It's coming into our own as a nation, part of which is the land and that maybe is why King Saul is part of it also because that's part of us coming into our own as whole. All right, but anyway, this is getting ahead of ourselves. It's just something to keep in mind, why is it they attack at particular points.
All right, so I want to share with you two sayings from our Sages. Here are two sayings from our Sages, which is very interesting. Saying from our Sages number one, which is the first thing I read that night is here. Our Sages say the following. "Mah ra'asa Esther lomar machar e'eseh kidvar hamelech?" Our Sages ask a question, which I touch on in the book also, which is that why did she wait?
Here she is, she's at the banquet, the king just said that whatever you want, Esther, half the kingdom and it's yours, just say it. No. Instead, "Machar e'eseh kidvar hamelech," come to the party tomorrow and tomorrow, I'll do what you ask. How does she know she's going to get as good a reception tomorrow? How does she know the king is going to be in the same mood? That's what she says, so the Midrash wants to know why. Why does she postpone it until tomorrow? Why wait?
This is what the Midrash says. "Ela yadah," she knew, "shezaro shel Amalek lemudim lipol lemachar," she knew that Amalek falls tomorrow. "Vechen hu omer biyemei Moshe," and so it was in the times of Moses. When Moses tells Joshua to fight against Amalek it's, "Tze hilachem ba'Amalek machar ani nitzav al rosh hagivah," tomorrow I'm going to stand on the top of the hill. With Moses, it was also tomorrow and not today.
Similarly, King Saul, whose destiny as king is to fight Amalek, when Samuel is sent to anoint Saul as king, God appears to Samuel in an epiphany and says, "Ka'es machar eshlach eilecha ish me'eretz Binyamin," tomorrow I'm going to send you a man from the tribe of Benjamin. It's always tomorrow. "Ve'af kan," here too, "lemachar e'eseh kidvar hamelech." Esther knew her history. She knew that she had to join the battle tomorrow and not today.
It's a very interesting Midrash. The Midrash is seaming a thread with Amalek, that tomorrow is an important theme with Amalek, and if you're going to be victorious over Amalek, you're going to be victorious tomorrow. The question is what's the meaning of that? Why is it so? What is it about Amalek that makes tomorrow the propitious time to battle them and not today, as it were? This is a question that I want to ask. What's that?
Audience Member: They denied the past.
Rabbi David Fohrman: Okay. Maybe. That's one question, why tomorrow? All right. Now, I'm about to read this Midrash to you, but to make this Midrash really come alive, the Midrash has put everything together. This is Midrash ties everything together, but before I do, let me give you a sense of some of the kinds of things that it ties together.
Audience Member: Can I ask you just one more question before you go on? The significance of, I wipe out and you wipe out, and (inaudible), is it the physical? (Inaudible). Is God saying, you wipe out ideologically and I'll wipe out physically or is it beyond us?
Rabbi David Fohrman: I don't know.
Audience Member: I'm very confused about that. What is our duty? Are we supposed to do the physical, or is God going to do the physical, and we just have to have the mindset of we don't (inaudible)?
Rabbi David Fohrman: "Timcheh et zecher haAmalek." The question is what does memory mean? This is a little bit of a different schmooze that I don't want to get into right now.
Audience Member: (Inaudible).
Rabbi David Fohrman: Okay. Maybe. Let me not go there right now.
Audience Member: No, but it's important to know in terms of what is incumbent upon us.
Rabbi David Fohrman: That's true, but it's not my job to explain everything to you. I'm just telling you what I figured out. You can go from there. All right, so here are a couple of interesting things. "Revach vehatzala yamod layehudim mimakom acher," Mordechai says. It turns out that that word, revach, appears only one other time in Tanach. Does anyone know where the only other revach in Tanach?
It appears in the same portion as another word that appears with Haman and the battle between Mordechai and Haman, which is also a unique word, which appears only twice in Tanach, once with the battle against Haman and the other time in that same other place in the bible. That word, I'm going to give it away if I tell you what it is because you all know what I'm talking about.
