The DNA of Am Yisrael challenges another DNA, that of Haman and his “zeide” Amalek
Purim has come and gone, but the teachings of the nefarious Haman have not disappeared. His poisonous message of Jew-hatred lingers on, and in fact has recently grown louder, exemplified by the newest libels: that Jews caused the pandemic, that Israeli Arabs are being denied the vaccine, that Israeli soldiers kill Palestinian babies. (There are reports at this writing that Israel is sharing its vaccines with its enemies in the Palestine Authority and in Gaza, but facts do not matter.)
The subject of anti-Semitism in general is a never-ending fountain of fascination, the subject of learned conferences, thick books, and erudite academic studies. Such a waste! One simple line in the Purim story helps unravel the mystery.
Haman’s speech to King Achashveirosh in Esther 3:1 is the veritable constitution of the anti-Semite, containing all you ever wanted to know about it. He describes a people (he doesn’t deign to name them) that is found “throughout the kingdom” — i.e., they have infiltrated every element of society. Furthermore, daseihem shonos mikol am — “their laws and ways are different from any other nation,” and they should be eliminated.
Haman is no fool, but his argument makes no sense: Why should it disturb him that Jews have different laws? If a people decides to follow their own special practices, is that a cause for genocide? Every people has its own laws that differ from those of other nations.
The simple answer is that hatred is irrational and has no logic. Even today, Jews are accused of being the ultimate capitalists of the world, and also of being the most ardent Communists — simultaneously.
But there is a malevolent logic behind Haman’s hatred of the Jew, embodied in his very next words. Not only do Jews have outlandish laws that prohibit pleasures like adultery and theft and murder and slander and gossip, and that forbid all kinds of work one full day each week. Beside these aberrations, they reject our laws and ways: v’dasei hamelech einam osim — and the laws and ways of the king they do not practice….” The Jews condemn our pleasures and our desires and our permissiveness; they don’t eat our foods, they mock our idols, outlaw the figurines to whom we pray, and insist that there is only One Super-G-d — not a duality, not a trinity, not a pantheon of assorted deities for every aspect of life, but only one G-d Who is invisible and is supreme and created the world.
To parse Haman’s words, this is what he is really saying: These Jews are not like us, they are strange, different, and follow their own peculiar ways. Worse: They reject our Persian way of life. They are subversives, have no loyalty to us, thus they pose a threat to the stability of the kingdom. They are dangerous. It would be best to be rid of them.
(Note here the echoes of Pharaoh’s complaint against the Jews centuries before Haman: “When there is a war, they will join our enemies….” [Shemos 1:10]. That is, they are disloyal and subversive. Are today’s cries of Jews’ “dual loyalty” any different?)
Here lies the key to Jew-hatred. We are an eternal challenge and rebuke to the ways of Haman’s universe. He understood that our laws are not only different, but actually block the path to Hamanism’s conquest of the world. He realized that Judaism is the conscience of civilization that says no to man’s baser instincts. He knew that without Judaism and without G-d, there is freedom to do as one pleases, to take whatever one desires, to satisfy every impulse and instinct. Therefore, say Haman and his cronies, Jews must be destroyed.
In sum, the DNA of Am Yisrael challenges another DNA, that of Haman and his “zeide” Amalek, of whom Haman is the incarnation. This is what the Torah means in Shemos 17:16: G-d is in eternal war against Amalek, the quintessential enemy of G-d.
This is why we are bidden by the Torah never to forget the evil Amalek, always to remember that he is ever-present — not only to destroy us physically but primarily to destroy us spiritually by attacking our Torah values, ridiculing them, demeaning and debasing them, in an attempt to rid the world of the looming Presence of an all-seeing G-d.
Halachah hi, Eisav sonei es Yaakov (Sifri; see Rashi at Bereishis 33:4). It is an eternal law of the universe that Eisav (ancestor of Amalek) hates Yaakov and that hatred of the Jew will persist until the end of time. The Jewish defense agencies and academic experts who analyze anti-Semitism need not worry about their jobs. Since DNAs are forever, they will be kept quite busy. —
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 852)
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