We live in a world of cause and effect. In physics, we are taught that “every action has a reaction.” It’s an American axiom that “hard work pays off” – if you work hard you will succeed. Financial analysts explain how grain shortages in the Midwest cause a rise in the price of processor chips in Korea; meteorologists link global warming to record snowfall in the Rockies. Gum disease is linked to the risk of heart attack (really… go brush your teeth, now!)
In the Torah portion that we read on Purim day, the Torah describes an unusual cause and effect. When Bnei Yisroel battled Amalek, who attacked them as they came out of Mitzrayim, we are told, “When Moshe lifted his hands to the heavens Bnei Yisroel overpowered Amelek, but when he lowered his hands Amelek started winning” (Beshalach 17:11). The Mishna in Rosh Hashanah 29b asks the obvious question: Do Moshe’s hands make a war or break a war? The answer it gives is no; however, when Bnei Yisroel lifts their eyes to our Father in Heaven they would win. The real cause of Bnei Yisroel’s success in battle was their faith in Hashem.
Although this seems straightforward, we should investigate further. After all, what is the Mishna’s question? There are many miracles performed with “the hands of Moshe” – the makkos and the splitting of the sea – so why does the Mishna ask about the role of Moshe’s hands during the battle? Rav Gedalia Schorr zt”l provides us with an incredible insight. He says that we have misunderstood the Mishna’s question! What the Mishna is really asking is: if Moshe Rabbeinu’s hands were the cause of victory, how could he lower them? The Mishna’s response is that the victory was dependent only on Bnei Yisroel’s faith in Hashem; Moshe hands were just a barometer of their faith.
The battle on Purim was our war with Amalek; we know that Haman was a descendent of Amalek and we are commanded to annihilate that entire nation. Think about that for a moment: genocide! How is it possible for a merciful nation, children of Hashem the Merciful, to do such a thing?
The answer is that since Amalek’s mission in this world is to create agnostics – people who deny the very existence of Hashem – Hashem declares, “My throne is not complete as long as Amalek is in existence” (Beshalach 17:16). Amalek is the antithesis of the Divine purpose of this world, to spread the awareness of Hashem throughout creation: “kol hanikrah bshmi, v’lichvodi b’rasiv – Everyone who is called by My name and whom I have created for My glory” (Yishayahu 43:7).
How does Amalek insinuate its false ideology into society? The pasuk says, “Zachor es asher asah lecha Amalek…asher karcha baderech…” (Ki Seitzei 25:17). Rashi explains that one of the definitions of “karcha” is “mikreh” occurrence (“stuff happens,” they say.) That is a veiled version of “cause and effect.” Believing that our financial success is due to our hard work alone with a few random “breaks” – that’s the ideology of Amalek!
Why isn’t Hashem’s name mentioned in the Megillah even once? Because the battle between Amalek and Bnei Yisroel is in how to interpret the “natural unfolding of events.” Imagine the news in Shushan: “Haman Promoted to Grand Vizier, Declares Final Solution to Jewish Problem!” Was this just Haman’s plan – or was this the will of the Almighty?
We know that the decree to kill the Jews was not based on Haman’s influence on Achashveirosh or Achashveirosh’s own wicked desires, but rather it was an extension of Hashem’s decree, based on the actions of the Bnei Yisroel. But for Haman and his followers it was his idea and his power that were at play.
About the Author: Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is Associate Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Passaic Torah Institute, Passaic, NJ.
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