Latest update: February 19th, 2014
In the month of Adar we usually focus on our battle with Amalek and strategies on how to weaken his effect on us. This year we have two months of Adar. Hashem, in His knowledge of all things past, present and future, knew we’d need two months this year to contemplate what Amalek does to us and how we can work to eradicate him.
We are living in dangerous times. It seems the entire world is against us. However, it is only because we let Amalek into our minds that we are frightened by this situation.
This is not the first time in our long history that the world is against us. We just have to learn from our history how to react to it.
Amalek tries to convince us there is no hashgacha in this world – that Hashem is not involved and doesn’t care about us. This in turn makes us feel insignificant and small and incapable.
We know and believe that Hashem is involved with this world and governs everything that happens in it. And He is especially involved with Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael. We must believe this without a shadow of a doubt. It must permeate our beings and we must act accordingly. This is one of the Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith.
I think we all need to remind ourselves of some of the important lessons we learn from Sefer Shemot, which we just happen – hardly by coincidence – to be reading now.
We are taught in parshat Shemot that it was Miriam who convinced Amram to remarry his wife Yocheved, since she knew the redeemer would be born from them. Amram listened to her, and Moshe Rabbeinu was born. But things didn’t go smoothly. His mother was only able to hide him for three months, and then it seemed that all was doomed. She had to place him in the Nile in accordance with Pharaoh’s decree. Most people gave up at that point and yelled at Miriam, “Where is your prophecy now?”
But Miriam didn’t give up. She had emunah. She went to the river to see what would happen. The word used in the Torah for her standing there is veteitatzav – she stood firmly.
Miriam did not claim to know exactly what would happen. She could not have known that Pharaoh’s daughter would come to bathe and decide to save Moshe and raise him in the palace right under Pharaoh’s nose. She did, however, know something would happen, and she wasn’t going to miss seeing the miracle with her own eyes. So she planted herself there to witness the great ways of Hashem. And indeed she merited seeing the miracle and even assisted in bringing the baby’s own mother to nurse him.
When Bnei Yisrael were by the Yam Suf, in a very dangerous situation and with nowhere to go, Moshe instructed them with the same word that was used in the story of Miriam standing by the river. He told them hityatzvu – stand firm and see the salvation of Hashem. Moshe himself did not know exactly how the Jews would be saved but he knew something would happen. He wanted Bnei Yisrael to stand firm and be worthy to see the miracle. And indeed Nachshon Ben Aminadav, displaying the highest level of emunah and mesirut nefesh, proceeded into the sea. Did he know the water would split for him? No – but he knew Hashem would not forsake them.
Miriam and Nachshon were unique; not many people in their generation had their level of emunah. The Torah, however, chooses to tell us about these individuals so that we may learn from them.
In the story of Purim, we read in the megillah that Haman had convinced Achashveirosh to annihilate the Jews of his kingdom. The decree to kill the Jews was sent out via letters to all the provinces of the kingdom. We are told that everywhere the letters arrived the Jews were frightened and in mourning. No one knew how Bnei Yisrael would be saved. Many thought they wouldn’t be saved – that Hashem had forsaken them. The situation was bleak. The Jews were all alone in the world. No one was on their side. This is exactly what Haman/Amalek wanted to achieve. That is Amalek’s goal – to convince us that Hashem has forsaken us.
Mordechai in his great emunah and Esther in her great mesirat nefesh were able to guide Bnei Yisrael into a teshuvah process that resulted in the great miracle of nahafochu, of overturning. But what exactly was overturned? If you look closely at the megillah, you will see that the decree to kill the Jews was not overturned. As Achashvairosh himself explained, decrees issued by the king could not be overturned. Instead, he allowed Mordechai and Esther to write a second decree as they saw fit. The decree they wrote was that the Jews had the right to stand up and fight for themselves.
Can you imagine how firmly the Amalek mindset had taken hold among the Jews – how small and incapable Amalek had made them feel they needed a decree to tell them that they were allowed to fight for their lives? This is the nahafochu, this is what was overturned – the Amalek mindset. Through their incredible teshuvah and return to Torah, they now believed Hashem was involved in the world and had not and would not forsake them.
Our rabbis tell us that today we don’t know with certainty who the nation of Amalek is. However, anyone who tries to convince us that our God has forsaken us and is not involved in this world and in our lives is, for all intents and purposes, Amalek. Our situation is not much different from the story of Purim or Yetziat Mitzrayim. Again we find ourselves alone in the world. Everyone is telling us we have to give away parts of our Holy Land that was given to us by Hashem Himself. John Kerry has threatened us with an intifada and international boycotts if we don’t.
It is sad that most of us have allowed the Amalek mindset to triumph once again. How small, insignificant and incapable that mindset has made us is evident from the fact that we are willing to even consider negotiating away our sovereignty over our own land.
Does anyone today know how we will be saved? No. But neither did Miriam, Moshe, Nachshon, Mordechai and Esther. They did know the key to salvation is to do teshuvah, to return to Torah and complete emunah in Hashem. We must not let the lessons of these parshiyot we are reading in Sefer Shemot fall by the wayside.
Purim is around the corner. We must eradicate Amalek from our minds by turning to Torah and strengthening our emunah in Hashem, so that we too shall merit the nahafochu of our mindset in our time.
About the Author: Shandee Fuchs gives a weekly parshah shiur for women in Flatbush.
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