Acting like Amalek
In some ways, things were much simpler in the old days. The Erev Rav, or mixed multitude that left Egypt with Moshe Rabbenu, were clearly Egyptians and easy to identify and stay away from. And Amalek, that nation of arch-evildoers who attacked the Jewish people when the Torah was given, were also clearly dressed as enemy ‘Amalekites’.
They probably had flags. They probably had their own uniform. They probably whooped it up on the battlefield like some mega-evil version of the New Zealand All-Blacks. In short, in the old days it was much easier to spot who was Amalek, and who was a Jew.
But these days, according to Rav Ofer Erez, the test has got way more confusing and difficult. Because it’s no longer about identifying the force of ‘Amalek’ out there in the world anymore, but much more about detecting its fingerprints within our own souls. And that’s far, far harder.
So how can we know if we’re potentially ‘acting like Amalek’ without even realizing it?
Writing in Likutey Halachot (Minchah 7:20) Rav Natan of Breslov teaches us that in our generation, the ‘spirit’ of Amalek corresponds to burning lust, the strife between husband and wife, between a person and his community and the hatred directed against the true Tzaddikim.
Let’s take these one at a time, to try to figure out what Rav Natan is really trying to tell us.
1) Amalek is big on ‘burning lust’
So, this is probably the easiest one to understand and identify. Casual relationships, one night stands, affairs outside of marriage, looking at things online that are sheer and utter poison for a Jewish soul (and everyone else’s soul, come to that…) – all this clearly fits under the heading of ‘burning lust’ and should be tagged as ‘acting like Amalek’ behavior.
The more a person is striving for real holiness in their own life, the more ‘subtle’ this test gets. Most of the guys trying to learn a few hours of Torah a day won’t be active skirt-chasers – but so many people, including avreichim and yeshiva students, are struggling to keep their eyes off forbidden sites and out of their i-Phones these days.
Next on the list we have:
2) Strife between a husband and wife
This probably plays out in two ways: Way one is when the husband or wife themselves starts acting irrational, selfish, demanding, generally obnoxious, which will clearly cause a lot of strife in a marriage.
But I’ve also been seeing so many instances of ‘way two’ at the moment, which is where third parties – like parents, siblings, friends, even neighbors – start interfering in people’s marriages, and bad-mouthing one spouse to the other, and enthusiastically ‘cheerlead for divorce’ as the best and even only option to ‘solving’ marriage problems.
I’ve seen so, so many otherwise good marriages go to the wall because people have ‘Amalekite in-laws’ or parents, or siblings, or friends, who seem to devote an awful lot of time to turning husband and wives against each other.
So, anyone who’s making trouble between a married couple is acting like Amalek. (Where’s the Prophet Samuel, when you need him?)
3) Strife between a person and his community
Would anyone be shocked if I tentatively suggested that journalists are probably top of this particular ‘acting like Amalek’ list?
But it also includes gossips, stirrers, bullies, demagogues and those people who seem to be always causing trouble, arguments and bad-blood between people, wherever they go.
Which leads us nicely onto the fourth main category of ‘acting like Amalek’, namely:
4) Hating the true Tzaddikim
Again, you can split this into two general approaches. Way one is when someone appears to hold by one particular ‘tzaddik’, but then pours scorn and derision on all the other ones out there.
And way two is when they take a more blanket approach to the problem, and simply hate the whole idea of Tzaddikim, and of people following Tzaddikim.
When people are ‘acting like Amalek’ in this way, they’ll refer to Tzaddikim as ‘cult leaders’, mock them and their practices, borrow all of the arguments straight out of Korach’s playbook about how ‘all Jews are holy’ and generally do their best to bad-mouth Tzaddikim at every opportunity.
In his ‘Book of Traits’, Rebbe Nachman tells us:
“In all perpetrators of conflict, there are sparks from the souls of Datan and Aviram.”
No wonder so many of us are in a mess today! If it’s not Amalek, it’s Datan and Aviram who are running the show behind the scenes…but God will save us from our enemies, internally and externally.
So hang on, keep talking to God about all your ‘split personality’ issues and know that the klipa of Amalek is fighting so hard at the moment because it’s very close to being permanently eradicated from the world.
And then we’ll have Moshiach, we’ll have some peace of mind, and we’ll no longer have all these ‘acting like Amalek’ tendencies driving us all bonkers.