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Remember that which Amalek did to you…” – Devarim 25:17

When Hashem took the Jewish people out of Mitzrayim, He did it in a highly visible manner. The word spread quickly that these were Hashem’s people under His direct guidance and protection, and the world stood in awe of Klal Yisrael. Shortly after this point, Amalek attacked and was severely beaten, its powerful warriors dismembered and laid helpless in front of the victorious Jews.


While we won the war, Rashi explains that it was still a tragedy for us because now other nations were able to fight against the Jews. To clarify the point, Rashi offers a mashol.

There was once a scalding hot bath that no one could enter. Along came one foolish individual who jumped in. Although he was immediately burned, he cooled off the bath for others. So too, even though the Amalekim were beaten, they cooled off the bath and made it easier for others to attack.

Rav Henoch Leibowitz, zt”l, observed that this Rashi seems to be counterintuitive. When Hashem brought the Jewish people into the desert, it was to be assumed that He would defend them. However, up until Amalek attacked, it was only a theory. What Amalek did was take this concept from the theoretical to the actual. It was now a reality; Amalek tried and was badly defeated. Anyone hearing of this battle understood that Hashem fights the Jews’ wars.

In what sense, then, did Amelek cool off the bath? If anything, their attack should have made it more difficult for others to make the same mistake.

The answer to this question seems to be that there are many factors that control a person’s behavior. One of them is that people only consider what is in the realm of the possible.

To illustrate, imagine that you walk out of your house one morning and find your driveway blocked by another car. You quickly conclude that person who parked that car is rude and inconsiderate. Because he had somewhere to go, he didn’t care about the consequences of his actions, and he blocked you in. You might even get angry. “The chutzpah of that guy! Not at all concerned with my needs, only with his own!”

Your sense of righteous indignation might even cause you to consider taking revenge. Letting the air out of his tires might cross your mind or maybe even damaging the car. But it would be hard to imagine that you would begin fantasizing about murdering the driver. “Let me see, would I rather choke him or stab him? A slow painful death or a quick violent one?”

The idea of murder is so far removed from our realm of thought that it wouldn’t even cross our mind, no matter how angry we were. To us, murder is in the realm of the unthinkable.

Rav Leibowitz explained that when the Jewish people left Mitzrayim, they were in the realm of the untouchable. The concept of any nation attacking the Jews was unthinkable. It wasn’t a thought that would be considered and quickly rejected; it just wasn’t a possibility. What Amalek did was break the aura. Although they were beaten, they now brought the idea of fighting the Jews into the realm of a question. Should we or shouldn’t we? Do we think we will win or not? Some people would and some wouldn’t, but it was now a question. And in that sense, it opened the door for others.

This seems to be the answer to this Rashi. Amalek “cooled the bath.” Even though they were burned, they broke the sensation of the Jews being untouchable.

This concept has great application in our lives. The stark difference between the Torah’s view of acceptable behavior and that which is propagated in the world at large is so far apart that it would almost seem that we are experiencing a culture war.

In recent times there has been a destruction of all sense of decency, morality, and common sense. Western society has become so materialistic, corrupt, and immoral that it has little resemblance to that which the founding fathers of this country envisioned. Effectively, we have witnessed the death of right and wrong.

And so we find ourselves in a very difficult predicament. While the idea of being open-minded and broad are certainly Torah-based, in these times of clouded sense of right and wrong, for our sakes and the purity of our children, we have to insulate ourselves against influences that sell evil as acceptable and deviance as normal.

As strange as it sounds, we are at war. A clash of cultures is being waged every day on the airwaves, billboards and front pages of newspapers – and we are losing it. That which thirty years ago was unthinkable is now the norm. That which forty years ago was understood to be a psychological disorder is now labeled an alternative lifestyle, and at risk is the very fabric of the society.

Especially in our role as parents and mentors we have to be sensitive to the dizzying downward spiral of acceptable behaviors. While we were brought up in different times and may still recognize the truth for what it is, our children are brought in these times, and to them this is the norm. Therefore must do everything we can to keep this culture out of homes.

It is times like these that try our understanding – our understanding of that which is right, good, and proper; our understanding that Hashem created us to lead a proper, wholesome, happy life; and, mostly, our understanding that certain “lifestyles” are unacceptable and go against everything we hold sacred. The unthinkable must remain unthinkable.


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Rabbi Shafier is the founder of The Shmuz is an engaging, motivating shiur that deals with real life issues. All of the Shmuzin are available free of charge at or on the Shmuz App for iphone or Android.