According to most historical renditions I have read, Amalek was defeated by the Israelites. It turns out, history is wrong, and Amalek won. Perhaps I should say he is winning and leave it to the future to decide if the victory will be final.
“Are these people even Jews?” asked a rabbi recently, “We would be unfortunate to end up with a [chief] rabbi who wears a knitted kippa?…. As long as there’s a knitted kippa, the throne is not complete. That’s Amalek … When will the thrown be complete? When there’s no knitted kippa.”
When I write the word “Rabbi” – I try to always write it with a capital letter. This is a sign of respect, so please do note that I wrote it with a small “R” above. I can’t, for the life of me, find the respect I know I should show here and that, like the Amalek comment above, brings me only sadness and pain. There are so many ways to respond to the statement above, that of comparing the national religious party and those who follow it of being Amalek.
One way is to laugh it off and perhaps if today wasn’t Erev Tisha B’Av, I might succeed. I’d like to laugh it off. I’d like to excuse it. I’d like to say that it doesn’t cut deep into my heart. I am desperately trying to avoid the dreaded thought that of course, this is what THEY would say because of all days, I don’t want to surrender to the abysmal thought that there is a “they” and a “we” here in this land that I love so much. I rejected this they/we concept when Yair Lapid stood before a large Haredi crowd in Kiryat Ono and lectured them; I reject it now. I do not want to accept this concept. I can’t bring myself to believe this is our future, as it was our past; that what destroyed us once can defeat us again.
I find it interesting that apparently I knew more at the age of 13 than this rabbi because at that age, somehow, I discovered the truth, the simple, honest-to-God truth. So simple that perhaps a child can see it more than an adult – and that brings more sadness.
I could try to argue the above statement from an intellectual or Judaic standpoint, but in that, I yield to Noah Roth and his brilliant Redefining Reform and I yield to Steven Kohn and Ron Allswang for their brilliant Who You Callin’ Amalek!?
Me? I just want to cry. Amalek? He called me Amalek. I bake challah every Friday (does he?). I have birthed children into this religion and into this land. I have sent my sons to the army; one son to war…to war…to protect this land, to protect this man. Amalek? He called my sons Amalek, my beautiful younger daughter, my home…my life. I think a knife to my heart would hurt less.
Each year, I make sure to attend the Torah reading in which God commands us to remember what Amalek did to us. I listen to each word – every one and I picture in my mind the weak stragglers that Amalek murdered. I think of the army of Israel that would have defended them, had Amalek attacked as an army and not as a terrorist (to put it into modern words).
And I remember when I was 13 years old. I had already decided I wanted to live in Israel, already begun what has turned out to be a life-long love with this country and this land. And in the mind of a 13 year old, I decided there were two parts to being a Jew – land and Torah. I truly believe that one without the other means a void in our soul.
I do not condemn secular Jews for failing to bring the beauty of Torah into their lives. A secular friend once said to me, “you are so lucky to have Shabbat?” and I thought she was crazy. We all have Shabbat – it comes every week and if this week you missed it – it will come again next week for you to try again, I told her.
“No,” she answered back, “if you don’t keep it, then each week you find a reason to break it. If you feel you have no choice, then you really have it.” I still don’t really agree with her, but I get the idea. No Shabbat/Torah leaves a void. She saw it, and so do I. Does that mean secular Jews are not Jewish? Does that mean we can call them Amalek? I would have said no, if you’d asked.
And, if you have Torah and you don’t have the land of Israel, you have a void too. Those who do not love this land, who do not serve it, protect it, those who deny our right, our sovereign right to take our place among the nations, are missing a vital part of who we are. Does that, perhaps, make this rabbi and those who believe as he does the current Amalek? I would have said no, if you’d asked.
Of all the positions and of all the groups, this rabbi has attacked the one that might well be closest to getting it right. Maybe we don’t keep the Torah to the level he’d like, but at least we honor the land, as God intended. As others point out, there are clear indications that God recognizes a need for action, a need for defense, even if this rabbi does not.
I would never presume to question the Jewishness of another – I leave that to God, and God alone. In my mind, of all the worlds we could live in, the most perfect is the one that brings together Israel and Torah, love of our fellow Jew and a commitment to do all we can to make our lives here in our land meaningful, happy, safe, prosperous.
If a man can stand before God and country and call another Jew, hundreds of thousands of Jews – Amalek, he is no man, he is no rabbi, and God help me, I’m not even sure if he is a Jew. And so the tears come into my eyes with that terrible thought.
In just hours, we will begin to fast. And my mind is filled with Amalek…of what he tried to do and what ignorant comments by supposedly learned men elevate in the eyes of others.
Soon, we will begin a fast for what we lost; what was taken from us and most of all, we fast because we know it was our own fault. No one can defeat us if we don’t first defeat ourselves. If you don’t fast on Tisha B’Av for the destruction of the Holy Temples, perhaps you should fast in sadness for the anger among our people, the sinat hinam, the hatred we hold too often for each other. If you pass a Haredi person and think “them” – you should fast; if you pass a secular person and think Amalek, perhaps you are fasting for the wrong reason.
No, I am not Amalek. I am of the national religious party. I believe that God has commanded me, gifted me, blessed me with Torah and Israel…from the time I was 13 years old. Tonight, I’ll cry for those that God did not give such presents. Yes, a part of me will cry for my secular brothers and sisters because sometimes they feel they do not have Shabbat and because there is a world of Torah they might not see. And I’ll cry for one ignorant rabbi whose evil and hurtful words should be condemned and for a sea of people who do not understand that without this land, in our hands, sovereign and strong, our Torah will not be as strong and we will again fall victim to our enemies.
I have no doubt this evening this rabbi will sit among a sea of black hats and suits. They will cry for the greatest of tragedies that have befallen us. I can only wonder if they will make the connection that actions and words such as calling Jews “Amalek” are why we lost what we did and why we are where we are.
Tonight, as we fast, Amalek will dance in the hell that has been his home for thousands of years. He will dance and celebrate as long as there are those among us who forget.
“Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey after you left Mitzrayim. How he surprised you on the march, and cut down all the weak ones who were behind. When you were famished and weary and were not God fearing. Therefore, when Hashem, your God grants you safety from all your enemies around you; in the land that your God is giving you as a hereditary portion. You shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under the Heaven.
Do not forget!