שבת טעם החיים צו-זכור תשע”א
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Tzav-Zachor 5771
More about Amalek
ויאמר דוד אל הנער המגיד לו אי מזה אתה ויאמר בן איש גר עמלקי אנכי, Dovid then asked the young man who was telling him, “Where are you from?” And he replied, “I am the son of an Amalekite convert.” (Shmuel II 1:13)
This week’s Haftorah is regarding the episode where Shmuel the prophet instructs King Shaul to eradicate Amalek, and while Shaul kills out most of Amalek’s population, he leaves the Amalekites king, Agag, alive, and allows the Amalekite dynasty to be perpetuated. There is another incident in the Book of Shmuel regarding Amalek which bears mentioning. Following the death of Shaul and his sons in the battle against the Plishtim, it is recorded that Dovid returned from striking Amalek. It is noteworthy that that this battle was not deemed on the surface to be the all out battle against Amalek. Nonetheless, in the subsequent verses we will see many allusions to the ongoing battle and its ramifications for the Jewish People. It is said (Shmuel II 1:1-16) וַיְהִי אַחרֵי מוֹת שָׁאוּל, וְדָוִד שָׁב מֵהַכּוֹת אֶת הָעמָלֵק וַיֵּשֶׁב דָּוִד בְּצִקְלָג יָמִים שְׁנָיִם. וַיְהִי בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי, וְהִנֵּה אִישׁ בָּא מִן הַמַּחנֶה, מֵעִם שָׁאוּל וּבְגָדָיו קְרֻעִים, וַאדָמָה עַל רֹאשׁוֹ. וַיְהִי בְּבֹאוֹ אֶל דָּוִד, וַיִּפֹּל אַרְצָה וַיִּשְׁתָּחוּ. וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ דָּוִד: אֵי מִזֶּה תָּבוֹא? וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו: מִמַּחנֵה יִשְׂרָאֵל נִמְלָטְתִּי. וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו דָּוִד מֶה הָיָה הַדָּבָר? הַגֶּד נָא לִי! וַיֹּאמֶר אשֶׁר נָס הָעָם מִן הַמִּלְחָמָה, וְגַם הַרְבֵּה נָפַל מִן הָעָם וַיָּמֻתוּ, וְגַם שָׁאוּל וִיהוֹנָתָן בְּנוֹ מֵתוּ. וַיֹּאמֶר דָּוִד אֶל הַנַּעַר הַמַּגִּיד לוֹ: אֵיךְ יָדַעְתָּ, כִּי מֵת שָׁאוּל וִיהוֹנָתָן בְּנוֹ?. וַיֹּאמֶר הַנַּעַר הַמַּגִּיד לוֹ: נִקְרֹא נִקְרֵיתִי בְּהַר הַגִּלְבֹּעַ, וְהִנֵּה שָׁאוּל נִשְׁעָן עַל חנִיתוֹ, וְהִנֵּה הָרֶכֶב וּבַעלֵי הַפָּרָשִׁים הִדְבִּקֻהוּ. וַיִּפֶן אַחרָיו וַיִּרְאֵנִי. וַיִּקְרָא אֵלַי, וָאֹמַר: הִנֵּנִי. וַיֹּאמֶר לִי: מִי אָתָּה? ויאמר (וָאֹמַר) אֵלָיו: עמָלֵקִי אָנֹכִי. וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלַי: עמָד נָא עָלַי וּמֹתְתֵנִי, כִּי אחָזַנִי הַשָּׁבָץ, כִּי כָל עוֹד נַפְשִׁי בִּי . וָאֶעֱמֹד עָלָיו, וַאמֹתְתֵהוּ, כִּי יָדַעְתִּי, כִּי לֹא יִחְיֶה אַחרֵי נִפְלוֹ וָאֶקַּח הַנֵּזֶר אשֶׁר עַל רֹאשׁוֹ, וְאֶצְעָדָה אשֶׁר עַל זְרֹעוֹ, וָאבִיאֵם אֶל אדֹנִי הֵנָּה. וַיַּחזֵק דָּוִד בִּבְגָדָו, וַיִּקְרָעֵם; וְגַם כָּל הָאנָשִׁים, אשֶׁר אִתּוֹ. וַיִּסְפְּדוּ, וַיִּבְכּוּ, וַיָּצֻמוּ עַד הָעָרֶב עַל שָׁאוּל וְעַל יְהוֹנָתָן בְּנוֹ, וְעַל עַם ה’, וְעַל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל, כִּי נָפְלוּ..בֶּחָרֶב וַיֹּאמֶר דָּוִד אֶל הַנַּעַר הַמַּגִּיד לוֹ: אֵי מִזֶּה אָתָּה? וַיֹּאמֶר: בֶּן אִישׁ גֵּר עמָלֵקִי אָנֹכִי. וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו דָּוִד: אֵיךְ לֹא יָרֵאתָ לִשְׁלֹחַ יָדְךָ לְשַׁחֵת אֶת מְשִׁיחַ ה’?. וַיִּקְרָא דָוִד לְאַחַד מֵהַנְּעָרִים, וַיֹּאמֶר: גַּשׁ פְּגַע בּוֹ! וַיַּכֵּהוּ, וַיָּמֹת. וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו דָּוִד: דמיך (דָּמְךָ) עַל רֹאשֶׁךָ כִּי פִיךָ עָנָה בְךָ לֵאמֹר: אָנֹכִי מֹתַתִּי, אֶת מְשִׁיחַ ה’.