"Vayivez be'einov lishlo'ach yad beMordechai levado." When Haman decides that he's going to wipe out the Jews, it was too degrading for him to wipe out only them, but to wipe out others also. It turns out the word vayivez also appears only one other time in Tanach. It appears in that same other place. Where is that other place, and what does it all mean?
Audience Member: (Inaudible).
Rabbi David Fohrman: That's right. The only other time is "Vayivez Esav et habechorah," when Esau degrades the birthright. The only other time revach appears is "V'revach tasimu bein eider la'eider," when Jacob is approaching Esau. What about this? "Im mizera hayehudim," Zeresh says "Mordechai asher hachilota linpol lefanov lo tuchal lo," you shall not be able to overcome him. What does lo tuchal lo remind you of in Chumash?
Audience Member: The struggle of Jacob.
Rabbi David Fohrman: The struggle of Jacob with the angel. "Vayar ki lo yachol lo," he saw that he could not best him. "Lo tuchal lo," you will not be able to best him. What does all this mean? How about this? "Vayizak Mordechai za'aka gedolah u'marah," and Mordechai let out a great and bitter cry.
Audience Member: (Inaudible).
Rabbi David Fohrman: Here are our Sages. Our Sages point out this one. Our Sages point out that there's only one other time in Tanach when you have anything approaching that, which is with Esau. "Vayitzak tza'aka gedolah u'marah," when Esau lets out a great and bitter cry.
Our Sages say, you learn from here that anybody who says that the Holy One, blessed is He is a vatran, that the Holy One, blessed is He just lets things go, yivatru chaya, his life should just be let go because God bides His time. All the tears that Esau cried when he was deceived about the birthright blessing, were tears that Mordechai would cry when Mordechai would echo the great and bitter cry of Esau, "Vayitzak tza'aka gedolah u'marah," gets mirrored in "Vayizak za'aka gedolah u'marah."
It always seemed strange to me why that would be so, why our Sages were specifically connecting the battle between Mordechai and Haman specifically to Jacob and Esau. What exactly is it all about? But there's another Midrash that brings it in order, and also here's another thing. This just occurred to me this morning, and I may be crazy, but it just fist and it's weird.
You know how names in the Torah are always a little bit suggestive. When King Saul happens to battle Nahash, the king of Ammon, was that really his name or is that the role that he's playing in this story? When Naomi has two children that just happen to be named Mahlon and Chilion, disease and destruction, is that their names? Come here, little disease, little destruction. Come over here.
It could be that those were their names. I'm not saying it wasn't their names, but the names also play a role in the story. When Er dies, and the only thing you know about Er is that he was ra and that he dies and Er is ra spelled backwards, and Er means awake. If you learn through the story of Judah and Tamar, that is Er; he's dead, but he's awake. He's the living dead because he can always come back through evil. He's the walking dead. Some names can often be suggestive. Here's the question. What name is Haman suggestive about?
Audience Member: The manna.
Rabbi David Fohrman: Haman, he is the manna. He is the manna. It just struck me as I was hanging around by my piano in the morning. I was just thinking one second, Haman, Haman, "Lo nitna haTorah ela le'ochlei haman," the Talmud says. Is there any weirdo connection between Haman and manna?
Audience Member: He could be anything he wanted.
Rabbi David Fohrman: Then, if you think about it, look back to the first time Amalek attacked. Amalek attacked in Beshalach. What was the last thing that happened right before Amalek attacked in the portion of Beshalach?
Audience Member: The manna.
Rabbi David Fohrman: The manna. The Jews get the manna and they mess up. They start collecting on Shabbos, they start trying to get more, they start trying to save it, they start trying to eat too much, and God gets very frustrated and says "Lama tenasu et Hashem," why are you doing all of this. Then, all of a sudden, Amalek comes right after the manna crisis. Coincidence? Yeah, it could be.
Audience Member: Again, that's the nature of evil.
Rabbi David Fohrman: Maybe, but what is the nature of evil? What is it about Haman? Again, it could just be crazy. Is it a play off the words of the manna? If you look carefully at the Amalek narrative in Beshalach, it seems that Amalek really is a response to what's happening with the manna.
