AMALEK RETURNS — a Purim Blog by Rabbi Baruch Cohon
Before we take that first Purim drink, let’s read the Torah. What passage do we read on Purim? Vayavo Amalek – the story of a battle our ancestors fought in the desert on the way out of Egypt, a battle against a hateful and cowardly enemy tribe called Amalek. Time and again they attacked from the rear, killing the stragglers, the weakest of the trekking Israelites. Finally at a place called Rephidim they got punished. Of course they did not quit harassing Israel. After our ancestors settled in the Land and Saul became king, there was more warfare with Amalek.
So what does all this have to do with Purim? The battles with Amalek predated the Purim story by a few centuries. But the connection is there. Haman, the Purim villain, is identified in the Megillah as the son of Hamdassa the Agagite. Agag was the king of Amalek, the defeated chieftain whom the prophet Samuel kills in last week’s special Haftorah for Shabat Zachor, the Sabbath of Memory which always precedes Purim. So the rabbis logically taught that Haman was descended from Amalek.
Indeed he was. Likewise Amalek’s spiritual descendants. Titus, Torquemada, Chmelnitzky, Hitler, Arafat – to name just a few. Destroying Israel was Amalek’s goal, a goal not limited to one locality or one kind of weapon. Haman brought it to Persia. And built a 75-foot gallows to hang Mordecai.
Now Amalek returns to Persia. The current descendants don’t use gallows – or crucifixes or gas chambers or UN committees. They plan to use atom bombs.
Could Queen Esther help her people now? Recently someone compared Bibi Netanyahu’s speech to Congress to Esther’s plea to King Ahasuerus, pointing out that both were technically violations of protocol. Esther’s maneuver, reluctant though she was to try it, worked. Will Bibi’s?
Check the Megillah. Even after condemning Haman to die on the gallows he built, Ahasuerus refuses to cancel his edict setting a date for mass murder of Jews. What he does, however, is arm the Jews and give them a chance to defend themselves. This they do with great success, once again defeating Amalek. Essentially, isn’t that what Bibi seeks?
No, Bibi is no Queen Esther. And the authority he faces, although historically an ally, is no King Ahasuerus. After all, the king loved Esther. He listened to her, protocol notwithstanding. Bibi deals with a chief executive who will not face him, let alone listen to him. All the protocol talk smacks of a political excuse to mask personal hatred. Amalek returns. And once again our people is in serious danger. But we will survive. No enemy can finally prevail. We believe in miracles.
More than ever, we should celebrate this Purim. Drown out Haman’s name with those groggers. Drown your worries with another L’hayyim – could be non-alcoholic if you prefer! And let our Purim performances show Amalek that nobody can destroy our sense of humor. That is definitely a Purim miracle.
As the old song goes, Haynt is Purim, brider, es is a yomtov grois! Today is Purim, brothers, a great big holiday! Enjoy it.