Reuvenations - Thoughts and Feelings Living Through War in Israel - Week 5

Blog image - Reuvenations - Thoughts and Feelings Living Through War in Israel - Week 5

Lev will be in Gaza soon. 

He is strong, he’s a good soldier, he will protect his men as they will protect him. He will fight well, because he knows why and against what he is fighting. He is involved in a milchemet mitzvah, an obligatory war, a war to bring tikkun olam (restoration of the world). 

It’s a hard concept: How a war can be an expression of tikkun olam.

According to the Torah, after the Jews left Egypt they were set upon by a nation called Amalek. Amalek targeted the weak and defenseless, killing for the sake of killing. At the end of this war, once Israel was successful in driving off the Amelekites, Hashem swore that we would be at war with Amalek forever.   

When Shaul became the first kind of Israel, Hashem charged him to go out and destroy Amalek. Shaul and the Israelites won the war, but left the king, Agag, alive, until the Prophet Shmuel had him executed. According to an oral tradition, the night that Agag was held alive, he slept with a Jewish servant girl, so his seed was preserved. 

Haman, the villain of the Purim story who plotted to wipe out the entire Jewish people, is introduced as an Agagite, a descendent of that long-ago Amalek king. A biological descendent or an ideological one, we don’t know.  

The rabbis of 2000 years ago realized that empires and armies had so mixed the surrounding nations that there was no way to really designate Amalek as a specific nation, but the spirit of Amalek lives on. Hitler was Amalek. Stalin was Amalek. Yasser Arafat was Amalek. Hamas is Amalek. 

There is Amalek that’s not connected to the Jewish people. Pol Pot was Amalek and Chairman Mao and Muamaar Ghadaffi and the Assad family in Syria. Amalek can be from any nation, any race. 

Amalek is the unbridled will to power built upon the suffering of others, particularly the vulnerable. Amalek is not just a disregard for human life, but describes one who derives pleasure through causing suffering, and more, through  degrading, mutilating, raping. Amalek is not ashamed of making a public display of bloodthirsty barbarism. Such acts feed pride and enjoyment: not a physical pleasure but a (can I use this word here?) spiritual fulfillment through destroying the lives of others who can be exploited because of their weakness.   

The war against Amalek is the war against that. 

It’s not like Jihad, because the war against Amalek does not mean killing someone who will not convert to Judaism. It is not like Holy War because the war against Amalek does not endanger you even if you don’t believe in any God at all. The war against Amalek is a war against the phenomenon of pure evil in this world, evil for evil’s sake, the performance of such evil. 

Amalek is a seducer. The people of Shushan had nothing against the Jews until Hamas singled them out for extinction, and then the Persians were quite willing to join in the work of Amalek.  Nations of Europe, released from the bonds of civilization by Nazi barbarism, killed Jews with enthusiasm. People ripping down posters of kidnapped children and proclaiming the glory of barbaric violence are closing up their hearts to suffering and opening up their arms to Amalek.  We see it happening  all over the world.   

Jews have no truck with Amalek. Jews have had armies from the time of Avraham and have fought bravely and often times against great odds. But even those that we kill in battle, even those who use their own people, their own children, as human shields are not subject to mutilation or desecration, because every human is created B’tzelem Elohim, the image of Hashem.   

Of course, there are Jews who have killed, who have murdered, who have raped, who have plundered. Every nation has their criminals and sadists. But I can think of no instance in our history that we have glorified bloodshed for the sake of bloodshed, where causing pain and suffering to the weak and vulnerable has been seen as expressing the will of God.   

Rather, we have more than most been the target for the forces of Amalek. Partly, this is because over the past 2000 years, Jews have eschewed political and physical power. We saw where that ended up, not just in the Shoah, but in massacres and persecutions and degradation without end, even in countries of the “enlightened” west. Anti-Jewish hatred always finds an excuse, but never really needs one. 

I have much more to say on this, but it will have to wait for later. In the  meanwhile, I am fearful for and proud of my son and my people. "

Hashem oz l’amo yitenHashem yivarech et amo bashalom."

"Hashem will give strength to His people. Hashem will will bless HIs people with peace."