April 15, 2024
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Parshas Zachor: Looking Past the Veil to Defeat Amalek Today

For many years now, I’ve been bothered with a question that I know many have asked. Hashem performed incredible miracles for the Bnei Yisrael as they left Egypt and throughout their journey in the desert. These open Divine interventions infused them with a strong belief in Hashem. Why can’t we experience such open miracles today? Surely, this would bolster our emunah in Hashem and turn all the non-believers into believers!

The truth is…it’s not so simple. Let me share with you a remarkable story that brings home the point.

Yisrael was learning in yeshiva in Eretz Yisrael. A taxi driver started schmoozing with him while bringing him to yeshiva one day. The driver said, “I used to learn in yeshiva, but I left all that behind me. I still believe in Hashem, but mitzvot—that’s not for me. However, my best friend Avi, who also left yeshiva, is now back learning Torah day and night.”

“What happened to your friend?” asked Yisrael. A fascinating story began to unfold. “Avi and I were disenchanted and left yeshiva. We decided to go for a tour of the Amazon jungle. It was amazing—the sounds, the colors, the thick trees! We were in another world, soaking in every minute. One day, I saw our local guide turn white. I looked around and saw my friend, Avi, with a huge boa constrictor wrapping itself around him. The guide could not shoot the snake for fear of hitting Avi. We watched in horror, not knowing what to do. The boa constrictor was squeezing the life out of him. Avi told me he started thinking about all the bad choices he made in life and made a deal with Hashem. If he is saved, he will go back to yeshiva and keep all the Torah and mitzvot. Avi started saying Shema Yisrael and, miraculously, the snake unwound itself and slithered away. We returned to Eretz Yisrael as quickly as we could and Avi went straight back to yeshiva. Me—I started driving a taxi,” he said.

“Why didn’t you go back to yeshiva also?” asked Yisrael. “The snake wrapped himself around my friend, not me. I’m not the one who almost got killed!” said the driver.

So much for open miracles.

Hashem commands us to remember the despicable nation of Amalek, which attacked us immediately after the splitting of the sea without any hesitation. Hashem tells us the Divine Presence will be veiled as long as Amalek exists. What is this toxic ideology that fuels their hatred and makes us mortal enemies for all time?

The Maharal explains that Amalek believed in Hashem and acknowledged all His incredible miracles. However, they denied Hashem’s involvement in our everyday life. Indeed, Amalek attacked immediately after klal Yisrael complained about the lack of water, saying, “Hayesh Hashem b’kirbeinu…?”—Is Hashem in our midst or not?

Rav Wolbe explains that klal Yisrael were nervous about Hashem no longer relating to them in miraculous ways when they would enter Eretz Yisrael. The mun food, the cloud of protection, the spring of water—all these daily miracles they were used to would disappear and be replaced with proactive planting and providing for themselves. Would Hashem stay with them on the same level even in a non-miraculous way?

This lack of faith was rooted in the ideology of Amalek. That is what led to the attack. This warped ideology veils the involvement of Hashem in our lives, as the verse says, “Ki yad al kes Kah” (Shemos 17:16)—Amalek places its hand on the name of Hashem (Rashi). Indeed, Amalek blinds us from recognizing the involvement of Hashem in every aspect of our lives.

Everyone loves to hear stories of miracles; they help prove the existence of Hashem in our world! Yet, it’s important to remember that most of us will not witness an overt miracle at any time in our lives. However, we are fortunate that Hashem affords us a daily opportunity to recognize Him in our normal activities and experiences. Eating, walking, talking, seeing—these too are miraculous!

We combat Amalek today by seeing past the veil. By recognizing the Hand of Hashem in the little things, we realize the normal is really miraculous. Some people make it a practice to write down an event or two each day where they notice Hashem’s involvement. This can open up our eyes to the hashgacha pratis (Divine providence) in our life.

Rabbi Weissman, mashgiach of Yeshiva Gedolah of Passaic, often says that everyone has their own Megilla (scroll). It covers many years and Hashem is writing it down for us. Hashem’s involvement in our personal Megilla is clear—as long as we lift the veil.

Seeing past the veil is one way we can defeat Amalek today.

By Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch. PTI has attracted people from all over northern New Jersey, including Teaneck, Bergenfield, Paramus, Rockaway and Fair Lawn. He initiated and continues to lead a multi-level Gemara learning program. Recently he has spread out beyond PTI to begin a weekly beis midrash program with in-depth chavrusa learning in Livingston and Springfield. This year he joined Heichal Hatorah in Teaneck as a Gemara iyun rebbe. His email is [email protected].

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