I will focus on the words that are relevant to the Amalekite aspect. A man escaped from the Israelite camp and prostrated himself before Dovid. This man informed Dovid that the people had fled from the battle and Shaul and his son Yehonasan died. When Dovid queried the man as to how he knew that Shaul and Yehonasan died, he responded with the words נִקְרֹא נִקְרֵיתִי בְּהַר הַגִּלְבֹּעַ, I happened to be at Mount Gilboa. The words נִקְרֹא נִקְרֵיתִי are parallel to what it says regarding Amalek (Devarim 25:17) אשר קרך בדרך, that he happened upon you on your way. The Amaleki then related that he witnessed Shaul leaning on his spear and Shaul called out to him and asked him who he was. The man responded to Shaul that he was an Amalekite and Shaul instructed the Amalekite to kill him. The Amalekite proceeded to kill Shaul and he took the crown that was on Shaul’s head and the bracelet that was on his arm and brought them to Dovid. The taking of the crown is reminiscent of when Achashveirosh asked Haman how to honor someone who had performed a favor for the king. Haman responded, “for the man whom the king desires to honor, have them bring royal attire that the king has worn and a horse upon which the king has ridden, one with a royal crown placed on his head. This response reflects the idea that Amalek seeks to wear the crown that belongs to the Jewish People. It is said (Shemos 17:16) וַיֹּאמֶר כִּי־יָד עַל־כֵּס יָ-הּ מִלְחָמָה לַה’ בַּֽעֲמָלֵק מִדֹּר דֹּר, and he said, “For the hand is on the throne of G-d; HaShem maintains a war against Amalek, from generation to generation.” Rashi cites the Medrash that states that HaShem declared that His Throne and His Name will not be complete until Amalek is annihilated. The Sfas Emes adds that HaShem’s Throne refers to the Jewish People, who bear HaShem’s glory in this world. It follows, then, that Amalek constantly attempts to wrest the throne and the crown from the Jewish People. Based on this idea we can understand why after Dovid rips his clothing in mourning for Shaul, Yehonasan and the Jewish People, he asks the Amalekite, “where are you from?” Did Dovid not know already that this man was an Amalekite? The man replied, “I am the son of an Amalekite convert.” The Mechilta (end of Bashalach ) states that HaShem took an oath by His Throne that no remembrance of Amalek will remain in existence. Furthermore, HaShem took an oath by His Throne that any gentile could convert except for Amalek. Proof of this law is that Dovid asked the man where he was from and when he responded that he was the son of an Amalekite convert, Dovid recalled what HaShem had told Moshe that the members of any nation could convert to Judaism, except for Amalek. Dovid therefore had the Amalekite killed. This was the end of a fascinating saga regarding Amalek.
Let us examine briefly the implications for us. While today we do not know who Amalek is and we are not required to annihilate Amalek, we still have an obligation to remember what Amalek did to us when we left Egypt. It is said (Devarim 25:17) זכור את אשר עשה לך עמלק בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים, remember what Amalek did to you, on the way, when you were leaving Egypt. The Sfas Emes writes that the verse can be interpreted to mean that we are obligated to remember what we did, i.e. the sins committed by the Jewish People, which caused Amalek to attack. In a similar vein we can suggest that when we recall our sins, we must recall that Amalek is not allowed to convert, i.e. Amalek, reflected in the Evil Inclination, must not be allowed entry into the Jewish camp. HaShem should protect us from the blandishments of Amalek and his cohorts, and we should merit to see his downfall, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos with the Sfas Emes and the Rebbes of Ger
Regarding both Shabbos and the mitzvah to remember what Amalek did to us, the Torah employs the word זכור, remember. It is said (Mishlei 18:21) מות וחיים ביד לשון, death and life are in the power of the tongue. The Sfas Emes writes that the Jewish People received the power of the tongue. In the manner that we sanctify the day through our mouths, the holiness and blessing is manifest on the Holy Shabbos. Similarly, in the manner that we remember Amalek, they will be cursed from Heaven. Everything in this world is dependent on the Jewish People who are armed with the strength of the Torah which is called ראשית, the first, and it was through the Torah that HaShem created the world. All the nations of the world will have some remembrance from the source that they had contained within them from the time of creation. Amalek, however, who chose for himself a “new beginning,” will ultimately be annihilated. For this reason it was HaShem’s will that Amalek should not have any association with the Jewish People, who are the true recipients of ראשית, first. HaShem therefore commanded us to despise and curse Amalek, and commensurate with our hatred towards Amalek we will merit the light of the Torah and the ראשית, the first.
