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Remember what Amalek did to you on the way, when you were leaving Egypt, that he happened upon you on the way, and he killed among you, all the weakling at your rear, when you were faint and exhausted and he did not fear G-d (Devarim 25:18).
The above posuk tells us that Amalek happened by chance to come upon the Jewish people in the desert. They took advantage of the Jewish People’s weak and tired state and attacked them. The posuk then concludes that Amalek was not G-d fearing.
The commentators take note of two important points. First is the posuk’s emphasis that from the perspective of Amalek, their meeting the Jewish people in the desert was nothing more then coincidental. Second, the posuk goes out of its way to mention that Amalek were not G-d fearing. The obvious connection between the two is that a G-d fearing individual sees Divine Providence in what seems to be nothing more than a coincidence. Amalek who is the antithesis of G-d fearing, refused to recognize Divine Providence in the ordinary coincidences of life but rather chose to attribute everything to pure chance including their meeting the Jewish people. This idea recurs when Haman, a descendent of Amalek, planned the date of the annihilation of the Jewish people through a lottery. A lottery is symbolic of pure chance.
We may ask what is the root cause of Amalek’s hatred for the Jewish people? Furthermore what is the significance of the Torah telling us that this event took place when they happened by chance to meet the Jewish People in the desert and that they were not G-d fearing?
We may suggest that Amalek’s hatred for the Jewish People stems from the fact that Yaakov stole the blessing that was destined for their grandfather Esav.
The commentators explain that originally it was planned that the blessing of Yitzchak be divided into two blessings. The spiritual blessings were to go to Yaakov and the mundane physical blessings were to go to Esav. Yaakov would devote himself entirely to spiritual matters, and Esav, who would be blessed with material good would support him. Had this plan come to fruition, Esav would have fully enjoyed this world and merited a great reward in the next world. Rivka had the foresight to realize that Esav would never support Yaakov, and that Yaakov would not survive if his life depended on his brother Esav. She thus convinced Yaakov to steal Esav blessings and benefit from the spiritual blessings and physical blessings. By doing so Esav has lost the blessings of this world and his potential to gain merit in the world to come. This is why Esav hates Yaakov. This hatred is so deeply rooted that even in modern times, Esav, ignorant of history and matters of spirituality continues to irrationally hate Yaakov. This is what Chazal mean when they say we have a tradition that Esav hates Yaakov.
It is noteworthy that when Yaakov entered Yitzchak’s presence to receive the blessing in the disguise of Esav, Yitzchak immediately asked Yaakov how it was possible for him to make the necessary preparations so quickly. Yaakov responded that Hashem had prepared for him (Bereishis 27:20). The Hebrew word the posuk uses for prepare is hikra, which literally means chance. The word chance connotes a mere coincidence. However Yaakov also said that “it was Hashem your God who brought this chance about.” The combination of the word chance together with the name of Hashem suggests that Yaakov meant to say that although at face values it appears that it was a coincidence that I was able to find the food so quickly yet I recognize that it was Divined Providence. The ability to recognize Divine Providence in ordinary events represents a very high level of fear of heaven. Indeed Yitzchak immediately became suspicious that that this was not Esav but Yaakov. Nevertheless, Yitzchak gave him the blessings. Homiletically, we may suggest that Yaakov hinted to Yitzchak that he was deserving of the blessings precisely because he had fear of heaven, the very quality that his brother is lacking, and therefore the blessings are necessary for his survival.
We may now understand why the Torah describes the hatred of Amalek with the word chance and lack of fear of heaven. The source of Esav’s hatred stems from Yaakov’s stealing of his blessing. The blessings were stolen with Yaakov declaring at the outset that he recognizes the Divine Providence of the ordinary happenings of this world. This recognition is precisely the failure of Esav. Thus, when Esav expresses his hatred toward the Jewish people it is characterized as chance and the lack of fear of heaven.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5762/2002