One of the things that Moses says, he cries out, is why are you yelling at me? "Lama tinasun et Hashem." One of the words that you hear over, and over again is, why are you trying God? Then, when they build this altar, they name the altar after the battle against Amalek. They built this altar and they call it Hashem nisi, which is a play off of all of these tests that there were. Hashem nisi, God is my banner, so the word, miracle, has been transformed from trying, trying, trying into banner, but you see the text is connecting everything that led up to this, to this victory over Amalek.
What's the connection between the stuff that's happened before Amalek and Amalek, is Haman related to it, and what would manna have to do with the whole thing? These are just some questions. Now, let me show you this Midrash. This is really a wild Midrash.
Audience Member: Rabbi Fohrman, (inaudible)?
Rabbi David Fohrman: Yes, I'm going in that direction. That's very good, Naomi, but next time don't tell everyone. One second. Here's another question. When you're reading the Haftorah of Zachor last week, you get to these words. Let me just call it up on the screen for you real fast.
"Vayomer Agag achen sar mar hamavet. Vayomer Shmuel," and Samuel tells Agag, "ka'asher shikla nashim charbecha ken tishkal minashim imecha vayeshasef Shmuel et Agag lifnei Hashem beGilgal." Samuel says, as you have made women bereft of children, so now shall your mother be bereft of a child, and he kills her. It turns out Samuel is quoting from somewhere, paraphrasing somewhere else in Tanach. Where is paraphrasing from?
Audience Member: (Inaudible).
Rabbi David Fohrman: That's right, "Ka'asher shakolti shakolti." You get it? Shakal with a chaf means to be made bereft of. He's quoting "Ka'asher shakolti shakolti." Now, where does "Ka'asher shakolti shakolti," appear?
Audience Member: (Inaudible) your book.
Rabbi David Fohrman: That, I did write in my book. Where does "Ka'asher shakolti shakolti," appear?
Audience Member: Jacob says.
Rabbi David Fohrman: It's the words that Jacob says to reconcile the loss of Benjamin. Now, why do you think Samuel would be quoting these words now?
Audience Member: Because King Saul is from the Tribe of Benjamin.
Rabbi David Fohrman: Right, because King Saul is from the Tribe of Benjamin. What does that have to do with anything? What chilling message is really Samuel saying? Here's what I want to give you. Who is Samuel talking to?
Nominally, he's talking to Agag, but he's really talking to King Saul, who let Agag stay alive. What he's really saying is that at that time, back when Jacob said, "Ka'asher shakolti shakolti," and reconciled himself to the loss of Benjamin, but bless God, in the end, Benjamin didn't have to be lost because Judah came along and saved him. That was then and this is now, but now, "Ka'asher shakolti shakolti," Benjamin will be lost and Benjamin is lost over their failure to kill Agag.
This is the end of Saul as king. This is the loss of Benjamin, of their position on the stage of Jewish history. That seems to be what's going on. There seems to be this death battle between Benjamin on the one hand and Amalek, as if this was King Saul's destiny. His destiny was to fight this war and if he does not fight this war, he will be going down. It's either Amalek dies or Benjamin dies.
Isn't it a coincidence that Esther, generations later, and Mordechai in the next battle, to be joined against Amalek, just happen to be the progeny of King Saul, from Benjamin, getting the second chance? What is it about Benjamin that specifically is going to be the one who confronts Amalek? Why is the Tribe of Benjamin? It's not just Benjamin. The other one who confronts Amalek is Joshua. Whom is Joshua from?
Audience Member: Ephraim.
Rabbi David Fohrman: Joshua is from Ephraim. It's all from Rachel. The common denominator is Rachel. What is it about Rachel that is going to be Rachel confronting specifically Amalek? If you want to get really nitpicky about it, is there a reason why it's not all of Rachel, that it's specifically Ephraim and Benjamin, as opposed to say, Manasseh? What is about Ephraim that makes you wonder about Amalek?
I want to show you something that will just make your bones shake over here. I only have a little piece of this, unfortunately, on PowerPoint because I forgot to download the rest of it. Isn't that awful, but next week, maybe I'll be able to show you the rest of it. Here is a fascinating Rashi.