Shabbos and Purim Stories
Since this is a story about a gragger, it is of course a Purim story.
One Purim many, many years ago, in the little town of Vardik, in far-off Russia, everyone was very sad and worried. Instead of looking forward to the gaiety of the holiday, they were afraid that their entire Jewish community would be destroyed. It almost seemed like the times of the first Purim–that’s how great the danger was.
The son of the great powerful Czar had gone hunting in the woods with a group of friends. They had lost their way and by chance arrived in the town of Vardik. All the people were excited to have this distinguished visitor in their midst. They gave him the finest room in the local inn, the finest food, and delicious cakes.
The next day, the prince suddenly became very ill and was unable to return home. Messengers were sent to the Czar to report the bad news. In a very short time, the Czar and several important ministers arrived in Vardik.
They had brought several doctors with them who immediately began to examine the prince. Each one tried to cure him, but none was successful. The prince was moaning in pain. His face was flushed, and he was burning with fever. Most of the time he slept. He refused all food and drink. His very life was in danger.
And then one of the ministers said that it was the fault of the Jews that the prince was sick, because they gave him bad food. This was of course ridiculous and untrue, but everyone was so worried about the sickness of the prince that they believed him. Unfortunately, many times in history, when there was any kind of trouble, evil men placed the blame on innocent Jews.
And so the Jews of Vardik were very frightened, for they knew that their lives might be in danger.
On the day before Purim, two notices were put on trees. They said that if the prince did not recover by the end of the next day, all the Jews in Vardik would be held responsible. Also, since the prince was very weak, everyone had to be very quiet.
But the Megillah had to be read. The Jews gathered silently in the little shul on the main street, right near the inn where the prince lay gravely ill. Everyone in shul was told to sit absolutely still, for the Rabbi would read in a soft, low voice. The children had been told to leave their graggers home, for the notice had requested silence. (A gragger is a noisemaker that is used during the reading of the Megillah: whenever the name of the wicked Haman is mentioned, children swing their graggers and make a lot of noise to show their contempt and hate for him.)
The fathers looked very serious and sad. The mothers in the women’s section were crying. There was no feeling of Purim in the air, that’s for sure.
Suddenly, there was an awful noise. The name of Haman had been read, and little Yaakov was swinging his gragger with all his might. Happily, with a big smile on his face, he was swinging that gragger.
Everyone became very frightened. The Rabbi continued reading. People were shaking their heads. They made signs to Yaakov that he must be quiet. One man wanted to take the gragger away from him, but Yaakov would not even let him touch it. Everyone was afraid that Yaakov would scream and make a lot of noise if forced to give up his gragger. So he was allowed to keep it. No one could tell him to stop using the gragger, for during the reading of the Megillah it is forbidden to speak. They were hoping that Yaakov would understand and put the gragger away.
The windows to the prince’s room were open to let in some fresh air. Gathered around his bed were the ministers, the doctors and the Czar. There was total silence in the room. The prince was pale and weak. He had no strength left. His eyes were closed and he seemed not even to be breathing.
What was that? Who dared to break the rule of silence? All the people in the room ran to the window to see who the guilty one was. The next moment they jumped in fright, for they heard a voice behind them asking for some water.
There was the prince, sitting up in bed, wide awake. “What a jolly noise I hear! What is it? Please bring me some water. I have never been so thirsty in my whole life. Hurry, please. I feel so dry.” The noise of the gragger had awakened the prince.
In a few days he was well, and the whole company returned in peace to the palace. The Jews in the town were saved, and they had the happiest Purim day you could ever imagine.
Yaakov was the hero of the day. People hugged him and kissed him. They gave him so much nasherei that he had enough to eat till Passover. (www.Chabad.org)
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Tzav-Zachor 5771
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos and a Freilechen Purim
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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