Parshas B'Shalach - Destroying Amalek In Our Times

By BJLife/Moishy Pruzansky

Posted on 01/26/18

At the end of this week's parshah, the nation of Amalek wages war on the Jewish people. The Torah recounts that Moshe told Yehoshua to lead the Jews in battle while he and Aharon would ascend to the top of a hill with the staff that he used for the plagues in his hand. The Torah goes on to relate that whenever Moshe raised his hands to the heavens during the battle, the Jews immediately began to have the upper-hand. However, when his arms began to lower from weakness, the Jews began to lose. After the war was over and Amalek was defeated, Hashem told Moshe that the Jews should forever make every effort to permanently destroy the nation of Amalek *.

The Be'er Yosef asks three poignant questions on this episode:

1. Why did Moshe remove himself from the battle and not lead it personally as he did with the wars of Sichon and Og?
2. Why does the Torah specifically mention that Moshe took the staff with him to the top of the mountain - especially if it makes no mention of him ever using it?
3. In all of the other wars that the Jews did at Hashem's command, the Jews were able to decimate their opponents without the slightest trouble. Why with this battle, did they only succeed when Moshe's hands were raised?

Let us add two additional questions:

4. The entire world was aware of the incredible open miracles that G-d did to save His chosen nation from Egypt, and how infinitely powerful He is. What were the Amalekim thinking when they decided to wage war on the Jewish nation?!
5. Despite the atrocities that the Egyptians, as well as other nations, have done to us, there is no commandment to utterly destroy every remembrance of them. What does Amalek represent that makes them so much worse in Hashem's eyes?

Refusal To Believe

The Be'er Yosef explains that despite all of the many open miracles that Hashem performed to prove His existence and absolute control over nature, there was still a small part of the Jewish nation that was not convinced. In the back of their mind they felt that "true there MAY be a G-d, but then again, maybe all of the open signs we have witnessed until now were really the work of Moshe and Aharon themselves. After all, they were the ones that raised that 'magical' staff at the onset of each miracle. Maybe they are supreme sorcerers, and really there is no Hashem".

The Amalekim had this mentality as well, which is why they were not afraid to wage war on the Jews despite their miraculous exodus. They wanted to believe with all of their heart that there was no such thing as G-d, no matter what proof they saw to the contrary. They too believed that magic was the cause for the miracles in Egypt. Consequently, because they themselves were experts in witchcraft, they felt that they had nothing to fear.

Hashem, therefore, engineered this battle with Amalek in such a way that it was certain to dispel the illusion that Moshe and Aharon had used magic during the exodus. Hashem specifically commanded Moshe and Aharon to leave the battle entirely, and told them to bring the staff with them. This was in order to prove that the victory that the Jews would have, had nothing to do with Moshe, Aharon or the staff. Their victory and success would purely rely on their faith in Hashem.

The Gemara asks why the Jews succeeded in battle when Moshe's hands were raised? The answer given is that each time that they were raised and a Jew saw the heavens and thought to himself "it must be G-d that helped us until now", he would immediately become invincible in battle. However, at the precise moment that he thought "perhaps there is no G-d" he began to lose. So immediate was this response that after this battle, every single Jew believed in Hashem with the strongest level of conviction imaginable.

Living Inspired

Throughout life, even though we know that Hashem is real, our Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination) constantly tries to plant small seeds of doubt into our minds. He tries to tell us that despite the many occurrences of hashgacha pratis (daily involvement of Hashem in our lives) that we experience, perhaps it is all by chance. Hashem informs us that the nation of Amalek intrinsically represents and is the metaphysical source of this detrimental mentality. It is for this very reason that we have an obligation to constantly wage war on Amalek until they are utterly destroyed.

Amalek was Hashem's tool to prove to us that He is real, knows our deepest thoughts, and is intimately involved in everything that happens on His planet. Perhaps then, the mitzvah to destroy Amalek is practical even in our times. Although we cannot attack Amalek physically, we can all do our part to destroy the mentality that they represent. We can do this by: 1. Acknowledging that the world is filled with infinite design and therefore MUST have a designer. 2. Noticing His constant involvement in our personal lives. Each time we do so, we are doing our part to destroy the nation of Amalek.


*- This mitzvah is discussed in parshas Ki Setzei.