Can A Jew Be Amalek?

Can A Jew Be Amalek?

Thursday, May 15th, '14

I received this today from an alumnus of the old website:

From: Yosef XXXXXX [mailto:joseph.XXXXXXX@gmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, May 15, 2014 9:08 AM
To: Rabbi Shapiro
Subject: Re:

Rav Shapiro, how do we understand the rhetoric coming from great talmidei chachamim that those who are behind the draft of Yeshiva bochurim are Amalek? Such statements were issued by Rav Shteinman, Rav Shlomo Cohen, Rav Yaakov Meir Schechter and others. How do we understand this? How can we describe Jews as Amalek? I understand that Zionism is idolatry but not all idol worshippers are Amalek?  I  am asking about this now because there is a big to-do going on because one of the Rebbeim in the Mir in Israel quoted Rav Shteinman as saying that we should go out and kill the Zionist government, but he doesn’t know who the “general should be”? I am not even sure what this means, and a lot of people are asking. Can you please help?

Yosef

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First, that idea of going out and killing Jewish Amaleikim but being unable to do so due to not knowing “who the general is,” is straight out of Rav Elchonon’s Ikvesa DeMeshicha. Word for word. He quotes the Chofetz Chaim saying about the Jewish communists in Russia – the Yevsekzia, who tried to pass decrees to make the Jews violate the Torah – that he “is certain they are of the seed of Amalek.” Then he goes on to further quote the Chofetz Chaim saying that the Jews should have gone to war, literally, against the Yevsekzia the way we went to war against Yavan on Chanukah. And even though many Jews would have been killed, it would have been worth it, since the power of the Satan would have been diminished.

Then Rav Elchonon points out that the Yevsekzia-Amalekim are still around today, the only difference being that  the old  Yevsekzia “spoke Russian, while the new ones speak modern Hebrew.” In other words, the Zionists, like the Yevsekzia, are Amalek (the Satmar Rebbe quotes this Rav Elchonon in the name of the Chofetz Chaim in Al HaGeulah V’Al Hatemurah, and while doing so he points out that this is the Chofetz Chaim talking – the Chofetz Chaim whose special avodas Hashem was shemiras halashon). Then Rav Elchonon says we should go to war against them as the Chofetz Chaim said, except that we don’t have generals to lead us. And therefore in actual practice today we don’t kill anyone, and instead we can only destroy Amalek through Torah learning.

He goes on to say that (of course) this does not mean all of them are Amalek – just the leaders are . If memory serves he singles out the speakers and writers – their intelligentsia – for the distinction of being mizerah Amalek . The followers, he says, are like robots who blindly follow their consensus-makers.

There was another quote from Rav Shteinman that was reported in the Israeli press a while ago about the government in Israel, something to the effect that their decree is a “maaseh Satan” and an act of Amalek, and the only proper response is to oppose them to the point of Mesiras Nefesh. I remember then, seeing this quoted from Rav Shteinman, that the entire quote was word for word from Rav Elchonon’s above piece in Ikvesa DeMeshicha.

So Rav Shteinman is not saying anything new. Apparently he has been quoting Rav Elchonon and the Chofetz Chaim, and merely applying their teachings to the situation today.

The reason I recognize these quotes so readily is because this past winter, I gave a Shabbos afternoon shiur on the Ikvesa DeMeshichah because of the situation in Israel with the draft. I said that if someone wants to understand what’s going on there, Ikvesa DeMeshichah is the Sefer they need to learn, because Rav Elchonon there directly addressed so many of the the issues taking place in Eretz Yisroel today. In fact, as we were learning, people were amazed that Rav Elchonon said these words in the ’30′s, because they address so perfectly the events unfolding before our eyes today. When I saw the quotes from Rav Shteinman, I was very gratified to know that my choice of which Sefer holds to formula to the proper Hashkafa for the whole draft issue today in Israel, was Rav Shteinman’s as well.

In any case, that’s where Rav Shteinman is getting these ideas from. Now I will explain them. First, the war thing, and then the issue with Amalek.

About the war: This is based on a fundamental Torah principle, found in many Seforim, and Rav Elchonon explains it in the context of going to war against the Yevsekzia, that there are two types of threats against the Jews – one is where we are put in physical danger, where our enemies want to kill us, like the Persians did on Purim. The other is where we are not in danger, but the Torah is. Where they want not to harm us physically but to harm the Torah, i.e. our observance thereof. Like with the Greeks did on Chanukah. The difference between the two types of danger is that physical danger comes from Hashem with the goal to make us do Teshuva. Therefore, when we are in physical danger the proper reaction is to do Teshuva, so that the objective of the danger will be been met, and the danger will go away. But Hashem does not threaten the Torah – when the Torah is threatened, that is the Satan doing it (of course, Hashem controls the Satan as well, but He sometimes gives the Satan permission to wreak havoc in his Satanic way). In such a case, doing Teshuva alone will not help, since obviously the Satan’s goal is not for us to do Teshuva. On the contrary – he wants us to violate the Torah. In such  a case, the only solution is to go to physical war against our enemies with Mesiras Nefesh to the death. And this nullifies the Satan’s power.

