Torah Fax
Friday, September 1, 2006 - 8 Elul, 5766

Torah Reading: Ki Teitzei (Deuteronomy 21:10 - 25:19)
Candle Lighting Time: 7:10 PM
Shabbat Ends: 8:09 PM
Pirkei Avot: Chapter 1 & 2
Distant Memories?
In this week's Torah portion, the Torah commands us to never forget what the evil nation of Amalek did to us just after we were liberated from Egypt. But who is Amalek and what does that nation represent? Firstly, Amalek was a descendent of Esau, Jacob's brother. Though born into the illustrious family of Abraham and Isaac, he became very evil, and his descendants, who formed the nation bearing his name, became one of the foremost sources of hatred and malice toward the Jews. When the Jews left Egypt, Amalek wasted no time in attacking the Jews, seeking to destroy us.
Our sages point out that Amalek was not merely a hateful nation - there were many nations that hated the Jews. Amalek's hatred ran much deeper than that. Immediately after the Exodus, no nation wanted to attack the Jewish people. After witnessing the great miracles G‑d did for the Jews in Egypt, everyone was terrified of the Jewish people and would never have so much as entertained a thought about attacking Israel.
Only Amalek was brazen enough to launch an attack. Amalek's hatred for the Jews was so diabolical that nothing could deter them from waging war against the Jews - not even the prospect of suffering an ignoble defeat.
Though the physical nation of Amalek is unrecognizable nowadays, the spiritual heirs of Amalek are all too visible in the modern world. We have sadly been witness to too many nations who are blinded by unmitigated hatred towards the Jewish people and who want to see nothing less than their total annihilation (G‑d forbid). It is this form of evil that the Torah commands us to always remember and be aware of. Recognizing this evil is the first step to eradicating it once and for all.
But there is another dimension to Amalek that we must be aware of - a less obvious trait that can find its way into our hearts and minds. To blatantly attack the Jews when they were basking in the glory of the Exodus from Egypt, when the rest of the nations of the world trembled from the very mention of the name Israel, takes an extreme measure of unmitigated gall, chutzpah.
In our lives, we sometimes refrain from doing something negative because of a wonderful gift G‑d gave us - shame. Shame reminds us of the long reaching effects of our actions and makes the short-term benefits seem less enticing. But a person who is undaunted by the consequences of his actions - a person with chutzpah - has a problem. Shame does not act as a barrier to stop him from committing an unholy act. Such a person has one mechanism less at his disposal in his fight against evil.
It is noteworthy that the Talmud tells us that in the generation of Moshiach's arrival, chutzpah will increase dramatically. This sadly seems to be a prevalent trait today. We find people, especially the younger generation, becoming involved in all sorts of detrimental things and no measure of rational discourse can dissuade them. Indeed, if the argument against doing something unwise comes from an older person, his or her words are immediately rejected as unacceptable because - in a true spirit of chutzpah - there is nothing an older person can tell a younger one! On the eve of redemption, when evil will be vanquished, the unique form of evil represented by Amalek is having a resurgence, a "last stand" of sorts.
In the chassidic spirit, the way to combat evil is to utilize that very force in a positive way. In our case, the way to eradicate the spirit of Amalek is to use "holy chutzpah." For example: we have only recently begun to realize how many Jews remained dedicated to Torah (or became involved with Torah for the first time!) in the former Soviet Union. Until recently, the very culture behind the iron curtain mocked Jews who tried to do Mitzvahs. The Soviet Jews did not have sophisticated ways to show the validity of Jewish values. Their response was one of chutzpah: "I don't care what you say. I will do what I want regardless of the government's pressure!"
Such chutzpah can be useful in our society as well. There are those that might mock a person who wants to keep Shabbat for example. They are not interested in a n intellectual discussion about the greatness of Shabbat. Such people merely want to taunt. These taunts can vary in form from the heckling of children in the school yard to a Jewish classmate to the condescending comments of co-workers in the office. The response must be the same - one of healthy chutzpa where we make a steadfast resolve to grow in Judaism without talking or dealing with people who have nothing constructive to say.
But alas, we can take solace in the fact that the great amount of chutzpah that abounds in society - and the large amount of holy chutzpah we must use to negate those that mock - is, as we mentioned before, a sign that Moshiach is just around the corner. At that time, Amalek and all that he stands for will be gone forever.
Moshiach Matters
G‑d told the prophet Ezekiel that through studying the laws of the structure of the Holy Temple it is considered as if we have been involved in its actual construction. As we are so close to the Redemption, the subject must be approached as a present reality; at any moment the Third Holy Temple which is already built in the heavens will descend and be revealed on earth.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, 17 Tamuz, 5751/1991)

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