Finishing The Job

There are a myriad of lessons to be learned from the story of Purim, misplaced compassion and the value of finishing a job among them.

The Amalakites were the first people to wage war against the nation of Israel after they left Egypt.  It was not that the Amalakites felt threatened by the Jews or feared they would conquer their land. The Amalekites did not inhabit any part of the land of Israel.  No, it was their abject hatred for the Jewish nation that motivated them and the Amalakites wanted only to destroy them.

Five hundred years later, before the building of the first Temple, G-d instructed King Saul to wage war with the people of Amalek and kill all its inhabitants – man, woman, child and animal.  King Saul went to battle and did in fact kill the entire population of Amalek, save for their King Aggai and the livestock whom he allowed to live out of compassion – misplaced compassion.

Upon instruction from G-d, the Prophet Samuel informed King Saul that he would no longer reign as King of Israel for failing to comply with God’s behest to kill all the inhabitants of Amalek – bar none. Although King Saul expressed remorse and explained that he intended to bring the highest quality of livestock as an offering of thanks to G-d, Samuel repeated that he would no longer be King.  Samuel then asked that King Aggai be brought to him and he killed him,  but by then, King Aggai had already impregnated a woman while in captivity.

We recount this story every year on the Sabbath before Purim for a number of reasons.  First, as Jews, we are obligated from generation to generation to remember what the Amalakites did to the nation of Israel as they left Egypt.  Second, we are reminded that 500 years after the war with Amalek, King Saul failed to carry out the directive to obliterate the entire population of Amalek and as a result, 400 years after that, Haman, the progeny of the child born to the woman impregnated by King Aggai, rose to power.  

A responsibility not taken to completion some 400 years prior, resulted in Haman, an Amalakite, once again seeking to destroy the Jewish nation.

We are not on the spiritual level of King Saul to comprehend his reasoning.  Who could foresee the magnitude of this error?  

There are monumental moments when leaders are faced with life’s most difficult choices. Whether a born leader, or educated in the field, the expectation of leaders, by those who install them to their position and by those whom they lead, is to make the hard choices, to implement and to finish the task. 

Each at his own level.  

A King makes imperial decisions.  The common man makes more fundamental choices. Each is a moment of history in the making.  

These moments may take a lifetime or longer to be fully understood. 


About the Author
David Mandel is Chief Executive Officer of OHEL Children's Home and Family Services in New York