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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 1, 2007 / 11 Adar, 5767

Amalek is alive and well and spreading — even if many fail to grasp its danger

By Rabbi Avi Shafran



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A call to arms


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The thesis that is the Jewish Nation has an antithesis: Amalek. And just as the Jewish People is defined by its Torah, so is its polar opposite associated with a particular system of thought and attitude.


Amalek the nation is unknown to us today; the Biblical command to destroy it to avert the mortal threat it poses to all that is good and holy is thus moot.


Amalek the notion, though, is very much present — in the broader world, the Jewish one and perhaps, to a degree, within each of us as well. And its undermining remains an obligation both urgent and clear.


A hint to the attitude defining Amalek lies in the Torah's words immediately preceding that nation's first appearance. In Exodus (17:7), just before the words "And Amalek came," the Jews wonder "Is G-d in our midst or not?" The Hebrew word for "not" — "ayin" — literally means "nothing." That Amalek's attack comes on the heels of that word is fitting, because Amalekism stands for precisely that: nothing. Or, better: Nothing — the conviction that all, in the end, is without meaning or consequence.


In Hebrew, letters have numerical values. The number-value of the word "Amalek," Jewish sources note, equals that of "safek," or "doubt." Not "doubt" in the word's simplest sense, implying some lack of evidence, but rather doubt as a belief: the philosophical shunning of the very idea of surety — the embrace of cynicism, the championing of meaninglessness.


For there are two diametric ways to approach life, history and the universe. One approach perceives direction and purpose; the other regards all as the products of randomness — cold, indifferent chaos.


The latter approach is the essence of Amalekism. It is a worship of chance, reflected in things like the Purim story's Amalekite villain Haman's choice to cast lots — putting his trust in chance — in choosing a date to annihilate the Persian Kingdom's Jews.


The religion that is Amalekism is often regarded as a harmless agnosticism. But it is hardly benign. Because if nature is but a series of dice-rollings, its pinnacle, the human being, is just another pointless payoff. Man's actions do not make — indeed, cannot make — any difference at all. Yes, he may benefit or harm his fellows or his world, but so what? There is no ultimate import to either accomplishment.


In fact, asserts the chance-worshipper, he is no different from the animals whom he considers, through the lottery of natural selection, his ancestors. He may be more evolved, but in the end is no less an expression than they of purely random events.


Amalek's credo is proudly and publicly proclaimed today. From "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals" (PETA), which contends that "meat is murder"; to Princeton University's Professor Peter Singer, who asserts that "the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog or a chimpanzee"; to books like "Eternal Treblinka," which makes the loathsome comparison of animals slaughtered for food with (one winces to even repeat it) the victims of the Nazis.


And it lurks, more subtly but no less surely, in the contemporary insistence that chance-based evolutionary theory is the only explanation for the diversity of species.


One who sees only random forces as the engine of that diversity may be able to offer an explanation of the human belief in right and wrong — claiming, for instance, that such belief evolved through "natural selection" to confer some biological advantage to humans. But he cannot justify the belief itself as having any more import than any other utilitarian evolutionary adaptation.


And so, faced with the Jewish conviction that ultimate meaning exists, and that the human being is the pinnacle not of blind evolution but of purposeful Creation, Amalek mocks. Men, he sneers, are no different than the monkeys they so closely resemble, and the actions of both of no ultimate import.


Interestingly, our resemblance to apes may figure in the pivotal account of Amalek's attack on the Jews after the exodus from Egypt. When Moses lifted his hands, the Torah recounts, the tide of the fight turned in favor of the Jewish People; when he lowered them, the opposite occurred.


"And do the [lifted] arms of Moses wage war?" asks the Talmud. "Rather," it explains, "when the Jews lifted their eyes heavenward, they were victorious…" And so the lifting of Moses' hands signifies the Jews' beseeching G-d.


The etymology of the word Amalek is unclear. But one might consider it a contraction of the Hebrew word "amal" — "labor" — and the letter with a "k" sound: "kuf," whose letters spell the Hebrew word that means, of all things, "monkey."


It is intriguing and perhaps significant that among all the earth's creatures, only humans and primates can lift their arms above their heads. And little short of astounding that precisely that movement figures so pivotally in the context of a battle between the nation proclaiming that human life has no special meaning — that men are but smooth-skinned apes — and the nation that proclaims human life has unique meaning.


Because, while primates can also lift their arms, the gesture is an empty one; when humans do the same thing, it can be the most potent expression of relating to the Divine.


When Moses lifts his arms, indicating the Jews' turning to G-d, it can be seen as a declaration that our "amal," our labor, is not the action of a monkey but the meaningful expression of human beings.


"And his hands were belief" — says the verse there, strangely. Or not so strangely. Moses' hands declared belief in humanity's unique relationship to G-d.


The Jews thus prevailed in the battle by negating Amalekism — by demonstrating their conviction that G-d exists and that we are beholden to Him.


On Purim, Jews the world over commemorate the crucial, if not final, victory over Amalek that took place in Persia in the time of Mordechai and Esther, by publicly reading the Book of Esther. As has often been remarked, it is a unique scroll in the Jewish canon, the only one that makes no overt reference to G-d. Instead, it forces us to seek Him in the account's "chance" happenings, to perceive Him in seemingly "random" events.


By doing precisely that, our ancestors merited G-d's protection and emerged victorious. May our own rejection of the Amalek-idea in our time merit us the same.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Rabbi Avi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America. Let him know what you think by clicking here.




© 2007, Am Echad Resources