The Midrash quoted by Rashi says that when Jacob blessed the children of Joseph and placed his right hand on top of Ephraim, the younger, he did so because he saw prophetically that Joshua, of all people, would come from him. He saw that Joshua would come from Ephraim. Here's what Rashi says. "Ve'ulam achiv hakatan yigdal mimenu," the younger child will be even greater than the older child, "she'atid Yehoshua latzet mimenu sheyanchil et ha'aretz," it would be Joshua who would conquer the land.
Isn't it a coincidence that Joshua is that one who, A, conquers the land, and B, battles Amalek? Are those things just coincidental? Also, is it coincidental that he should just come from Ephraim? Why does he come from Ephraim? What is there about Ephraim that makes Ephraim comes to its fruition with Joshua and Joshua battles Amalek?
Well, take a look at these words. "Vayikrevu yemei Yisrael lamut vayikra livno leYosef vayomer lo im na matzati chen be'einecha sim na yadcha tachas yereichi ve'asita imadi chesed ve'emes." Vayakrivu yemei Yisrael lamut, the word lamus, that is the second time in Chumash that the word lamut ever appears. Do you know what the first time lamut appears is? Where is the first time lamut ever appears in the Chumash, to die?
Right over here, "Hinei anochi holech lamut." When Esau said this, here I am, I'm going to die. Esau says I'm going to die, "Lama zeh li bechorah." Now, if you continue, he then says "Vayakrivu yemei Yisrael lamut vayikra lebeno Yosef lemor im na matzati chen be'einecha sim na yadcha tachat yereichi ve'asita imadi chesed ve'emes."
Later on, at the very end I don't have this in the PowerPoint, but he says, "Hinei anochi met," when he actually gives the blessing half a chapter later. "Hinei anochi met," is his language. What does hinei anochi met remind you of? Look earlier, look right over here. Do you see this? "Hinei anochi holech lamut." That also finds an echo with Jacob, the hinei anochi.
Let's continue a little bit. Here's the first time, here's the second time. What about this? "Hishava li vayeshava lo." Jacob makes Joseph swear that he's going to bury him in the land of Israel. There's only one other time in Tanach when you have that exchange, hishava li, swear to me and he swore, and is with Jacob and Esau when Jacob makes Esau swear and Esau swears.
There's something about these events that seem to be just echoing. What about this? "Vayish'tachu Yisrael al rosh hamitah," Jacob bows at the head of the bed. Another Jacob and Esau allusion, "Vayish'tachu artza sheva pe'amim," Jacob is bowing to Esau. As you continue, this is really chilling. "Vayar Yisrael et benei Yosef vayomer mi eleh." Do you know that the words mi eleh only appear twice in Tanach? Just the words mi eleh, when is the only other mi eleh in Tanach?
It's when Esau says mi eleh, who are these people? It's the same thing because "Vayar vayomer mi eleh. Vayomer banai hem asher natan li Elokim ba'zeh," Joseph said. That's the exact thing that Esau said. "Vayar et hanashim ve'et hayeledim vayomer mi eleh. Vayomer hayeledim asher chanan Elokim et avdecha." They're my children that God gave me. It's like wild.
This is just the beginning. Later on, I'll show that every single thing that happened, 20 things in this portion of the blessing of Ephraim, all goes back to one of three confrontations that Jacob had with Esau. This is leads somehow to Ephraim who somehow leads to Joshua, who somehow comes back to Amalek. What's going on?
One second, I'm out of time, so no questions. I'm going to read this Midrash and then let you go. Here is the Midrash, and this is one these Midrashim that I have surveyed some people who learned this school; girls because boys don't even learn this in school. The girls who learned this school invariable had learned this Midrash the wrong way. It's very, very sad the way that our schools have taught this Midrash, so let's read this Midrash with open eyes and see what the Midrash is actually saying.
The Midrash tells a fantastical, woven out of whole cloth, back-story in the fight between Mordechai and Haman. It says, if you want to understand the fight between Mordechai and Haman, you have to understand that they were really fighting about something else. There was a ketata kedumah beineihem, there was a primal argument between them, and there was something they were arguing about.
