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By Tzvi Fishman
3/14/2008, 12:00 AM
Shabbat Zachor is upon us, when we have the obligation to remember what Amalek did to us when we departed from Egypt and how they attacked us on the way.

The Torah commandment states:

"Remember what Amalek did to you by the way, when you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you by the way and smote the hindmost of you, all that were feeble in your rear, when you were faint and weary, and he feared not G-d (Devarim, 25:17).

Just what is it that we are supposed to remember? That our enemies hate us? They themselves remind us of this all the time. That they attack us for no reason at all? This is a lesson that Jewish history teaches without the need for any additional reminder.

The Torah commentator, Rashi, wrestled with this very question. Usually, during their Shabbat Zachor sermons, the rabbis explain Rashi's third understanding of the verse. Rashi writes that the Hebrew for "how he met you by the way" - "karcha baderech" - comes from the word "kar" meaning cold. Thus in attacking Israel, Amalek showed the nations of the world that, notwithstanding all of the miracles in Egypt, the Jewish People were not invincible, just as when a show-off  jumps into a scalding bathtub, even though he gets burnt, he cools it off for others to follow after him.

This is an interesting observation, but not something so important to require a special Torah commandment. Furthermore, relying on this explanation alone ignores the explanations of Rashi which precede it. Rashi's first explanation is that "karcha" derives from the Hebrew word, "mikre," meaning happenstance. In other words, Amalek attacked the Jews just for the sake of attacking, for seemingly no real reason, since the Jews were not threatening to conquer Amalek's land.

It is the second explanation of Rashi that we will focus on, because within it lies the key to understanding the inner, spiritual danger we face today in our present war against Amalek. The strategy of Amalek, in the past, and once again today, is to destroy the Jewish People by luring us into sexual transgression.

The Devil Made Me Do It!

Rashi says that "karcha" should be understood as “keri,” meaning seminal pollution. Rashi explains that Amalek lured the Jews into sexual transgression, (homosexual relations) then cut off their "milot," the sign of their circumcision, and threw them up to the sky, as if to say, "This is what's left of Your holy nation." Rashi concludes that the protective Clouds of Glory spit out these Jews who were feeble because of their sexual sins. These were the Jews whom Amalek killed.

The universally respected Torah commentary, the "Sfat Emet," explains that Amalek's principal goal in going to war against Israel was to banish sexual purity from the world, represented by the brit milah. This is why they cast the sign of the circumcision into the air. The brit milah is considered the seal of G-d, stamping the Jewish People with the Name of G-d, and distinguishing us from all of the nations. It is our adherence to the laws of sexual purity which set us apart from the gentiles. In contrast, the nation of Amalek represents the spirit of evil in the world, the impure orlah, the husk that prevents the light of G-d from entering the world. This explains why the Name of G-d cannot be fully revealed until Amalek is obliterated. By fighting against the sexual purity of Israel, Amalek pollutes the moral message of Israel, causing G-d's Presence to be screened from the world ("Sfat Emet," Parshat Zachor, Year 5664).

This was Amalek's plan. But as long as Israel guarded the Brit, the Clouds of Glory guarded over them hermetically. Amalek reasoned that if Israel were to lose its Divine protection, it could be defeated in war. They knew that the holiness of the Israeli camp, exemplified by its sexual purity, is the key to its defense, as it says in the Torah, "For the L-rd thy G-d walks in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thy enemies from before thee, therefore shall thy camp be holy, that He see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee" (Devarim, 23:15). Our sages explain an “unclean thing” to mean the wasteful spilling of seed. This was Amalek’s strategy in luring the weakest Jews into immoral sexual behavior. When the Clouds of Glory cast out the unchaste of Israel, the enemy was waiting to pounce on them and thus fulfill its evil design. 

The Zohar asks, "What is the reason that the war that Amalek waged against Israel was singled out for remembering by the Holy One Blessed Be He, more than all the wars that all other nations waged against Israel? The Zohar answers that Amalek waged both a physical war against Israel and a spiritual war, in order to defile Israel's sexual purity and thus alienate them from G-d" (Zohar, Shemot 194b).

