I have a friend who gives out business-size cards that she had printed that contain the phrase, “Reisheet chochmah yirat shomayim – the beginning of wisdom is fear of Hashem.”
This sentence is found in Mishlei, the Book of Proverb, written by the brilliant King Solomon.
I think my friend started to give out these cards to friends and acquaintances and even to some rebbetzins at lectures and simchas, after feeling betrayed by rabbanim she trusted in a personal matter. She felt halacha was on her side, but the other party was a “chashuveh“ person and felt she was denied justice.
Initially I humored her and took the card she offered me, but I took a deeper look, wondering what point she was trying to make, and became in awe of the power of these words. “The beginning of wisdom is rooted in fearing Hashem.” I realized that it is a supreme declaration of faith, emunah when one truly fears G-d. Because that means you believe He exists and, as I mentioned in an earlier column, that he is Dayan HaEmet – the judge of the truth: He is all-knowing, and there is no conning Him, or obscuring or twisting the facts.
This fear and acceptance that He is the Master of the Universe leads to self-discipline, restraint and suppressing self-gratification at another’s destructive expense. We embrace the Ten Commandments, the blueprint Hashem lovingly bestowed on us for living a moral, ethical, compassionate, and honest life, influencing us to make wise, life-enhancing choices that benefit the individual, the greater community, and the entire world.
It is said of the midwives Shifra and Puah, that they feared G-d more than they feared the Egyptian “deity” Pharaoh, who had commanded them to murder newborn Hebrew baby boys ( Exodus 1:17). They knew (even before the Ten Commandments were given to Bnei Yisrael) that murder was evil, and bravely defied an evil decree at their own peril.
Conversely, the nation of Amalek, did not have a shred of fear of G-d (Deuteronomy 25:18). They deliberately attacked the weak and straggling Israelites, with no worries of consequences or accountability for their actions – as far as they were concerned, there was no G-d; or if there was, He was weak, ineffective and not worth a second thought.
Amalek proclaimed by their actions that they were atheists, but even worse, they had become “social influencers,” for they had sowed the seeds of doubt in the nations who had been in awe of the miracles Hashem had performed on behalf of the Hebrews, and who now were on the fence as to His existence or power.
After all, Amalek had been brazen enough to successfully attack the vulnerable and weak of the newly emancipated Hebrew slaves. Their chutzpah and brazen gall likely caused the nations to ponder, “Where was their Almighty protector?” Perhaps the G-d of the Jews was a fraud perpetrated by a clever “magician” using smoke and mirrors to project power, similar to the Wizard of Oz.
Amalek delights in causing spiritual sabotage, resulting in confusion, and doubt. When there is doubt, there is no fear, and hence no wisdom, leading to no rules, no fences, just chaos and destruction.
In Sefer Tehillim, chapter 79, verse 10, the Levite, Asaph, cries out to Hashem, after describing the horrific defilement of the Beit HaMikdash and the decimation of Yerushalayim and its people, “Why should the nations mockingly say, ‘Where is their G-d?’ ”
Asaph goes on to beg Hashem to avenge the spilt Jewish blood before the eyes of the nations. Asaph might have felt that letting evil people literally “get away with murder” and escape justice would hurt Hashem’s credibility and cause skepticism about His existence and undermine or nullify any belief that he is the Master of the Universe.
When I light my Shabbat candles, I pray to Hashem to perform open, unquestionable miracles for the people and State of Israel, and to rout our toxic enemies. I entreat him saying that though He may deem us undeserving of His involvement, He should do this for HIS sake, so that He won’t be erased, or expunged or abolished because that has always been Amalek’s timeless goal and mission – to obliterate and nullify G-d, and by extension, morality.
I once heard at a lecture on antisemitism that Jew-hatred is rooted in the fact that we gave the world a conscience. Previously, nations could attack and plunder and steal and enslave without a sliver of hesitation. To the victors went the spoils. No guilt, no second guessing, no hesitancy. Might was right. Bullying and preying on the weak, the gullible, the trusting, was pagan “wisdom.”
Without fear of G-d, there is no reason to restrict or deprive yourself of anything you want, especially at another’s expense.
Amalek – gentile or Jew, for I believe currently, Amalek is a pathological and narcissistic spiritual mindset that tragically is manifested in Jews as well – can scoff, deride and mock those who believe and hence fear G-d, and foolishly feel they can destroy with impunity. But there is a Dayan HaEmet. He knows the truth, and will judge them, and they will be held accountable for eternity.
May that awareness be a nechama to the tormented hapless victims of these Amaleki predators, who caused them life-long emotional, financial or physical pain, and life-changing loss.