The Midrash comes up with this whole story about how Haman and Mordechai really knew each other and they had this whole interaction before. Where is the evidence for all of this? Every single thing the Midrash is saying is allegorical and if you listen carefully to the Midrash, you will hear the textual allusions woven throughout the Midrash. The Midrash will say ayen sham, ayen sham, ayen sham, look at these stories and you will understand the argument. Let's read the Midrash carefully and see what the Midrash is saying.
The Midrash is in Yalkut Shimoni. It says, "Omru lo lechinom hayu mitkotetim," this is what I opened up to that night, they weren't arguing for nothing, Mordechai and Haman, "ela ketata kedumah hayata beneihen," there was an old fight that was between them, "kesheyahu Bnei Yisrael bonin chomot Yerushalayim," when the Jews were building the walls of Jerusalem, "biyemei Ezra," in the times of Ezra, "bo'u aleihem hasoni'im," their gentile enemies came to them "umanu otam melivnot," and they held them back from building.
They said, "Ve'omru lahem shelo birshut hamelech aten bonin," you do not have the permission of the gentile king, Koresh, to build these walls. You have to stop building. "Vehem omru," and they said, "en anu bonin ela birshuto," we do have the permission of the gentile rulers. We are allowed to build.
Now, just stop right here and think, what does this back-story even remind you of in terms of arguing? It's like now, isn't it? If you think about at the times of the Holocaust, what were we doing? We were building the walls of Jerusalem, yet we weren't in charge. The British were in charge, the world was in charge. Britain had a mandate. Do you know what a mandate means, the United Nations mandate?
A mandate means that they were entrusted with Palestine by the world to help figure out what to do with it. We were building the walls of Jerusalem and the question is would the world allow? The British weren't really sure. How do execute this mandate? They restricted refugees. We're not really sure. There was a white paper, but there was also the Balfour Declaration. The question, did the world allow? Was the world going to allow? Even with the partition, that was the issue. Would the world allow? This was in the days of Ezra, does Koresh allow?
"Omru lahem hasoni'im," finally the gentile nations who hated said, "bireru mikem echad," get yourselves one representative, "ve'anu nivreru lanu echad," and we will find one representative for us, "veyelchu veyodi'u lemelech," and those two representatives together will go in front of Koresh and will tell them what's going on here in Palestine, "bireru umot ha'olam velo matzu ish hameyuchad berishut keHaman harasha," the (inaudible) got together and they couldn't find anyone who hated the Jews more than Haman, "veYisrael bireru lahem Mordechai," and the Jews chose Mordechai, "ve'asu lahem tzeida vehalchu," and they made themselves provisions and they started walking.
Now, first of all, you wouldn't think about that. It's an interesting thing. I wonder, and I don't know for sure, but if you've ever taken calculus, there's this idea of approaching the limit, but you never really get to the limit. The limit is this infinite regress and you never really get there. I want to argue that Amalek is the infinite limit of anti-Semitism. It is this dark core, which is this exaggerated limit and generally, no one really gets there, except for Amalek themselves and maybe Nazi Germany.
It's like this thing that's almost impossible to reach, but the limit is important because it defines for you in very black-and-white terms what the fight is about and all of anti-Semitism partakes of that energy, but it's just not of that same strain. That seems to be what the Midrash is talking about, where the gentiles say who's going to represent us. Haman will represent us because he hates the Jews most of all. He is, of course, Amalek.
If you even think about Hitler, what did Hitler think he was doing? Hitler said on more than one occasion, he said I am doing the world's work. It's just no one will do it, but me. Everyone will be silent, but they will not do it. They're counting on me to exterminate the Jews. Was he right or was he wrong? Well, the Jews have some friends now, but they didn't have very many friends at the time of the Holocaust. That was basically it.
The world was silent and when the St. Louis went sailing from port to port there was no place that you could land. It was as if it were true. Whether it was the Ukrainians or was it the Poles, it was somehow the world in a conspiracy of silence, but their representative, as it were, the tracks never got bombed, the representative was Amalek, and it's almost like here. Bireru lahem, they found him. Here's our representative. We're not going to go, but you go.
