Someone asked me what we should have in mind on Purim.
I would answer with one word: Amalek.
You want simcha?
You want geulah?
Chazal stipulated that we read Parshas Amalek directly before Purim. Why? Because without understanding the threat there is no liberation.
Without understanding the reality of Amalek there is no reality in Purim.
“Remember what Amalek did to you, on the way, when you were leaving Egypt, that he happened upon you on the way and he struck those of you who were hindmost, all the weaklings at your rear, when you were faint and exhausted, and he did not fear God. It shall be that when Hashem, your God, gives you rest from all your enemies all around, in the Land that Hashem, your God, gives you as an inheritance to possess it, you shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven – you shall not forget.” (Devarim 25:17-19)
Imagine the scenario. We have just been liberated from Egypt. God is guiding us through the desert. Our enemies seem to have vanished under the Red Sea. We have nothing to worry about. We can take it easy now.
Out of nowhere comes the worst threat of all. The nation that “did not fear God,” whose entire existence is focused onhatred of us, whose jealousy of the Children of Israel is a consuming passion, suddenly appears with murderous malice and threatens us with complete annihilation, God forbid. Just when we thought everything was perfect.
Twice a day, at least, we say the following words:
“And it will come to pass that if you continually hearken to My commandments that I will provide rain for your land that you may gather in your grain, your wine and your oil. I will provide grass in your field for your cattle and you will eat and be satisfied .”(Shema/Devarim 11)
Beautiful. Perfect. We are satisfied and well fed in our beautiful land.
What comes next?
“Beware lest your heart be seduced and you turn astray and serve gods of others and bow to them. Then the wrath of Hashem will blaze against you and you will swiftly be banished from the goodly land that Hashem gives you.”
What happened? We were so secure. Why were we suddenly banished?
Leaving Egypt is not enough. Sitting complacently in our land is not enough. “Not by bread alone does man live” (Devarim 8:3).
When we walk the road of life complacently, that is when Amalek strikes. And he is deadly.
Like everything else in our holy Torah, Purim has direct meaning this very day, this moment. “Ma’ase avos siman l’banim – what happened to our fathers is a sign for the children.”
Look around. The world is in flames. Israel is surrounded. We are all surrounded.
And what are we doing? We are sitting at the table of Achashveirosh, eating and drinking.
We are satisfied. All is good. The banquet is glatt kosher!
This is the most dangerous moment, right now. The moment when we believe we are secure. We live in a bounteous land, a land that has treated us well. We are free citizens, able to pursue any path we desire. We are comfortable.
But the footsteps of Amalek can be heard.
How did Moshe Rabbeinu battle Amalek? It sounds unbelievable:
“Moshe, Aharon and Hur ascended to the top of the hill. It happened that when Moshe raised his hand Israel was stronger, and when he lowered his hand Amalek was stronger. Moshe’s hands grew heavy, so they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it, and Aharon and Hur supported his hands, one on this side and one on that side, and he remained with his hands in faithful prayer until sunset.” (Shemos 17:10-12)
How can this be? Moshe Rabbeinu defeated Amalek by raising his hands? Come on! We are trying to deal with reality here.
But this is reality. This is our only way out.
Beware the banquet. It’s a trick.
Do you think we are secure? Do you think we can “eat and be satisfied”? The time has not yet come. We will be secure only when we raise our hands and understand that our security comes from the One Above. We must pray with all our heart and soul. And if our hands are “heavy,” we must help each other. We must hold our friend’s hands up in the air and help him pray, help him learn Torah. And he in turn will help us.