"Is G‑d present among us or not?"…Amalek then came" (Ex. 17:7-8)

Amalek's sudden arrival on the scene was not coincidental. The question "Is G‑d present among us?" caused G‑d to say: "Just you watch! I will bring Amalek upon you, and then you will know where I am and cry out to Me." (Rashi)

Amalek…causes the person to abandon his search for G‑dliness and spirituality.

Though the doubt entertained by the Jews was the cause of Amalek's arrival, Amalek continues to be the perpetuator of such doubts. [In fact, the word "Amalek" has the same numerical value as the Hebrew word for "doubts", "safek".1] Amalek attempts to cool people's fervor. "Of course G‑d exists," he says. "I'm not attempting to get you to doubt that. But, is He really among us? Does G‑d really care what is happening in your pots? G‑d is so great and omnipotent, so beyond nature and the physical order, that He couldn't possibly really be involved in the details!"

"I'll go even further," Amalek cries. "I'll grant you not only that some Higher Power exists, I am even willing to believe in the existence of a G‑d who is constantly recreating the world every second.2 But you must admit that He is still not among us; His involvement is only in a very general, over-all manner."

This is Amalek's first step, because acceptance of this doubt becomes a malignant growth, leading a person to believe that G‑d has totally abandoned the earth. That leads to the worst of all possible outcomes; it causes the person to abandon his search for G‑dliness and spirituality. When one is no longer seeking G‑d, Amalek has truly been successful.

Amalek then came and fought against Israel….(Ex. 17:8)

Battles…that stand in the way of bringing light to the world must be tackled head on….

Amalek is the second enemy the Jews faced since they left Egypt. The first was the Egyptians, who chased them into the Sea of Reeds. There Moses said, "G‑d will do battle for you and you shall remain silent." In contrast, the children of Israel themselves had to fight the Amalekites. This is because the Egyptians stood behind the Jews; they were not blocking their path to Sinai [i.e. the way out of exile], while the Amalekites were. Similarly, whenever we are confronted with adversity, we must determine the nature of its threat: does it stand as a barrier between Sinai and us or is it merely a spiritual nuisance? The latter type of battles should be left to G‑d, while those that stand in the way of bringing light to the world must be tackled head on.

…In Rephidim. (Ex. 17:8)

Why is this place called "Rephidim"? Because they loosened [in Hebrew, "rafu", a play on words] their grip on the Torah.

Torah is not intended to remain in the head….

Torah study is an intellectual pursuit, yet reference is made to loosening the grip of the hands. This is because the Torah is not intended to remain "in the head" as a theoretical study; it must be translated into action, to "the hands". At this time, the Jews were weak in implementing this. Amalek therefore pressed his advantage, in an attempt to further weaken the Jewish people's practical commitment to bringing the Torah into the material world.

Moses said to Joshua…. (Ex. 17:9)

Although this was Moses' war, Joshua was the one to actually fight. This was a simple matter of lineage. Joshua was a descendant of Joseph, while Amalek was a member of Esau's family. Therefore this battle fulfilled the verse (Obadiah 1:18): "The house of Jacob will be as fire and the house of Joseph as the flame, while the house of Esau will be as straw." (Rashi)

Amalek attacked the spiritually weak and infirm, whom the Clouds of Glory had expelled. It was in the spirit of Joseph's essence [i.e. his bones], which had been brought out of Egypt by Moses himself, that his descendant Joshua took up this fight on their behalf. Despite the fact that they had marked themselves as "others", far removed from G‑dliness, Joshua treated them as G‑d's "sons", and went out to war against Amalek.

Whenever Moses raised his hand, Israel prevailed(17:11)

Must summon the innate dedication to goodness that no argument can challenge….

It is only in the battle against Amalek that we find that success depended on the raised hand of Moses. This is because Amalek attacks with chutzpah, and rebelliousness without any explanation. No reasoning will pacify this flippancy. To combat Amalek, we must reach beyond reason, to a place within us where explanations are irrelevant. We must summon the innate dedication to goodness that no argument can challenge. This is the significance of Moses raising his hand above his head.

He said, "The Hand is [raised in oath] on G‑d's Throne…" (Ex. 17:16)

Rather than the normal Hebrew term for "throne" ["kisei"], only part of the word is used here ["kes"]. Furthermore, G~d's Name is written as "Y‑ah" [spelled yud-hei], rather than in full [yud-hei-vav-hei]. That is, both G‑d's Name and His throne remain incomplete until Amalek will be totally eradicated. (Rashi)

It is explained in Kabbalah that the first two letters of G‑d's name reflect intellect and emotions - the knowledge of G‑d's existence and love and fear of Him. The final two letters reflect the actual fulfillment of Torah and mitzvot. Amalek's goal is, as mentioned, to weaken the Jews' practical application of G‑d's word. He realizes that he has no chance of attacking the higher faculties outright, and so he attempts to weaken the Jews in areas of practice. As long as Amalek exists and this malady is allowed to continue, G‑d's very Name is diminished and incomplete. It is only when the Jewish people are successful at eradicating Amalek from both within and without that G‑dliness is fully established and revealed.

Adapted by Moshe Yakov Wisnefsky from Sichot Kodesh 5739, vol. 2, pp. 144-45, 7; Sefer HaMa'amarim 5742, pp. 101-2 & 5744, pp. 165-166; Likutei Sichot, vol. 1, p. 144 & vol. 26, pp. 87-88; Hitva'aduyot 5745, vol. 2, pp. 1363-1364

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