Jews who choose the path of secularist atheism, such as three of the most influential men in recent history – Freud, Karl Marx and Albert Einstein – often turn viciously anti-Jewish in the process. In the venomous words of Marx:
Money is the jealous god of Israel, besides which no other god may exist. Money abases all the gods of mankind and changes them into commodities. Money is the self-sufficient value of all things. It has, therefore, deprived the whole world, both the human world and nature, of their own proper value. Money is the alienated essence of man’s work and existence: this essence dominates him and he worships it. The god of the Jews has been secularized and become the god of this world. [“On the Jewish Question,” 1844]
Others, like Einstein, hung their hat of disbelief on their claim that religion and its spiritual conceptions are completely incomprehensible concepts unsuited for rational, modern man:
I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension. Such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. [The World As I See It, Philosophical Library, 1949]
Though Einstein was capable of comprehending many of the immense complexities of quantum science, he was unable to grasp signs of the divine, something within the capabilities of even the youngest child.
These Jews – and countless others like them – understood their accomplishments to have been possible only due to the intellectual and moral freedoms of modernity. In truth, however, the negative view they held of their Jewish tradition greatly restricted the potential gains of their personal genius.
Of course, the battle between Jewish values and those espoused by Amalek does not only manifest itself in such stark terms. We all struggle in some way to properly identify the significant role Hashem plays in our lives, and to ascribe adequate credit for all He does on our behalf.
Rav Chaim Friedlander, zt”l (Sifsei Chaim, Vol. 2, p. 171-172) writes that before we can eliminate any form of external Amalek, we must first attempt to identify and remove any vestiges of that nation from within our own selves. To the extent we see matters in our personal lives as happenstance or the consequence of purely natural events, we are guilty of harboring a piece of Amalek within our own hearts. And if we go so far as to downplay valid attempts to infuse the world with additional holiness, we are removing any possibility of truly fulfilling this vital mandate.
It is impossible for us today to properly fulfill the mitzvah of physically destroying Amalek. We are, however, required to attempt to destroy its memory, the intellectual and emotional Amalek that affects us all. In so doing, we will bring Hashem’s throne that much closer to its completed state, and take meaningful steps toward fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy: “Hashem shall be king over all the earth; on that day the Hashem shall be one and his name one.”
Rabbi Naphtali Hoff is Head of School at Torah Day School of Atlanta. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.