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The War of Amalek: Yehoshua and Mordechai

When Moshe hears that Amalek is attacking Israel, he does not gear up for battle, but sends Yehoshua: “And Moshe said to Yehoshua… go to battle against Amalek” (Shemot 17:9). Why did he not go out to fight himself?

Our Sages discussed this in the Mechilta, saying that because Moshe sent Yehoshua to fight, rather than going himself, his hands became heavy: “Due to his indolence regarding this mitzvah and his appointing another [Yehoshua] instead, his hands became heavy.”

However, we find another answer in the Midrash: “Could it be that Moshe stood and told Yehoshua to go to war with Amalek? Rather, there is a tradition that Esav’s sons will only fall in the hands of Rachel’s sons.” (Mechilta D’Rashbi 71)

And we ask yet again: Why is it specifically the sons of Rachel who defeat Amalek?

The answer to all this lies in the nature and character of Amalek. Amalek does not believe in God’s providence in the world, as our Sages state that Amalek’s ideology was that of chance: “who have met you by chance along the way” (Esther Rabbah 8). Amalek sees miracles happening to Israel, but explains them as natural occurrences. Amalek sees the parting of the Red Sea, but explains it as a natural tidal event, which occurred only by chance. Amalek believed Israel merely had a “lucky strike”; that their victory over Egypt was but a coincidence, unlikely to happen again. Therefore, Amalek is not afraid to battle Israel.

Yosef is Rachel’s son, and his descendants are the ones who can fight Amalek, because that is the essence of Yosef, who felt God’s providence every moment of his life (except for one incident at the end of Parshat Vayeshev). Both when talking to his brothers and to the Egyptians, Yosef mentions God again and again.

Yosef not only tries, but also succeeds, in instilling in the nations of the world the reality of God. Pharaoh says of Yosef: “Could we find another like him, a man with the spirit of God?” (Bereishit 41:38). This statement of Pharaoh is obviously a result of Yosef’s repetitive mentioning of God.

Therefore, Yehoshua, who is of Rachel’s lineage, is suitable for this leadership role. Indeed, eventually it is Yehoshua who brings Israel into the Promised Land, where Divine Providence operates within the framework of nature.

This idea can be learned from the Midrash (Shemot Rabbah 26): “Why to Yehoshua? He said to him: Your elder [Yosef] said: ‘I fear the Almighty’; let the son of he who said that defeat he of whom it is said ‘and he did not fear God’ (Amalek).

The Book of Esther, too, is entirely natural. Even the name of God is not mentioned in the Megillah. Mordechai commands the observance of the days of Purim, and by this the people come to an awareness that even things that may seem natural are led by God.

Is a hidden miracle worth less than a visible miracle? On the one hand, it lacks the might and surprise of a visible miracle. However, on the other hand, God is revealed within reality, within nature. He does not have to “break” nature in order to be revealed.

There is a difficulty in recognizing a hidden miracle, as it comes on top of our own actions. Indeed, our goal is to act within nature, and at the same time to feel that God is the One behind everything. This is one of the great messages of the Book of Esther: to establish a state, to act with the Israel Defense Forces, but to know that God is the Orchestrator, He is our Leader, and to Him we pray and give thanks.


Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon is head of Mizrachi’s educational advisory board and rabbinic council. He serves as the rabbi of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, rosh yeshiva of the Jerusalem College of Technology and is the founder and chairman of Sulamot. He is a member of Mizrachi’s speakers bureau ( www.mizrachi.org/speakers ).

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