War Against Amalek
Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg
mashpia Reb Mendel Futerfas, a’h, related: One of
the Alter Rebbe’s greatest Chassidim was R’ Zalman Zezmir, who
later became the teacher and spiritual guide of R’ Hillel of
Paritsh. R’ Zalman was the one who brought R’ Hillel to
Hillel was holy from birth. While still a young child, his father
brought him to R’ Mordechai Chernobler to receive his blessing.
Little Hillel asked his father, in surprise, “Why is there a
fire burning over the head of the ‘zeide?’”
R’ Hillel matured and got a taste of Chassidus Chabad, he
couldn’t get enough of it. He went to Lubavitch to the Mitteler
Rebbe, despite the fact that R’ Mordechai Chernobler was very
annoyed by this and warned him that if he did so he would end up
“lying on the ground mitten pupik aroif” (that
is, face up, or literally, “with the navel facing up” — an
expression describing one who has passed on).
warning was clear and frightening, yet R’ Hillel remained
undeterred. He felt that he simply could not — and should not
— overcome his longing for Chassidus Chabad. On his way to
Lubavitch, the wagon overturned, throwing R’ Hillel to the
ground. He lay there on his back, face up. When he finally reached
Lubavitch and went to the Rebbe, he told him what the Chernobler
had said and about his concerns. The Rebbe smiled and said,
“Don’t worry, it was fulfilled already. You’ve already laid
on the ground face up, so you don’t have to worry anymore.”
R’ Hillel first began to devote himself to avodas Hashem (Dive
service), he abhorred his body. He felt that his body was
“dragging him down,” making him coarse and preventing him from
rising up and cleaving to G-d. He decided that his body was the
source of all evil, and he did what he could to put it in its
place by “breaking it” so that it would no longer interfere
with his G-dly soul.
R’ Zalman Zezmir realized what he was doing, he said: You are
making a bitter mistake. The physical body, despite its lowliness
and materiality, is a vehicle by which one may rise up and cleave
to Hashem. This is done by refining it, not breaking it.
body is nothing but a filter through which you can see G-dliness.
Just as a blackened piece of glass is needed to gaze at the sun
— for the light of the sun is too powerful to look at it with
the naked eye — so too with the physical body. By working on it
and with it to purify and fix it (and not by breaking and
afflicting it) one can achieve a true Divine service, and even the
aspect of “seeing” G-dliness.
Baal Shem Tov explained this concept with the verse:
you see —
when you contemplate and “see” that…
— (literally, donkey, but here referring to) the
“physicality” — chumriyus — of the body…
your enemy —
who hates the soul that pines for G-dliness and spirituality, and
you consider breaking it — know that this is not the Torah way;
you must refine the body and fix it, and not break it with fasting
Zalman continued: Just as the sun can be seen in a drop of water
even though it is only a tiny drop, so too, through the
“glass” of the body all of G-dliness can be seen.
then on, R’ Hillel stopped despising his body. He came to
appreciate the advantage of the body when it is refined, and
worked to achieve this.
Hillel would say: R’ Zalman taught me not to loathe the physical
body, but R’ Zalman hated “Amalek” with a passion. When he
heard Parshas Zachor he was filled with such an utter rage for
Amalek that one could see it on his face; his face reddened in
have seen many people who hate evil, said R’ Hillel, and I have
seen Chassidim who hate Amalek and want to erase him, but such a
deep hatred of Amalek as I saw in R’ Zalman, I never saw
R’ Zalman actually became close to the Alter Rebbe through
famous Chassid R’ Binyamin Kletzker was one of the Alter
Rebbe’s Chassidim. [He is well known for the story about the
“bottom line.” He had a large lumber business and when he did
his accounts the bottom line was “ein od milvado”
(there is nothing aside from G-d).]
would contemplate the greatness and unity of G-d amidst the hubbub
of his business. When asked, “how can you think these deep
thoughts in the tumult of the business world?” he would reply in
surprise, “If it isn’t utterly impossible in the middle of “echad”
(of Krias Shma; that is, the moment of contemplating Hashem’s
oneness) for a person to have a thought about his lumber business,
why should you consider it impossible that in middle of conducting
business, one thinks about “echad?”
