Remember What Amalek Did – Chapter 1

By Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch

A Chasidic discourse delivered on Purim of the year 5584-1824

English adaptation by Rabbi Amiram Markel


In Parshat Kee Teitzeh the Torah states,[1] “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way when you went out from Egypt. How he encountered you on the way and cut off your rear, all those who lagged behind you; you were tired and weary and he did not fear G-d. And it shall be, that when HaShem your G-d grants you respite from all your surrounding enemies in the land which HaShem your G-d gives you as a heritage to take possession of, that you shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens; do not forget!”

However, in Parshat B’Shalach, regarding Yehoshua’s battle with Amalek, scripture states[2], “And HaShem said to Moshe, ‘Write this as a memorial in the book and place it in Yehoshua’s ears that I shall certainly wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens.” Moshe built an altar and called its name, ‘HaShem is my banner’. He said, ‘For a hand is raised [in oath] by the throne of HaShem; HaShem will wage war against Amalek from generation to generation’”.

Now, at first glance, these two scriptures seem to contradict each other. The verses in Parashat Kee Teitzeh indicate that the mitzvah of wiping out Amalek is specifically incumbent upon Israel, as it states, “When HaShem grants you respite…you shall wipe out the memory of Amalek etc.” On the other hand, from Parashat B’Shalach it appears that HaShem Himself will wipe out Amalek, as it states, “I (by Myself) shall certainly wipe out the memory of Amalek,” and as the verse continues, “HaShem will wage war against Amalek from generation to generation”. From this it appears that this is HaShem’s war rather than Israel’s war. However, we must say that both these scriptures are true and do not at all contradict each other.

Now, to understand this, we must preface with an explanation of the root of the shell (kelipah) of Amalek, which is higher than that of the seven nations that previously inhabited the land of Israel, those being the Canaanite, the Hittite etc. These seven nations embody the seven bad character traits of kelipah that oppose the seven good character traits of Holiness, as scripture states[3], “G-d has made one thing opposite the other”; therefore, the verse[4], “The first of the nations is Amalek etc.” means that he is the beginning and source of the seven nations which embody the bad character traits. This is sufficient for the understanding.

To understand this, we must first preface by explaining the subject of the seven Holy character traits, through which their opposites, the seven character traits of the shell (kelipah), will be understood. After this, the root of Amalek, who is called the “First of the nations”, will be understood.  Now the root matter of the seven Holy character traits is that they are born of the aspect of Binah (Understanding) of Holiness, which is called[5] “The mother of the children” that gives birth to the emotions of love of HaShem and fear of HaShem etc.

However, we must first understand the explanation of the five levels of the G-dly soul of a Jew, which in ascending order are the Nefesh, Ruach, Neshamah, Chaya and Yechidah. Now, the matter of the Neshamah in the brain (the Ruach in the heart and the Nefesh in the liver) is the aspect of the Binah (understanding) of the G-dly soul which gives birth to activate the emotions of love of HaShem and fear of HaShem etc. The root aspect of the G-dly soul is what we see that there is a unique power in the soul to contemplate and apprehend all comprehension of G-dliness with all kinds of explanations to understand and to draw HaShem’s greatness, His unity with the worlds, and His self-unity, close to the mind, to be apprehended with actual comprehension and understanding.

This is the matter of absorption (kelitah), in which one truly absorbs and grasps how it is that HaShem, blessed be He, brings all creatures into being out of nothing or how there is no comparison between a finite created being relative to the Creator who is infinite and before whom everything is considered as naught etc. Even though this is beyond human intellect, it can nonetheless be grasped and comprehended by every single Jew, due to his G-dly soul, which is literally a part of G-d from above[6]. This is indicated by the verse[7], “The soul (Neshamah) of the Almighty gives them understanding”.

The G-dly soul of a Jew is called, “The soul of the Almighty”, and possesses the faculty of Binah (understanding), which specifically is the ability to understand and conceptualize all manner of G-dly comprehension. However, this understanding is not equal in every soul in that it consists of many different levels and manners of understanding, both great and small. As we observe that G-dly comprehension even in regard to an identical subject, will be understood by one person in one way and by another person in another way.

Likewise, in regard to the arousal of the intellect; the intellect of one person may be aroused by one thing, whereas another person may be aroused by something that would not arouse the first person altogether. (This is because just as people are different in their intellect and comprehension, so are their intellects, in and of themselves, different in what will stimulate and excite them. Moreover, the intellectual arousal in a person’s “Brain of Understanding”, as it exists in and of itself in his intellect, is higher than the arousal of the spirit (Ruach) that is in his heart, as will be explained.) An example is the aspect of the emotions of intellect, which are the seven lower faculties within Binah itself, in that one intellect, will lean towards kindness whereas another intellect will lean towards judgment.

Generally, six hundred thousand souls were present at the giving of the Torah, who embodied six hundred thousand minds, each of which was different in its capacity to comprehend and in how and what stimulated it. Their first root was the aspect of Binah of Atzilut, which is called, “The mother of the children” and is the source (in a way of something out of nothing) of each soul’s manner of comprehending G-dliness, each according to his capacity.