What happened along the way? "Asu lahem tzeida veholchu." Tzeida, red flag. What does this remind you of? "Kitzayed bepiv." It's Esau known for his tzayid, known for his provision. They're going on the way. "Vehayu Mordechai hatzaddik ochel pito me'at me'at," Mordechai was eating his bread and rationing it. By the way, think manna now. Mordechai is eating his bread and he's rationing his bread. What are you supposed to do with manna? Are you supposed to over collect?
Audience Member: No.
Rabbi David Fohrman: No, right. You just take a little bit and you trust that God is going to give you.
Audience Member: (Inaudible).
Rabbi David Fohrman: That's right. "Vehaya Mordechai hatzaddik ochel pito me'at me'at," he was rationing his bread and eating it very carefully, "kemo she'omru chachamim," as the Sages say, when you're going on the way you shouldn't eat more than in the times of famine, "veHaman harasha achal velo hishgi'ach," he ate like a pig. He finished off his bread, velo hishgi'ach, he didn't think about tomorrow. He didn't think about tomorrow.
"Chasar mezono," pretty soon, he was fresh out of food, "ve'alov hu omer u'beten resha'im tech'sar," and that's what Proverbs say, that the wicked will always be hungry. "Keivan shelo matza pat baderech le'echol," since they couldn't find any bread in the way, baderech; what's baderech remind you of over, and over again? They're on the way when all this is happening.
Audience Member: (Inaudible).
Rabbi David Fohrman: When does Amalek attack? "Asher korcha baderech," they attacked you on the way. "Keivan shelo matza pat baderech le'echol ba lo etzel Mordechai," Haman came to Mordechai, "vehaya mis'take'ach lefanov," and he bowed before him and he was begging him, "lehalvot lo kikar achad," to just lend him one piece of bread, "velo haya rotzeh," and Mordechai didn't want to do it.
"Lesof amar lo," finally Mordechai said to him, "im ani noten lecha kikar achat," if I give you one piece of bread, "ata mocher atzmecha li," will you sell yourself to me as a slave? "Amar lo hen," Haman said absolutely, I have to think about today. Now, what's this reminding you of? "Amar lo en klaf," he said to him there's no parchment, "shenich'tov bo shtar lekichatech," that we can memorialize this for tomorrow, so that we will know what happened here. "Amar lo," Haman said, "harei hasandal shelcha," there's your shoe. We could always write it on your shoe strap.
"Miyad katav Haman al sandalo shel Mordechai," Haman wrote on Mordechai's sandal, "ani Haman haAgagi avdo shel Mordecha haYehudi shenimkarti lo bekikar lechem achat," I am Haman and I sold myself as a slave to Mordechai for a piece of bread. "U'kesholeh lebesof legedulah," what does legedulah remind you of? "Vayigdelu hana'arim." Do you know what I'm talking about? "Vayigdelu hana'arim," when Jacob and Esau get a little bit older. "Vayigdal hamelech et Haman," when Haman gets a little bit older when he gets to his greatness.
"U'kesholeh lebesof legedulah vekava et atzmo avodah zara," he made himself into an idol, "vahaya Mordechai yoshev besha'ar hamelech," Mordechai was sitting in the palace of the king, "shehu yotzei uba bo u'keshero'eh et Haman she'over," when Haman would go past, "hu poshet lo et raglo," he would just stick out his foot out a little bit with shoe strap on it, "besandalo," on the back of his shoe, "sheshtar lekichato ketuv bo," that that was where it was written than Haman sold himself, "vehaya Haman ro'eh u'mitmale cheimah," and that's the words, "vayimaleh Haman cheimah." Where do you have the word cheimah?
Audience Member: (Inaudible).
Rabbi David Fohrman: Why not run away to Laban, "Ad asher tashuv chemat achicha," until your brother's anger subsides a little bit? It didn't subside, did it? Twenty-one years later, he's still angry. The Midrash is saying centuries later, he's still angry. This is the cheimah. Mordechai sticks out his shoe, what part of the body is that little shoe strap on? It's on your heel.
Audience Member: Ekev.
Rabbi David Fohrman: That's right. "Ki ikveini zeh pa'ama'im," when he screams za'aka umara. That's "Al ken kara shemo Yaakov ki ikveini zeh pa'ama'im." The original Amalek is the child of Elifaz, the child of Esau. It's Esau's grandchild. If you go back to this story, "Michrah chayom et bechorat'cha li," sell me today your birthright.