Binyamin once spent Shabbos Parshas Zachor in the city where R’
Zalman Zezmir lived. R’ Zalman at the time was a lamdan
and a gaon (scholar and genius), but far from Chassidus.
There was no Chabad shul in the town, so R’ Binyamin davened
in the shul of the Misnagdim (those opposed to Chassidus).
That Shabbos his davening took a long time, as it usually
did, but he stopped to listen to krias ha’Torah.
Parshas Zachor was recited, R’ Binyamin’s face turned red. He
was suffused with a powerful antipathy towards Amalek and
passionately desired to wipe them out. R’ Zalman could see that
R’ Binyamin truly despised Amalek and wished to get rid of them,
and this impressed him greatly.
some point R’ Binyamin realized that R’ Zalman’s eyes were
upon him, and he asked him what he wanted.
did Amalek do to you, more than any other Jew, that you hate him
so thoroughly? Where does this come from?”
of answering him directly, R’ Binyamin said, “Go to Liozna to
the Alter Rebbe.”
Zalman went to Liozna and became one of the greatest students and
Chassidim of the Alter Rebbe. He learned to serve Hashem in the
ways of Chassidus Chabad and learned how to erase “Amalek.” On
Parshas Zachor one could see how his hatred of Amalek permeated
his being, to the point that his student R’ Hillel commented,
“I have never seen a hatred like this.”
comes to each one of us
when we come to “Refidim,” as Rashi explains, “when their
hands were weak from words of Torah.”
long as we delve into Torah, the Torah of the Rebbe MH”M,
particularly the Dvar Malchus of 5751-5752, then we have nothing
to fear from “Amalek.” The Rebbe’s Torah permeates a Jew’s
entire being and guides him forward to Mattan Torah and to greet
Moshiach without taking anyone or anything else into
is only when “their hands were weak from words of
Torah” that Amalek is likely to come. That is, specifically the
“hands” and not the “head.” For the head may well continue
to learn and understand and delve into and even publish novel
insights on the Torah, and even material on the topics of Moshiach
and Redemption. But when these things are said merely with the
“head,” on the elevated level of learning and pilpul,
when they are not “brought down” to the low level of the body,
of the “hands” and heart (which is “physical just like the
other limbs of the body, which are the tools of action, except
that it is internal and [gives] life to them” — Tanya 16),
when what is learned does not come down into daily life such that
it is permeated with “living with Moshiach” and it becomes the
axis around which everything turns — when this happens, when the
“hands” are weak, then Amalek is indeed likely to come.
also “knows his Master,” he learns Nigla and Chassidus and
even contemplates G-dliness and davens at length. He also
refers to the “seventh generation” and excitedly gets involved
in the “maamarim and sichos of Nasi Doreinu.”
However, he comes to make a separation between theory and action,
between Torah and the heart and “hands.” He says that not
everything that is good and true on a theoretical level is good
and true on a practical level, in this physical world.
shares the same etymological root as “u’malak
es rosho” (and he pinches off its [the bird’s]
head). Amalek tries to “pinch off” the head from the body, to
separate the inner emuna of a Jew and his conduct in daily
life, particularly when he goes out to deal with others.
makes use of all the holy and truthful words that he learned,
starting with “keilim d’Tikkun,” “ofen
ha’miskabel,” and including “ahavas Yisroel,”
“unity amongst Chassidim,” and “b’koach ha’Torah.”
