Haftarah Zachor: Background I
Transcribed and prepared by Anna Beller:
Just when the Jews had crossed the Red Sea with all the great miracles they had the mannah and the bitter waters Amalek attacks them. The passuk says they attacked them at Rephidim. And Rephidim is a name of the place. However we say that Rephidim is Divrei Torah. They pulled their hands back in the study of Torah. As punishment during a time when amazing things are happening to them they lost a level of awareness. And because they lost a level of awareness, Amalek had the opportunity to attack them.
What Amalek did was, there were stragglers, people who just hung around and weren’t an actual part of the crowd. They were traveling inside the clouds. So Amalek caught them and those who weren’t circumcised Amalek removed that part of their body and threw it up to heaven and said, “Here God, You seem to love this part of the body because You tell all the Jewish males to circumcise themselves.”
So then Moshe says we have to fight them back and he commands the second in command Yehoshua. And it says about Yehoshua, Joshua that he never left the tent. He was always learning Torah morning and night always learning Torah. So obviously if Amalek is able to attack because the Jews are weak in their study of Torah it makes sense that the one to bring them into battle is Joshua.
Moshe goes up to the heavens, and it’s a famous story that he put his hand up to the heavens, and whenever the Jews looked up because Moshe’s hands were up they thought of God and were able to fight Amalek. But when his hands went down so they were unable to fight Amalek. Eventually Moshe tired, and the fact that Moshe tired is an indication that something was wrong, because if this what god had wanted then Moshe would not have tired. So they brought a rock and, the one they brought was the even hashtiya, the rock from which the whole world was created, which is usually in the holy of holies in the temple in Jerusalem, from which the world drank its existence. So Moshe sat on this rock and Aaron and Chur held his hands up. However God was displeased with Moshe and said that Yehoshua is going to be the one to lead the Jews into Israel because you should have gone to fight the battle yourself instead of sending Yehoshua.
The Torah mentions the battle with Amalek a second time and it’s at the end of the parsha Ki Teitzei which is in the fifth book of the Torah, Devarim. And there it says there were certain characteristics of Amalek.: number one: lo yareih elokim– they had no awe of God. Number 2 it says in the pasuk: asher karcha ba derech- they met you on the way.
So Rashi gives three explanations of asher karach bah:
So Rashi takes the word Karacha – kuf, reish, chuf. And says that the shoresh is kuf, reish. Kar. So he gives three explanations:
1) That they met you by chance, the happened to meet you or at least they let you to believe that.
2) kar = cold. Because the midrash gives an analogy of a boiling hot bath tub. And everyone dipped their toes in and couldn’t go in because it was too hot. And then this big fat guy looks at the water and he jumps in and he scolded all over but meanwhile the water cooled off. So the Jews are hot, no none will touch them. They’ve heard about the 10 plagues, splitting of the red sea, they heard about bitter waters turning sweet, they heard about the manah and the birds flying in- so they were not going to touch those guys. And Amalek says well jump in and touch them. So before everyone thought the Jews were invincible and were unwilling to touch them. So the fact that Amalek were about to jump in and touch them and had no hesitation at all that they were willing to go right in and attack them it cooled things off, the Jews no longer had an aura of invincibility.
3) The word kar, is the same things as kery– a man’s semen. Because if you look at a man’s semen, he produces hundreds of million of cells and women only produce one usually. So the man represents chance and the woman represent that which is predetermined. So Amalek was introducing the element of chance into the world.
Another thing to keep in mind when reading the story is as follows: Before Yaakov met Eisav, if you recall, he struggled with an angel at night. That angel was called saro de Eisav– the angel of Eisav. And he battled with Yaakov, at a nachal– a river. And that’s where he battled him and that considered the great battle between Yaakov and the world, the Jews and the world. And where the angel was able to cause some damage to Yaakov in his sciatic nerve going down to the two legs. Purim is one of the leg holidays. Every part of the body represents a part of the body. Chanukah is the left leg and Purim is the right leg, Chanukah is Aharon, fought by cohanim. Left leg is hod. And the right leg is Moshe and that’s why the two legs, what was it that Mordechai wouldn’t do? He wouldn’t go down on his legs. Because where is it that Eisav, represented by Amalek, because he’s considered the most destructive of the descendants of Eisav. So where was it that Eisav was able to strike at the Jewish people? Where the two legs go down the nerve that goes down the two legs. And therefore Mordechai would not bow down because he didn’t want them to have any power. Yaakov however, even after battling the angel of Eisav, who is by the way Satan, even after battling him, when he finally meets Eisav what does he do? He bows down. And not only does he bow down but all of Yaakovs living children bow down except for Deena who was hidden away in a box. But at the time Yaakov only had 11 sons, Benyamin was missing. And Benyamin means never bow down to Eisav. Therefore if there’s going to be one tribe that’s going to have power over Eisav, and is not as susceptible to Eisav as are the other tribes, that’s is going to be Benyamin. Therefore it makes most sense that it has to be a descendant of Benyamin who has to battle Amalek, which in fact we will read in the Haftorah is Shaul, Saul the first king of the Jews, who came from the tribe of Benjamin.
The Purim story is fought by Mordechai who is ish yiiani– what goes ish ha yimani mean? Benyamin. So in the Purim story fought by Mordechai in Esther they are both descendants of Benyamin, and in fact descendants of Shaul. So we find that there’s a consistency that the two major battles fought with Amalek post Torah are fought by descendants of Benyamin. Therefore Shaul has the power that other people do not have, something else you need to keep in mind.
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