That is why on Chanukah we fought but on Purim we prayed.

So too when the enemies of Torah try to make us violate or forsake the Torah, we take up arms; but when we are in physical danger, Torah and Tefilah are the way to go.

Another way of saying this is, Hashem protects the Jews, and the Jews protect Hashem (the Torah). When the Jews are in danger, Hashem swoops in (if we beseech Him to) but when the Torah is in danger, Hashem relies on us to protect it.

I have said this countless times in regard to the draft situation. (Listen to the last third of my speech here.) This is what Rav Shtienman meant by “maaseh satan,” “mesiras nefesh,” etc.

Now on to Amalek. Please listen to this shiur, where I explain the topic idea in detail.

But in short:  The  Amalek description is meant quite precisely. It does not mean that Yair Lapid and company are genealogically descendants of Amalek but rather they are spiritually, but quite categorically, Amalek.

The Zohar explains that in our days the Erev Rav will be contained within the population of Klall Yisroel, and elsewhere he says that among the Erev Rav, Amalekim. The commentary on the Zohar, Zohar Chai, explains that it means that these Jews have the souls of Amalek, even though they had Jewish parents, and are Halachicly bound to all Mitzvos as Jews.

(That the Zionists are the Erev Rav was commonly heard among various Rabbonim of the last generation. Someone in my Shul heard it from Rav Nosson Zvi Finkel of the Mir; Rav Yisroel Elye Weintraub used to teach this as well – see his Sefer התקופה בסערת אליהו; and so did several others. But the Erev Rav is not the topic here. Their subset – Amalek – is, so אכמ”ל)

A Jew can theoretically have the soul of an Amaleki. This works the same way as the Ramak and Arizal’s principle of “switching of souls,” quoted in the the poskim regarding the Bracha of shlelo asni goy. I cited sources for this principle in note 26 of Tzeda Laderech here. Every day, we repeat the Bracha of שלא עשני גוי, a practice which at first glance is Halahcicly problematic, for we do not make a Bracha more than once on the same thing, unless there was a hefsek in between. If so, how can we make multiple blessings of שלא עשני גוי, if our being created a Jew happened once and for all time when we were born?

The Taz says that the Halahcah is explainable in view of the Kabbalists’ concept of switching of souls. Every night when we sleep, our soul ascends and then re-enters our bodies. It is possible that a person can end up with a different soul than that which he sent away. This new soul can be a non-Jewish soul, and so we make a Bracha each morning שלא עשני גוי (the same thing applies to the potential for obtaining the soul of a slave or woman).

The Divrei Yoel writes that this is how we understand the Rambam’s statement that the ancestors of those who do not believe in the prophecy of Moshe could not have stood at Har Sinai. The Rambam does not mean this in a genealogical sense – for you can have two people who share the same ancestosrs, such as brothers, or a father and son, one of whom believes and the other who does not – but rather, the Rambam means that this person’s soul was switched to that of a non-Jew, or more precisely, someone who never stood at Har Sinai.

This is what the Zohar means when he says a Jew can end up becoming an Amalek. He can be born of Jewish parents, but his souls is that of an Amalek, as the Zohar Chai explains.

This does not mean that we are supposed to kill these Jews. We kill Amalek only if they are the genealogical descendants of Esav-Amalek. It is not merely the nationality of Amalek but the genealogy as well that is required for the Mitzvah to kill them. Here we are not talking about genealogical descendants of Amalek – but spiritual Amalekim, in a most literal sense. (The reason for going to war against them is not because of the Mitzvah of killing Amalek; it is because that is the proper way to nullify their anti-Torah decrees.)

The contemporary rabbonim who referred to Yair Lapid and company as Amalekim are merely echoing the same sentiments as the Chofetz Chaim, Rav Elchonon, and the Satmar Rebbe.

As to why the Zionists are singled out as being Amalek, consider what we know are the characteristics of Amalek (I do not have time now to cite all the sources, besides which I do not have any Seforim with me now; if you need more details or sources, please listen to the Shiur I linked. For now though, a short summary must suffice):

  • a) We know that Amalek is different than other enemies of the Jewish people in that they actually claim to be the real Jews, the way Esav held he was more of a real Jew than Yaakov
  • b) The fundamental characteristic of Amalek is that they glorify war and warriors.
  • c) Amalek tries to “improve” Yaakov to become more like Esav, and by doing so, claims that Yaakov will be a better Jew
  • d) Amalek tries to take the Jews out of the Bais Medrash and make them into warriors

Basically, Amalek is the Esav-esque hunter and warrior, as opposed to Yaakov who is the איש תם יושב אהלים. But Esav tries to claim the mantle of authentic Jewishness and tries to make Yaakov like him, which he believes will improve Yaakov’s Jewishness.

Sounds like a perfect fit to me.

I  hope for now this is sufficient. If you have any more questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

 

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