Reading the Text: Haftarah Zachor I
Transcribed and prepared by Anna Beller:
Rachamim & Chemlah:
“And Samuel said to Saul, it was I whom God sent to anoint you as a king over His nation, over Israel. And now listen to the word of the voice of hashem. So says God the lord of all hosts, I remember very well what Amalek did to Israel. They attacked Israel on the way, that Israel was going up from Israel, now go and kill Amalek. and destroy all that is. Do not have any mercy on him.
Now tachmol- mercy, we have another word for compassion which is rachamim. The Malbim explains that the difference between rachamim, what we commonly know as compassion and chemlah– which I’m translating now as mercy, is that rachamim is having compassion for something which is important to you, while tachmol is that the object or the one your having mercy on is not necessarily important, its just that your having mercy because you want to have mercy. So God has compassion for the Jewish people because they are important to God. chemlah is not, it’s by virtue of being merciful I am going to do this for you. Which plays an important role in the modeh ani; b-chemla, rabba emunatecha.
Don’t have any mercy, you should kill from man onto woman, from the young children to the nursing children. from oxen to sheep, form the camel until the donkey- WIPE THEM OUT.
Counting With Sheep
And Shaul summoned the nation, and he took his sheep and counted the Jews by his sheep, so each Jew would take a sheep and they counted all the sheep that were there. And it turned out 200,000 foot soldiers. So how many sheep do we know Shaul had? 200,00. and 10,000 men from Yehudah. So you have a total of 210,00 people which means Shaul had a total of 210,000 sheep. This becomes important later on in the story when the people want to save some of the Amalekite animals for sacrifices; a strange thing if they have 210,000 sheep with them!
Purim & Pesach
There is another reading of this verse, which is in the Targum Yonatan who says that this happened on Pesach, and what he did was whoever brought a pascal offering he counted the number of pascal offerings, so since the head of each house brought pascal offering he counted the pascal offerings. 200,000 of the Jews and 10,000 of Yehudah. What’s interesting is that if he’s correct that this happened on Pesach, when does the story with Haman and Esther happen? On Pesach. When Esther asked that everyone fast for her it was the first three days of Pesach, and Hamman is killed 2 days later. On the end of the third day Esther goes into Achashverosh to seduce him and then invite him to apart, the next day she has a party and then she asks Achashveirosh and Haman to go to the next party the next day, your still in Pesach so Haman is killed on Pesach. Which is interesting, maybe there’s a connection between Pesach and Purim.
The Battle “At the River”:
The Angel of Eisav
So Shaul came to the city of Amalek, and he battled at the river. The river? Where else does the verse mention it a “river”? Yaakov. When the angel fought with Yaakov at the nachal. So the battle with Amalek by the river is the first indication, says the Alshich, that this battle is not simply a battle with Amalek but it goes to the very root of the Jewish people. Just as the angel of Eisav battled with Yaakov at the river, so does Shaul battle Amalek at the river. It’s going to the heart of the Jewish people.
An Internal Battle
How does the Gomorrah read the battle at the river? There is one law in the Torah that must be performed at the river which is, if you find man killed in middle of two cities, you measure to which city the corpse is closest. You assume that man was traveling outside of that city, and therefore the sages of that city need to take a calf to that river and offer an Eglah Arufa. They say, “We did not kill this man! However, as we should have escorted the man of the city so he wouldn’t have been killed, there’s certainly an element of responsibility.”
The Talmud says what does it mean here that they battled at the river? That Shaul was battling inside himself. He said, God says that if you find one man murdered in the middle of nowhere you have to go with this whole process of determining which city he’s closest to. That even if he’s 5 yards outside one city and a mile from an other city you need to go through the process of measuring for whatever reason. Then the sages have to go through the whole process for what reason? It means that God is concerned with every human being. And now God is telling you to wipe out a whole nation, men women children nursing babies, God is telling me to wipe them out, what should I do?
He’s horrified. Most people who here when there’s a mitzvah to wipe out Amalek its horrible, what’s the difference between us and the Nazis.
So a Heavenly Voice comes out, says the Talmud, and spoke to Shaul and says, “You mind your business and I’ll mind Mine! You do what your told!”
But you can already see that Shaul is fighting a battle within himself. Now you can’t imagine that until this point Shaul didn’t know that there was such a mitzvah to wipe out Amalek, he did and you can’t say that he didn’t know it now because he was already commanded by Shmuel. He had already counted the soldiers, and counting the 200000 men of Israel and the 10000 of Yehudah. So he’s had time to think about it but when it comes down to the battle of Amalek, he’s horrified.
So it’s something that must have been inside of him but he never had to deal with it because it wasn’t real to him. He is first coming face to face with this law in a tangible way in the middle of the battle and he is struggling within himself saying how can I do this? So then the Heavenly Voice comes down and says You do what I’m telling you to do and I’ll take responsibility for what it is I’m telling you, but do it!
Which Part of Shaul is Struggling?
So he’s fighting evil within himself which is an indication of what? What part of him is fighting, who is attempting to insinuate himself into this whole story?
On the one hand you can say its coming from his yetzer harah, obviously.
But the truth is if you heard someone making such an argument you would think this isn’t an argument of the yetzer harah, of the evil inclination, he’s struggling. And we’ve talked about this before.
What is it within a human being that struggles with observance and with God. the soul or the mind? The soul. The soul is driving you and the mind has the answers. That’s why in Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto’s masterpiece, “The Knowing Heart,” it is the mind that has all the answers and the soul who has the questions.
Because you must understand the soul is driving you to know. Intellectually read the book and you’ll get all the answers. Any issue you want to deal with, you’ll find the answers; it’s your soul that’s driving you to look and its not your yetzer harah, it’s your soul, it wants to be connected to truth and be present to whatever its doing.
So it’s not so black and white that what is pushing Shaul here is his yetzer harah and possibly also his yetzer hatov– the lines are not clear.
The fact that the lines are not clear is the insinuation that it’s the work of Satan. Because he’s not telling you to do something wrong. He wants to convince you that things are not black and white. Which is what he did in the Garden of Eden. He didn’t say sin against God, he says, this is better for you, I love you, I want you to do what is better for you. Would I lie to you? Look in my eyes. Would I lie to you? The Gemara says the snake was not a liar, you will be more powerful, he just made things a little less clear.
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