We’re filing this one under the “Purim Torah” category, but on a day rife with miracles and secret hints and unpronounced plots and narratives, it might as well be something to consider year-round.
Let’s start with the fact—acknowledged by many, including the late Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook—that there are two kinds of antisemitism. Over the years they’ve become intertwined, and so they’re hard to tell apart sometimes, but the distinction is important if we wish to understand the mythical hatred of God’s archenemy Amalek (For he said, Because God has sworn that God will have war with Amalek from generation to generation. Ex. 17:16).
One kind of antisemitism is not very different from any other ethnic conflict, over new and ancient disputes, like the conflicts between Serbs and Muslims, Tutsi and Hutus, Flemish and Walloon. I would include the hatred of Palestinians towards Jews in this context, because, essentially, it is rooted in a dispute over land. It may have expanded by now to darker regions, but its inception was in a “normal” ethnic conflict.
Then there’s the ideological antisemitism, the Amalek kind. It was not born by anything the Jews have done to anyone, it comes from a baseless hatred, or, if you will, as the verse in Exodus suggests, a hatred of God which is expressed through the hatred of His children.
On October 4 and 6, 1943, SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler told SS officers in Posen, Poland:
“I mean the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish race. It’s one of those things it is easy to talk about, ‘the Jewish race is being exterminated,’ says one party member, ‘that’s quite clear, it’s in our program, elimination of the Jews, and we’re doing it, exterminating them.’ And then they come, 80 million worthy Germans, and each one has his decent Jew. Of course the others are vermin, but this one is an A-1 Jew.”
After which that clever monster calls on his men to disregard those emotional urges, stare straight at the piles of corpses, and harden their hearts, because “The difficult decision has to be taken, to cause this Volk to disappear from the earth.”
That’s the cold, unwavering essence of Amalek, that’s the spiritual source that made Auschwitz happen, and that’s the driving force behind horrid monstrosities like the Ayatollahs and their clown, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They see us, whether for racial or for religious reasons, as the essential evil in the world and they want us—all of us, including the Neturei Karta idiots who kiss their hands—dead.
Now, just as there are two kinds of antisemitism, there are also two kinds of Jewish leaders: the sons of Leah and the sons of Rachel, our patriarch Jacob’s sister wives.
Traditionally, we’ve been led by the tribe of Juda, a son of Leah. This is because Juda, like his most beloved great grandson King David, have been able to teach us how to do T’shuva-repent. They’ve taught us—and the world—that repent involves first and foremost accepting responsibility for the wrong that was done, then expressing full regret for having done it, then fixing as best we can what we’ve done, and, finally, resolving to never repeat it.
Those skills are useless against Amalek. As soon as we reveal what we’ve done wrong, that’s all Amalek wants to hear. Anything we’ll add will only bolster his resolve to annihilate every last one of us, wherever we reside, men, women and children.
This is why in our history the only ones deposited with the mission of fighting Amalek have been the children of Rachel—because the children of Rachel are perfect.
It disqualified them from being our long-term rulers, implies the gemora in Yoma 22b: “Shmuel said: Why didn’t the kingdom of Shaul last longer? Because he had no imperfection. As Rabbi Yochanan said citing Rabbi Shimon ben Yehotzadak: We do not appoint a public leader unless there’s a can of vermin dragging behind him, so that, should he feel haughty, we’ll tell him: Look behind you.”
I’m not sure why the children of Rachel have been so perfect. Maybe it had to do with the fact that Rachel was Jacob’s true love: why, the moment he saw her he couldn’t help himself, grabbed her and kissed her (to the chagrin of more than one commentator). Perhaps it takes that kind of love to spawn perfect children. Leah’s love was troubled and tormented, rife with self doubt – the stuff that makes for introspective children with a weakness for poetry.
The first time Amalek attacks us, moments, practically, after we have left Egypt, who stands up to him? Joshua bin Nun, from the tribe of Ephraim (Ex. 17:8-10).
When King Eglon of Moab gathers Amalekites to defeat the Israelites, the judge who is picked to assassinate him is Ehud ben Gera of Benjamin (Judges 3:13-15).
When the Midyanites and Amalekites repress the Israelites, the judge picked to lead the campaign against them is the youth Gideon from the tribe of Menashe (Judges 6:3,15).
And it is King Shaul from the tribe of Benjamin who is called to fight Agag, King of Amalek, followed by his great grandson, hero of the Megillah story, Mordechai the Benjaminite, who is called on to bring about the defeat of Agag’s great grandson Haman.
All of which leads me to the Purim Torah portion of this entry: as we’re hearing about the new Hamans over in Persia hastening their murderous labor, increasing the number and speed of their centrifuges, getting ever nearer the point where the attack on them is inevitable, we have two candidates whose names, at least, correspond to the requirement that they be of the children of Rachel: Benjamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz.
Purim is a day rife with hints and shadows, whispers, dreams and heavy curtains, and on such a day, amidst all that ominous head space, this curious fact, that one is a natural candidate for Prime Minister and the other a strong possibility for Minister of Defense, might be the point of light we ought to embrace.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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