Facing Amalek in Our Time

Moshe Kempinski

Benjamin never did and never would bow down to Esau.

The story of Esther ends with the following words;

“For Mordecai the Jew was viceroy to King Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews and accepted by most of his brethren; seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all their seed.”(Esther 10:3).

One is struck by the words “and accepted by most of his brethren” By ‘most of his brethren’ but not ‘by all’ .This is meant to teach us that some members of the Sanhedrin distanced themselves from him” (Megillah 16a).
There have been many and varied thoughts as to the reason that some of the leadership would keep Mordechai at a distance. Some offer the theory that Mordechai’s involvement in the politics of the king’s court may have distanced him from the loftier aspects of Sanhedrin Torah based activities

Yet it is clear to all that Mordechai’s lifesaving activities pushed aside all other pursuits.
There are others who point to the theological decisions made by Mordechai not to bow down to Haman a decision that triggered the dangers and conflicts described in the book of Esther.

“After these events, King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite and advanced him, and placed his seat above all the princes who were with him. And all the king’s servants who were in the king’s gate would kneel and prostrate themselves before Haman, for so had the king commanded concerning him, but Mordecai would neither kneel nor prostrate himself.( Esther 3:1-2)
When approached by the King’s servants regarding this unusual activity, Mordechai offers no response.

Our sages explain that Mordechai could not bow down as it would be construed as a form of idolatry. This was true, either because Haman was wearing some form of an idol or because he saw himself as some type of elevated deity. The text hints at this when it describes “but Mordecai would neither kneel nor prostrate himself.( esther 3:1-2) the term “kneel nor prostrate ” is only used to describe worship to the one true G-d “Come, let us prostrate ourselves and bow; let us kneel before Hashem, our Maker.”( Psalm 95:6)
Yet there is a deeper layer here as well. The text makes a point of giving us Mordechai’s lineage. “There was a Judean man in Shushan the capital, whose name was Mordecai the son of Jair the son of Shimei the son of Kish, a Benjamite,”( Esther 2:5). Why would such a genealogy be relevant?

Joseph in Egypt gave his younger brother Benjamin 5 sets of clothing instead of the amount he gave the other brothers “He gave them all, to each one [several] changes of clothes, and to Benjamin he gave three hundred [pieces of] silver and five changes of clothes.”( Genesis 44:22) .This act seems a little disconcerting considering that Joseph himself ended up being sold to slavery because of a preferred treatment he received symbolized by the gifting of a special garment. Why would Joseph fall into the same potential hazard?

The midrash explains that Joseph ,whether consciously or not ,acted out of a prophetic spirit that whispered of a future victory of Benjamin’s descendant Mordechai . Mordechai walks out of the palace triumphantly dressed in five royal garments; “And Mordecai left the king’s presence with royal raiment, blue and white and a huge golden crown and a wrap of linen and purple, and the city of Shushan shouted and rejoiced.”( Esther 8:15)

Yet being a descendant of Benjamin carried another important spiritual strength and virtue.

When Jacob returns from the house of Laban with his wives and children they encounter Esau and his army. Jacob and his whole family and entourage stand before Esau and bow down before him. ( Genesis 33:1-7). This was true of all the children of Jacob… except for one. Benjamin was yet to be born in the land of Israel. Benjamin never did and never would bow down to Esau

What does Esau then stand for and represent. Despite the miraculous events in Egypt and the cataclysmic experience at the Reed Sea we read “Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim.”(Exodus 17:8 ). Regardless of all the facts on the ground, Amalek, the descendant of Esaucould not countenance the success of Jacob’s descendants. Everything would be ignored on the altar of hatred for this people.

It is that exact unending passion of the descendants of Esav (Esau) to replace and destroy the descendants of Jacob that led to the Divine declaration; ”And he said, For there is a hand on the throne of the Eternal, and there shall be a war for Hashem against Amalek from generation to generation. (ibid 16).’

That is what Haman, a descendant of Amalek and Esau, represented. Mordechai, a descendant of Benjamin, would not or could not bow down to him.This “Benjamin attitude” born and bred in the land of Israel could not countenance this “enemy of G-d”.

It is not coincidental that during the week wherein we read the story of Amalek and then enter into the festival of Purim, another Benjamin is being positioned. He is being asked by destiny to stand straight and not bow down to all the pressures by the spirit of Amalek which abounds in the world. He was positioned to stand before the American Congress and as a result before the whole world.

It is there that he spoke out against the evils being planned by the Persian Hamans of our day. Evils that are being sanctioned and/or ignored by those stymied by the spirit of Amalek.
With Hashem’s help this Benjamin will succeed as well.

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved

Leave a Comment