Now, it's not exactly the same because there, he sold the birthright and over here in this story, he is selling himself as a slave. It's like the Midrash is actually perverting the story. It's the story up to a point, the same bread issue because remember, Esau was angry and what did Yaakov give him? "Lechem u'nezid adashim," he gave him bread. There's the bread. Haman, name the manna. The man, the manna, the bread from God, the bread that God gives us, God, our heavenly father.
Anyways, it's all the fight about the bread. What is the Midrash saying? The Midrash is saying if you want to understand the fight, the fight is the fight with Esau. What is Haman? Who is Haman? Haman is the one who always remembers, never forgets, and will not reconcile with Jacob no matter what.
What I would argue is, and I'll try to prove this to you next week, is that in the actual portion of the Torah, Jacob reconciles with Esau. He goes to Esau, and if you read that portion, he says, "Kach na et birchati," take my blessing, "vayishtachavu lo," and he bows before him and the blessings were that you're going to bow before me, but I'll bow before you, and I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done it.
In your face, it seems, "Penei Elokim vatirtzeini," and Esau who had come with 400 men says okay and he kisses him and they go their separate ways. In general, if you look at the Jewish relationship with Esau, it's been pretty good. It hasn't been perfect. Esau, Rome, Christianity; there have been crusades, there's been anti-Semitism, there's been tension, but now the Christians are pretty philo-Semitic. We've more or less made it through 2,000 years of history with Esau with at least a cold peace, a detente, sort of like the detente at the end of the portion of Vayishlach with Jacob.
Except, there is one part of Esau, one strain, if you look at story, "Michrah chayom et bechorat'cha li," sell me today your birthright. It's all about today. What did Esau do? He didn't look at tomorrow. I'm going to die tomorrow, what difference does it make, but when does tomorrow matter? With your grandchildren, with Amalek, that's when tomorrow becomes today. Amalek comes and says, what's the deal?
Amalek is that strain of Esau that doesn't look at the reconciliation, that will not (inaudible) reconciliation between Jacob Esau, and instead, only sees the original pain. The only thing they see is this story. How do you know? Here's the proof. When did they attack? "Ve'ata ayef veyagei'a." There's only one other ayef in the Chumash.
Audience Member: With Esau.
Rabbi David Fohrman: When Esau was tired and Jacob took advantage of him and asked him for that bread when he was tired. "Asher korcha baderech," when they happened upon you by the way. Korcha, where's the earlier korcha? When Jacob tricks Esau, he goes to his father and his father says, "Ma zeh miharta limtzo beni," how did you find the venison so quickly, "ki hikra Hashem Elokecha lefanai," God just can't make it happen so quickly.
Esau never forgets that. Esau will chance upon you, by the way, when you are tired. Who will they battle? "Kol hanech'shalim acharecha," the little ones, "vayizanov," and they tail after the little ones. Why? At the moment of reconciliation, which Amalek does not accept, what does Jacob tell Esau why they can't continue to walk together. I have all these little ones, so we're going to take too long. I have these little ones, so I'm just going to go my own way.
Now, Esau comes to you by the way, and he's going to attack the little ones. He completely rejects it. Here's the argument I want to make and with this, I'll let you go. Why did they reject the reconciliation? What is it about Amalek that rejects Jacob's attempt at reconciliation with them?
Audience Member: (Inaudible).
Rabbi David Fohrman: It's more than that. That's why by the way, "Yisrael nikra reishis." There's a saying by our Sages that's says this, the Jews are called reishit, the first and Amalek is called reishit, the first. What is their argument really about? Over whose birthright it really is, this competition of who is going to be the first. When did they always fight? Do you know when they fight?
They fight when tomorrow becomes today because Esau doesn't care as long as it isn't tomorrow. But when tomorrow is today, when you're about to go into the land of Israel and establish yourself as the nation of God in the land living out your destiny of God's first born in the world, that's when it matters and that's when Amalek will attack. Therefore, they attack when the Jews are going to go into the land after the splitting of the Red Sea, because that's tomorrow.
