How to keep Amalek out of your house

How to keep Amalek out of your house

By Harav Y. R. Rubin Shlita

 

It comes to all of us, that moment when the panic sets in and our hearts go into overdrive. What should have been a joyous occasion slowly becomes something else, and we begin to feel trapped. We never meant it to get out of hand, but things spiraled and we couldn’t stop it. We are now floundering in a vortex nervousness and praying that help will soon be at hand. Unfortunately, such help never comes, because we have allowed our own fears to become our worst nightmare.

What dire tragedy do I speak of? What creeping illness do I describe?  “Mishloach Manos Overshlugitis” – a disease that if left alone will ruin much more than just the Purim festivities. For some, the panic sets in when that special piece of cake you sent to your best friend has landed back on your table through a third party you don’t even know. For others, it is the moment that you recognize the truth that no matter how much you eat, you will never finish all the nosh before Pesach.

 

All our enemies have struck first at our inner sense of who we are, and then sought to destroy us physically”

 

Everyone reading these words will smile knowingly, yet come the day, and the madness will continue.  Mishloach Manos, a lovely mitzvah meant to bring us together, has become a stumbling block upon which so many trip. We send too much to too many, and we really think that if we slow down, we will be seen as uncaring. The worm of insecurity turns in your mind, and you begin to send platters of food to people who know people who hang their laundry out in the same bungalow colony as your machateinista. Your kids run about like spinning dervishes, usually becoming totally nauseous by the end of the day. All this for some kind of distorted understanding of what a mitzvah should be about.

The expression “conspicuous consumption” springs to mind, a shockingly shallow sort of lifestyle that Torah Jews must certainly shy away from. I am not talking about sending close friends a small gift.  It is lovely to receive some simple fare from someone to whom you are close, and Purim is a perfect occasion for such tokens.  Sending two simple gifts make you feel as if you are part of your friend’s seudah and he is a part of yours.  It becomes a different thing, however, when your closest friends number in the hundreds or when the heartfelt gift becomes an extravagant parcel of food that will never be eaten. Another facet of all this is the sheer waste of wrapping involved; it seems the entire yearly output of cellophane production of the Far East can be see festooning our humble Mishloach Manos.

Think for just a moment, look into the mirror and ask yourself, “If I end up throwing so much out, or freezing it only to throw it out later, then how many more people are doing the same?” I once figured out that if we were to divide all the spoils of Purim Mishloach Manos into equal edible portions we would have to eat cake every day for the next three months. The trouble is that Pesach is just around the corner, not to mention one’s waistline which seems more than just around the corner.

How have we all fallen for the same mad trick? How is it that the Purim table groans ever louder with each passing year and yet we don’t put a stop to it? Could insecurity have something to do with it? Are we perhaps afraid that our “friends” will think less of us if we don’t pile a seven-layer cake onto the disposable plate?

On the Shabbos before Purim we read the famous passage about Amalek and his evil doings. The Haftorah picks up the same theme, and we are told that Amalek’s perfidious behavior should never be forgotten. What trait did this group have that was so astoundingly evil? From the Torah reading we learn that they sought to destroy us for no other reason than that we represented Hashem in this world. This is in keeping with their family traditions, as grandchildren of Esau.

The Haftorah brings us further on in history where we see the prophet Shmuel telling Shaul, “Hashem sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; so now hear the sound of Hashem’s words. So said Hashem, Master of Legions: ‘I remember what Amalek did to Yisroel, the ambush he placed against him on the way, as he went up from Egypt. Now go and strike down Amalek and destroy everything he has….’ ”

This is strong language: Hashem seems to be telling us to hold a grudge against some weather-beaten nomadic tribe. Not just at that time when they first came against us, but for all time. Obviously, there is much more going on here, and it is worth thinking about it before Purim. Hashem’s wrath against Amalek serves to remind us that Amalek sought to destroy our faith in Hashem by attacking us when we were vulnerable. In all times there are those who seek to do this very same thing. All our enemies have struck first at our inner sense of who we are, and then sought to destroy us physically. In each epoch they found another chink in our armour; our Achilles heel.

Shaul did not completely wipe out the tribe of Amalek out of a feeling of compassion. This is truly a Jewish trait, however. In this case Hashem wanted us to act against even this most noble of attainments. The idea of eradicating Amalek was to put aside our own feelings and only respond to Hashem’s call, without being queasy and hesitant.

Amalek is a genius in evil and will never cease in seeking out our weaknesses. That is what he did the very first time.  He planted seeds of doubt and insecurity, doubts about our Protector and insecurity within ourselves.  The law of destroying Amalek is clear; because otherwise we will be drawn down from the spiritual heights Hashem wants for us and knows we can attain.

In our times Amalek comes dressed in new guises.  He works at our inner self-regard, nibbling away at our mitzvah performance until we find ourselves swamped with doubt.

We want to be full of simcha on Purim, joining in at every level of the day’s mitzvos. So what happens? We get caught in the net of the “Mishloach Manos Overshlug” and end up unhappy and even upset. We get angry with the kids for doing what kids do – fressing sweets – and we just don’t understand why we have once again allowed others to dictate how we do things.

This is the trick of today’s enemies of Torah. They take a lovely mitzvah and create a haze of insecurity. We feel inadequate and therefore end up overcompensating. The enemy isn’t always outside; he finds plenty of space in our living rooms.

Stop! Think and catch your breath. You don’t need all those food gifts, and neither does anyone else. Get real, enjoy the day with your sanity still intact.

Amalek seeks to attack us; don’t let him in, even if he does carry a plate of hamantaschen in his hand.


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