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THE THEOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF AMALEK IN THE CONTEXT OF MODERN ATHEISM…

בס”ד

… And Western Hostility towards Israel

Amalek is seen as the personification of anyone who is atheistic, particularly those who openly engage in conflict with those who are religious, and during the time of the Exodus from Egypt, was the embodiment of evil attacking Israel and thereby assaulting the G-d of Israel. Foolish and aggressive individuals who, despite witnessing all the miracles in Egypt, think they can defeat Israel and the G-d of Israel.

However, Chazal describes Amalek as heedless, rather than insane or foolish. He was not an atheist, but someone who believed in G-d and consciously engaged in the battle. How do we know that Amalek believed in G-d? He believed that when G-d told Abraham that his descendants would serve as slaves in Egypt, this prophecy would come true. Amalek consciously chose not to fight against the children of Jacob because he believed that this prophecy would then be transferred to him (as a descendant of Esau) and his descendants. But he also knew that G-d had promised the land of Israel to Abraham, and now that the people were leaving Egypt, it was, in his view, the perfect moment to annihilate them, for then the promise that G-d had given to Abraham to inherit the land of Israel would apply to him and his descendants.

Why was Amalek heedless? How can we say that he was not? The world had witnessed all the miracles and signs that G-d had performed to liberate His people. How could anyone in their right mind think they could engage in such a battle and believe they could win? Rashi in Deuteronomy 25:18 explains:

Rashi on Deuteronomy 25:18

How he happened upon you on the way: Heb. קָרְךָ, an expression denoting a chance occurrence (מִקְרֶה)… Yet another explanation: an expression denoting heat and cold (קוֹר). He cooled you off and made you [appear] tepid, after you were boiling hot, for the nations were afraid to fight with you, [just as people are afraid to touch something boiling hot]. But this one, [i.e., Amalek] came forward and started and showed the way to others. This can be compared to a bathtub of boiling water into which no living creature could descend. Along came an irresponsible man and jumped headlong into it! Although he scalded himself, he [succeeded to] make others think that it was cooler [than it really was]. — [Tanchuma 9]

The entire problem with Amalek was that he had no fear of G-d. Just as any rational person does not jump into a hot bath, every person has a natural fear of G-d. But the example of Amalek leads people to have wrong thoughts and can willingly follow Amalek’s example, diminishing their fear of G-d and consciously going against His will. Fear of G-d can diminish in people to such an extent that they don’t even know what G-d wants but only focus on their own will and their own invented truth.

We see that today. Amalek was a descendant of Esau, and the descendants of Esau are associated with Christianity within Jewish tradition. I want to extend this to the Western world of today. The Western world is familiar with the miracles and stories from the Tanakh, familiar with the G-d of Israel, and familiar with the promises that G-d has given to His people. Yet the Western world rages against Israel in its struggle against the evil perpetrated by Hamas. It denies the suffering and turns a blind eye to all the evidence Israel provides about Hamas and UNRWA (a part of the UN) regarding their desire to annihilate all of Israel and all Jews from the world, akin to Amalek. The Western world harbors a deep hatred towards Israel, almost as if it were ingrained in its DNA, to destroy it. After all, the Christian world, with its replacement theology, sees itself as the people of G-d and wants to take its place, just as Amalek wanted to take the place of the people of G-d and enter the promised land. The fact that they won’t even enter the land themselves, but sacrifice it to Islam, is a given that they overlook.

Learning Points

  • Heedlessness versus rationality: Despite witnessing Divine miracles, Amalek is described as reckless in his attack on Israel. This contrasts with the rationality expected of people to acknowledge the reality of G-d and obey His will.
  • Fear of G-d and its loss: The text emphasizes the importance of a healthy fear of G-d as a fundamental aspect of religious awareness. It points out that the influence of figures like Amalek can lead people to lose this fear, causing them to turn away from G-d’s will.
  • Modern parallels: The text draws parallels between Amalek and modern challenges, particularly the hostility of certain parts of the Western world towards Israel. These parallels serve as warnings against the loss of respect for G-d and His promises, even in contemporary contexts.

By Angelique Sijbolts

Sources:

Esau the Ancestor of Rome
Purim: Its Miracles and Mitzvos by HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg and Shlomo Furst, Part One: Amalek Their Crime and Their Punishment

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