The Zohar continues:
"How do we know this? Because it is written, ‘how he met you by the way.' The meaning of karcha can be understood from its alternate form mikre, as in the verse, ‘If there be among you any man that is not pure by reason of impurity that chances (mikre) by night' (Devarim, 23:11) Amalek set against you the evil serpent on high in order to defile you on all sides. And if Moshe had not waged a mighty spiritual battle on high, and Yehoshua a mighty war down below, Israel would not have been able to overcome him. It is for this reason that the Holy One Blessed Be He insisted on preserving the memory of this hatred from generation to generation. What is the reason? Because Amalek strove to uproot the sign of the Brit (Israel's sexual purity) from its place" (Ibid).

Accordingly, Moshe chose Yehoshua, who came from the descendents of Yosef, the upholder of the Brit, who conquered his sexual passion, to wage war against Amalek. Thus Yehoshua, the embodiment of the holy Brit, was chosen to fight against Amalek, the embodiment of the impure orlah. Interestingly, the gematria of "milchamah b'Amalek" (war against Amalek) equals "Yosef HaTzaddik."  

The holy Sage and Kabbalist, Rabbi Tzaddok HaKohen of Lublin, explains that ever since the sin of Adam, mankind was infested with lust. The brit milah was given to the Nation of Israel as a tikun, to rectify the world from its fallen state. Sexuality for the Jewish People was to be a commandment in the service of G-d, sanctifying the act in the boundaries of marriage and through the holy offspring who would derive from it. This sexual holiness was what Amalek was seeking to erase from the world when they came and tempted the weak and erring Jews. Therefore, when they castrated their victims, they threw their milot skyward, and called out to Heaven, "Take that which You chose for Yourself." As if to say that the Jews were no different than the other nations in their submission to animal passions and lust.

For Amalek could not tolerate that there could be a nation, Israel, that sanctified the sexual act. They could not tolerate the idea that G-d had a part in this too  "Thus the verse says, ‘karcha baderech,' meaning that they caused the Jews to spill semen in an unholy way. For when the sexual act is not performed in its intended holy fashion as a mitzvah, but rather after the lustful inclination, which is called evil, this is considered ‘mikre,' spilling semen in vain."  And there is nothing which causes the Divine Presence to flee from the world more than the spilling of semen in vain. And this was Amalek's goal, to remove the Presence of G-d from the world, so that mankind could be free to wallow in its lusts and evil inclination (Rabbi Tzaddok, “Resisai Liela,” 58:17-20; and, "Takanat Hashavin," 10:13-14).

Rabbi Tzaddok explains that we read the portion of remembering Amalek before Purim on Shabbat Zachor in order to awaken Israel's sanctity in regards to the Brit, because when this sanctity rises, then the impurity of Amalek falls, paving the way for his destruction on Purim ("Yisrael Kiddoshim," 8:27). 

Today, the spirit of Amalek in the world is still trying to uproot the sign of the Brit from Israel by exporting all of its immoral culture and pornography to the Holy Land. Throughout the Diaspora, the spirit of Amalek is working overtime to lure the Jews into the grave sexual transgression of assimilation. Like their fathers before them, these modern day sons of Amalek are hoping that this pollution will sever our connection with G-d, leaving us vulnerable prey to their ever-evil designs of destroying our holy nation, and thus eradicating the Presence of G-d in the world, Heaven forbid.

May the Almighty overturn their plans and wreak destruction on them instead.

This is what we have to remember, and guard against, and fight with education and counseling, in order to repel this plague of spiritual pollution from our borders, from our streets, and from our homes, via television, Internet, and the like. This is what our rabbis must teach from this Torah portion in order to alert the nation of this insipid and poisonous threat that undermines the very foundation of our existence - the Covenant of sexual purity that G-d established with our forefather Avraham and with his offspring after him, to be a holy nation in the Holy Land. It is by sanctifying our lives that we blot out the memory of Amalek, and in so doing, the L-rd G-d of Israel shall be One, and His Name shall be One over all of the earth.