They will attack at times of King Saul if we don't attack them first, and they will attack at the times of when we're building the walls of Jerusalem in the times of Koresh, and in the times of the Holocaust when we're building the walls of Jerusalem with Zionism. That is the moment of peril.
I want to argue that the reason why we wipe out Amalek is not because they're evil. There is an evilness to Amalek, but it's not because of the evil. It's because it's something else. It's because they pose a mortal peril to us and because there is a battle to the death that having rejected the reconciliation, there is no other choice. There's no way to appease them because no matter what you say, no matter how sorry you are, no matter what you do, there will always be the battle. Why is there always the battle? Why won't Amalek accept the truth?
The reason why is this. What is the word that Haman uses when Haman said that he's going to destroy us all, when Haman takes a personal fight to Mordechai and transposes it into genocide for the world of Jews? "Vayivez be'einov lishlo'ach yad beMordechai levado," it was too degrading in his eyes to get Mordechai. The word vayivez only appears one other time in Tanach. The only other time is "Vayivez Esav et habechorah."
Those two vayivez are connected. What does it mean? The reason why Amalek is going to kill us and say it's not that the battle against Mordechai, it's the battle against everyone, is because "Vayivez Esav et habechorah." What's the truth of what happened between Jacob and Esau? The truth of what happened is there's enough blame to go around.
The truth that happened is it's true we took advantage of them. We took their bread when they were down, it's true they weren't looking at tomorrow, they were only looking at today, but he didn't have to sell the birthright either. The narrator steps up and tells you when he sold the birthright, "Vayochal vayesht vayakam vayelech," he ate, he drank, and he left, "vayivez Esav et habechorah," and Esau degraded the birthright by letting it go like that. That's the narrator talking. The narrator usually doesn't talk. The narrator comes out and says that was a degradation of the birthright. That is what Haman cannot take. Haman cannot look at the vayivez or he always looks at the vayivez.
There's another way of reading "Vayivez be'einov," which is the vayivez of Esau is always in his eyes. "Vayivez be'einov," all Haman sees is the degradation. It's self-loathing. It's that I can never forgive myself for degrading the birthright in that way. Look how much it matters to be the nation of God. They love God, just as we love God, but they hate us. More than that, they hate themselves for having lost the opportunity. It took two to tango. What's the only way reconciliation could happen?
The reconciliation could happen and it happens with most of Esau, you can reconcile with most of Esau. Whom can't you reconcile with? Why won't they accept your apology? The answer is that ultimately, it's not about you. It's about themselves. They can't look at the degradation. They always haunted by the degradation. They can't do it, so they take the energy of that degradation, they transform it into genocide, and they blame you for it.
No matter what, it's always the Jews' fault. That's why they can't see any of the reconciliation because the reconciliation would mean it's over, but it can't be over for them because they can't come to grips with their piece of it. What they do is they transmogrify their piece of it and they're always going to get Jews, and that's why there can't be no reconciliation. When did they prove it? They proved it when they attacked you in the desert, when they took the reconciliation and they stuffed it in your face.
Here was Esau, and instead of saying, okay, you're a little one, they attacked your little ones because they only remember ki hayage'a. They only remember that piece of it and that is zachor, always remember. "Zachor et asher asah lecha Amalek." Why? It's not revenge. We're not in the revenge game, but you have to remember that act because that act tells you something. That act tells you that they totally are not going to go for the reconciliation. They will not show it. All they see is the hatred. They will not even be mityaches to any of the attempts to reconcile.
There is no quarter with Amalek. The reason why you have to wipe them out, therefore, is because if you don't wipe them out, they will wipe you out. It is simply self-preservation.
There is a strain, there is a little piece of Esau that will give you no quarter and that it's all about themselves. When tomorrow becomes today, it's the most dangerous times.
That's why the commandment of wiping out Amalek is specifically when you come into the land, you appoint a king because that is the most dangerous time, and when you're going to build the house of God because that's when you're the firstborn in the land and that's when they have attacked. If you don't attack, they will. The Holocaust is proof of it. Therefore, it's simply the only way.
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