He wants to instill doubt (“Amalek” being the numerical
equivalent of “safek,” doubt) and cool off a Jew’s
enthusiasm to hold him back from greeting Moshiach.
knows who to deal with. He knows that there are those who are
“within the cloud,” those who are surrounded and protected by
the “clouds of glory” (the Dvar Malchus), and that he won’t
be able to affect them even with all the “proofs” of the one
“who knows his Master.”
there are those who the cloud threw out, “the weak ones
following you,” those who are “tired and weary,” tired of
Exile, tired of the projects to bring Moshiach after the seven or
eight years have passed since the besuras ha’Geula.
in the situation of “and did not fear G-d” are faced with
Amalek, who tries to sabotage their emuna and their
absolute knowledge that we are moving forward towards the
revelation of the Rebbe MH”M with the final Redemption.
verse “ki yad al keis ka,”
Rashi says, “Hashem swears that His name remains incomplete and
his throne remains incomplete until the seed of Amalek is
tries to separate and “pinch off” the Yud from the Hei of
Hashem’s name, he tries to separate chochma from bina,
and the Vav and Hei of Hashem’s name, which add up to Yud-Alef
(11) the first letters of “Yechi Adoneinu.” In other
words, he tries to leave us with “theories” and not allow us
to bring it down into action.
Hashem’s throne and the throne of Melech HaMoshiach remain
incomplete until Amalek is destroyed, for Amalek wants to “cover
over” (from the same root as “throne”) the royal throne of
Moshiach, leaving him as a teacher and not as king.
earlier battles we were instructed not to fight on the front line.
We were told “Hashem will fight for you and you be quiet.” We
knew that our strength came not from our efforts in war, but from
following Hashem and Moshe. We did not pay attention to those
around us who demanded a “normal” reaction, for we knew that
our job was to disseminate light and warmth. If there was a need
for war, Hashem would fight for us. We wholeheartedly followed
Moshe and did not care about whether our approach met the approval
of others or not.
suddenly everything changed. This time we have to take weapons and
actually fight. This time the enemy doesn’t threaten us from
behind or from the side; he is standing in the middle of the road.
He prevents us from moving forward to Mattan Torah. He precludes
our following Moshe’s guidelines, and therefore, we cannot take
anything into consideration, not even the fact that this was never
our approach before and we are not accustomed to fighting and we
don’t even know how to fight.
time there is no choice. If we want to follow Moshe, we must fight
the enemy standing in the way, who disturbs us and tries to stop
such a critical time, during a war with such a dangerous enemy —
an enemy that can only be vanquished by “choose men for us,”
“Moshe’s men,” who are completely devoted to Moshe, the
“first redeemer and the final redeemer” — it seems as though
Moshe is not with us. He went “up the hill” along with Aharon
and Chur. He seems to have left the fighting down below to
“Moshe’s men” who seem to be alone.
the truth is that this war can only be won with the strength of
Moshe Rabbeinu. He is directing this war. When his hands are
raised or lowered it affects the battle. Only “Moshe’s men”
can deal with Amalek and win the war.
this is true — for the bystander, or even for the person
actually fighting — it seems as though Moshe went up the hill
and left his soldiers alone, open to the attack of Amalek. In
order to defeat Amalek, even Moshe “raises his hands above his
head,” which refers to a strengthening in simple faith, which is
on its own does not have the ability to defeat Amalek. This is
true of even Moshe’s intellect. It is only when we have
uncalculated simple faith that we can be victorious.
men” knew good and well that Moshe Rabbeinu is the one directing
this war and that he is with us every step of the way. When we
know that the Rebbe takes every one by the hand, and when we throw
ourselves into the war, completely dedicated to Moshe Rabbeinu,
and we learn his Torah with the awareness that the Rebbe is saying
these sichos to us now; and we disseminate the besuras
ha’Geula; live with the definite knowledge that the Rebbe is
with us and with the simcha that Moshiach is arriving
momentarily (and conduct ourselves with true ahavas Yisroel towards
those who don’t think like us, while trying to influence them
into becoming “Moshe’s men”), while simultaneously screaming
“ad masai?!” how much longer will this abnormal
situation go on?! — we will merit the final and complete