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Parashat Beshalah: The 21st-Century Battle Against Amalek

The final verses of Parashat Beshalah tell of Beneh Yisrael’s war against the nation of Amalek, which attacked them in the desert, when Beneh Yisrael were en route to Mount Sinai. This war was fought in somewhat unusual fashion: Yehoshua led the army down below, while Moshe sat on a hill overlooking the battlefield, and held his hands in the air, drawing Beneh Yisrael’s attention to G-d, and in this merit, they triumphed over Amalek.

Amalek’s war against Beneh Yisrael was an ideological one. They launched their attack as Beneh Yisrael were making their way to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, an event that was to have brought the world to its ultimate "Tikkun" (state of perfection). When the Jewish People are poised to achieve this "Tikkun," Amalek arises to thwart this process. And although Beneh Yisrael ultimately defeated Amalek on the battlefield, Amalek was successful in its effort, as it led to a spiritual weakness on account of which Matan Torah did not achieve the full "Tikkun" of the world.

Amalek’s ideological assault occurs on two levels. They seek to undermine our nation’s Emuna (faith), and our Kedusha (sanctity). This is why both Moshe and Yehoshua led the struggle against Amalek. Moshe embodies Emuna, complete faith in Hashem, and Yehoshua descends from Yosef, who embodied the ideal of "Kedusha," resisting sinful temptations, as when he was lured by Potifar’s wife. Together, Moshe and Yehoshua successfully resisted Amalek’s assault on these two foundations of our religion.

There were other times, too, when Amalek rose against our nation to sabotage our efforts to achieve the world’s "Tikkun." Before Beneh Yisrael entered the Land of Israel, two enemies – Balak and Bilam – teamed up to try to destroy them. The last two letters of the name "Balak" and of the name "Bilam" are the letters of "Amalek." Balak and Bilam are associated with the hostile nation of Amalek, and they tried to annihilate Beneh Yisrael by placing a curse on them. When this effort failed, they successfully schemed to lure Beneh Yisrael to immorality and idolatry, in the incident of Ba’al Pe’or. This scheme undermined both the faith and sanctity of Am Yisrael, as they worshipped idols and were involved with the women of Moab, and thus Balak and Bilam succeeded once again in preventing the world’s "Tikkun."

Many centuries later, when Jews began returning from Babylonia to build the second Bet Ha’mikdash, there was another opportunity to reach the world’s "Tikkun," and so again Amalek arose against us – this time, in the form of Haman, an Amalekite, who sought to destroy the Jewish Nation.

In our time, too, we are confronted by Amalek. As we approach the time of the final redemption, Amalek has once again arisen to sabotage this process. This is why in our generation, we face great challenges specifically in the areas of Emuna and Kedusha. Technology exposes us to the full range of foreign ideas and ideologies, posing a grave threat to our pure faith in Hashem and in Torah. We are also confronted by lures and temptations to an unprecedented degree, far more than in any previous generation, which endanger our Kedusha, our holiness. These challenges, which are unique to our day and age, reflect Amalek’s concentrated effort to interfere with the process of redemption. Let us strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts to resist Amalek’s scheme, and remain steadfastly committed to our ancient, treasured values of Emuna and Kedusha, so will be worthy of our long-awaited final redemption, speedily and in our times, Amen.

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