The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: 6 Adar II, 5768/March 13, 2008

Obliterating the Enemy

"He called to Moshe, and G-d spoke to him from the tent of meeting."
(Leviticus 1:1)

The opening words of the book of Leviticus mention twice that G-d communicated with Moses. The first communication, however, is expressed anonymously, whereas the second communication has G-d's name attached to it. Sometimes G-d does address us in a manner that reveals no trace of His being, while at other times His presence is loud and clear. It is up to us hear His message, both when expressed silently and when conveyed in full volume. This same message informs the month of Adar, known as the month in which G-d's presence, though often hidden from us in this world, nevertheless permeates and shapes our reality. The fullest expression of this can be seen in the scroll of Esther, in which G-d's name is mentioned not once, nor is He seen openly intervening in the unfolding chronicle of intrigues. Yet, as we know, the only way to unlock the mysteries of the Purim narrative, and fully appreciate the hidden significance of the events, is by acknowledging that G-d's presence is, indeed, everywhere in the story.

It is axiomatic that G-d often hides His presence even as He guides the events happening all around us. It is His will that we perceive His existence through faith. G-d's desire that we substantiate His presence in this world through our faith is brought to its fullest expression in the commandment that is read in synagogues the world over on this upcoming shabbat, the shabbat preceding the Purim holiday:

"Remember what Amalek did to you on your way out of Egypt. When they encountered you on the way, and you were tired and exhausted, they cut off those lagging to your rear, and they did not fear G-d. Therefore, when God gives you peace from all the enemies around you in the land that G-d your L-rd is giving you to occupy as a heritage, you must obliterate the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. You must not forget." (Deuteronomy 25:17-19)

Amalek, the bitter enemy that attacked the children of Israel for no apparent reason as they left Egypt, is surely worthy of our constant vigilance, as Torah tells us that he will continue his war on Israel from generation to generation. But is it really necessary to obliterate his memory, to physically wipe him from off the face of the earth? Wouldn't some form of historic rapprochement in which we would all live happily ever after be more in the prophetic spirit of a spiritually redeemed brotherhood of man? The answer, G-d tells us, is a resounding "No!"

Amalek's grievance against the Jewish people is nothing less than the Torah's insistence that the children of Israel provide for G-d a place on this earth. And yet anything short of establishing G-d's sovereignty in this world is a breach of His covenant with His people. There is, in fact, no ground, and no room for any kind of feel-good compromise, the kind so often put forward by today's politicians and opinion makers. The only option available to Amalek's ongoing implacable hatred of G-d is to utterly and absolutely wipe him and his memory from the face of the earth.

But why memory? Why must we not forget to wipe out Amalek's memory? Memory is consciousness, and only when we are able to wipe our own thoughts clean of the kind of doubt that Amalek lives to spread, the doubt in our responsibility to G-d and in His promise to us, then we are to fully live up to the letter and spirit of the commandment.

It is precisely when G-d is speaking softly and acting in ways not readily detected, that He is signaling to us our need to take a stand and follow through on a course of action. It is no wonder that just beneath the surface of the series of events which unfold in the scroll of Esther is the struggle between the Jews striving to rebuild the Holy Temple destroyed by Nebudchadnezzar, and those enemies of G-d and His people, who stop at no crime in order to prevent G-d's house from being built. Even today, these very Amalekean practitioners of a despicable creed that denies that the Holy Temple ever stood on Mount Moriah are willing to perpetrate any atrocity, all in the name of driving G-d's presence from the land of Israel,and keeping His word from going forth out of Jerusalem. This enemy must be destroyed.

Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss the upcoming Sabbath of Remembrance, in which parashat Zachor is to be read, revisit the events in and around the confrontation between Mordechai and Haman, and explore the latent potential for tikkun - rectification - which is embodied by the month of Adar.

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Part 1
Part 2