Though the aspect of Binah of Atzilut is called,[8] “Understanding, but not with a knowable understanding”, still and all, it is called Binah of Atzilut, which is a special power that was emanated from the Essential Self of the Emanator for the purpose of making it possible to comprehend and understand every manner of comprehension and understanding of G-dliness, even though in actuality,[9] “No thought can grasp Him”. Nonetheless, He restrained (Tzimtzem) Himself to be called, “Understanding with Binah”.

Therefore, when this power to understand is further constrained (tzimtzum) from the aspect of Binah of Atzilut, to descend downto Binah of Malchut of the world of Briyah (the created realm)it becomes the source of the source of the comprehension of G-dliness of the souls in Gan Eden (Paradise). This gives the souls in Gan Eden the ability to understand and comprehend G-dliness also. It then further descends to souls within bodies, as in the case of the six hundred thousand souls that were present at the giving of the Torah. About this it states that with each utterance their souls flew out of their bodies[10]. It further states that[11], “The abode of the Upper Mother (Binah) is in the Throne”, which refers to the world of Briyah, as in the example of the souls of Gan Eden.

(However, if it was only thus, the G-dly soul would only have the ability to comprehend G-dliness on the level of Malchut of Atzilut as it descends into Briyah, Yetzirah and Asiyah or higher within Atzilut itself, as in the souls of Atzilut, up to their source in Binah of Atzilut, but not higher. However, if this is the case, why do we see that there have been lofty souls, such as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his companions or the Holy Arizal, that perceived even higher than Binah of Atzilut, into the light of Abba (Chochmah), Arich Anpin, Atik Yomin, Adam Kadmon and even higher than the first Tzimtzum, into the[12] “Upper Purity” (Tehiru Ila’ah) and the[13] “Delight of the King in Himself” (Sha’ashuei HaMelech B’Atzmo)? They actually even speak of the Essential Self of the Infinite One, whom no thought, even the primordial thought (Machshava HaKedoomah), can grasp etc.

More so, though their comprehension is actually limited, nonetheless, even very small souls, like the souls of Asiyah and certainly the souls of Yetzirah and Briyah, can comprehend and direct their intention to the Upper Unity of Chochmah and Binah of Atzilut or higher. They can even direct their intention to the Essential Self of the Infinite One, literally. An example is the twice-daily recitation of Shma[14]. We begin specifically with the words, “Hear O Israel”, referring to the G-dly soul of the Jew. We then say, “HaShem is our G-d”. This refers to Abba and Imma (Chochmah and Binah) of Atzilut. We then conclude with, “HaShem is One”, meaning that everything is literally included in His simple unity which, as known, is the Essential Self of the Infinite One before the first tzimtzum.

(The ability to give up one’s soul (mesirat Nefesh) during the recitation of Shma is not problematic in this regard, because it is above reason. On the other hand, that the souls understand and comprehend the Upper Unity of Abba and Imma of Atzilut, which is much higher than the first source of their comprehension in Binah of Atzilut, is problematic. Now, as explained elsewhere (on the verse[15], “A song of thanks”), this comprehension is not of the essential being (the whatness) of the lights of Atzilut and certainly not of the essential being of the lights higher than Atzilut, all the way to the Infinite One Himself. Rather, the matter is only grasped intellectually.

In other words, even though a person may have the intellectual ability to comprehend the G-dly light as it is, however he only sees it in his mind’s eye, which does not constitute comprehending the essential being of it (the whatness) at all. Such comprehension will only come about in the future, “in Time to Come”.)

(Nonetheless, even the fact that a Jew can comprehend and direct his intention with his mind’s eye to the truth of the G-dly light in Atzilut or higher,is because of his source in Binah of Atzilut, which is called, “Understanding, but not with a knowable understanding”. This ability is even drawn all the way down to the souls of Asiyah during the recitation of Shma, as mentioned above. This is sufficient for the understanding.)

(The root reason for this is because though the first revealed source of the souls of Israel is the Upper Unity of Abba and Imma of Atzilut, nonetheless they reach higher than the aspect of Adam (the ten supernal sefirot), into the Essential Self of the Infinite One, as in the verse[16], “For You are our father”, which means, “You” literally. Because of this it specifically says, “Hear O Israel, HaShem is our G-d, HaShem is One”. This is sufficient for the understanding.)

[1] Deuteronomy 25:17-19

[2] Exodus 17:14-16

[3] Ecclesiastes 7:14

[4] Numbers 24:20

[5] Zohar, VaYechi 219a

[6] Tanya p.282

[7] Job 32:8

[8] Tikunei Zohar 17b

[9] Ibid

[10] Talmud Shabbat 88b

[11] Tikunei Zohar 23a

[12] See Shaar HaYichud of the Mittler Rebbe, chapter 10

[13] Emek HaMelech, Shaar Sha’ashuei HaMelech

[14] Deuteronomy 6:4

[15] Psalms 100:1

[16] Isaiah 63:16

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