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Amalek: On the Way

If a person seeks only light, love and the revelation of Godliness, the mitzvah to eliminate Amalek does not always go down so smoothly. There is, however, no choice. We need a total, merciless war against the absolute, diabolical evil of Amalek. We can understand this war as an irreproachable necessity, as a stage on the way to the true and complete redemption, when God will remove the spirit of impurity from the world and there will be no more death. There are three commandments incumbent on the Jewish public in the Land of Israel, which will be fulfilled by the Mashiach: First, to appoint a king worthy to rule over the Jewish Nation. Then the king must destroy Amalek. Subsequently, he must build the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

It may seem that the destruction of Amalek is merely a means to the end, which is the Holy Temple. But relating to something as a means alone, as merely the path to the destination is in and of itself a point of vulnerability that beckons Amalek, about whom the Torah says, “that he (Amalek) met (cooled) you on the way.”[1]

As a rule, Amalek cools our enthusiasm and separates us from serving God. He casts a doubt (safek in Hebrew, numerically equal to Amalek) about our actions, takes the vitality from us, and leaves us with a disturbing feeling that we have acted out of strict, unwilling necessity. In the terms of Chasidut, Amalek causes us to shift from the state of face-forward (expressed by will and desire, and looking directly with a pleasant countenance) to a situation of “turned back” (expressed by coercion and lack of will, as someone who turns his back on his enemy, even if he must speak to him or give him something). After Amalek channels us from a state of face-forward to a state of turned back – it is easy for him to remove our collective head altogether.

Sometimes, however, Amalek is more subtle. He leaves us with some warmth and vitality but claims that we are presently busy with the means and cannot yet devote our energies to the destination. Engaging in the means to an important end may be accompanied by relative vitality and warmth. It is still, however, a state of turned back in which the person is focused on what will happen later. As far as he is concerned, it would be better to be at the destination already and not to be delayed at this point. This is still the feeling of necessity, even if it is more subtle. It will be expressed in lack of attention to detail – for after all, if this is just a means to an end, all of the attention to detail is focused on the final destination. Details characterize the face – eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. The back, conversely, appears with few noticeable details. At the moment that we lose interest in the details of what is happening now, in the present – and feel that on a certain level, dealing with them is an irritating necessity – we open the door for Amalek, who wants to detach the head/final destination from the body/the application. Amalek casts doubt on the importance and necessity of the small details in which we engage.

Hence, to overcome Amalek, we have to skip over the weak point of the means or the way – we must relate to our place in the here and now as a goal in and of itself. The destruction of Amalek is not merely the means to the end of the Holy Temple – it is a directive from God that stands alone. The more that we enthusiastically and sincerely delve into our service of God in the present, it expands and flourishes into myriad, beautiful details.

 

[1] Deuteronomy 25:18.

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