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Contemporary Amalek

 

I. Non-Lineal Amalek

The innovative explanation of the status of Amalek in Maimonidean thought that R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik taught in his father’s name is surprising and controversial. While it is hotly disputed and potentially dangerous, I wish to suggest ancient support for the concept.

We have discussed multiple times R. Soloveitchik’s proposal to explain why the Rambam rules that the commandment to destroy the seven Canaanite nations no longer applies because Sancheriv dispersed the nations but fails to rule similarly regarding the commandment to destroy Amalek (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhos Melakhim 5:4-5). R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik quotes his father as explaining that, as regards the mitzvah to battle against it, Amalek is a status and not necessarily a nationality. Even after the dispersal and loss of national identity, someone who acts like Amalek — attempts to destroy the Jewish nation — acquires the status of Amalek and becomes a target of this commandment. R. Soloveitchik specifically applied this to the Nazis.

This explanation was sufficiently compelling to merit mention in the Frankel edition of the Rambam’s index of commentaries despite the editor’s general rule of omitting Lubavitch and Religious Zionist authors (link). While only R. Soloveitchik’s father is mentioned by name, the citation is from the son’s book. To my knowledge, this is R. Soloveitchik’s only inclusion in the entire edition.

II. Responses

As we explained, R. Nachum Rabinovitch disagrees with R. Soloveitchik’s interpretation. In a responsum, he concludes from his own careful reading of the Rambam’s words that the same exemption from the commandment regarding the seven Canaanite nations also applies to Amalek. However, perhaps R. Rabinovitch’s critique can be answered (link). He also notes that R. Tzvi Yehudah Kook opposed the teaching of R. Soloveitchik’s explanation, presumably due to concern that a student may conclude that Arabs have the status of Amalek and act accordingly. R. Eliezer Melamed appreciates R. Soloveitchik’s general message but asserts that practical halakhah does not follow that view (link).

Indeed, R. Soloveitchik’s approach suffers from a fundamental weakness. In halakhah, statuses of nationality are consistently transmitted by parentage. As R. Hershel Schachter explains in R. Soloveitchik’s name (Eretz Ha-Tzvi, ch. 17), Judaism is a nation and therefore membership travels through the mother while gentiles form tribes in which identity flows through the father. While we can conceive of a status based on action, what hint do we find in classical sources that the status of Amalek should be different than other tribes?

III. Haman the Amalekite?

I suggest that we can find such a hint in the Talmud Yerushalmi (Yevamos 2:6). Esther (3:1, 9:24) describes Haman as being the son of Hamedasa the Aggagite. The Talmud Yerushalmi asks why the text calls him the son of Hamedasa when he was not, and answers that he was comparable to Hamedasa in his enmity toward the Jews. Penei Moshe (ad loc.) explains that while Haman was descended from Hamedasa, he was really many generations removed. However, other commentaries suggest that the Talmud Yerushalmi meant that Haman was not descended in any literal way from Hamedasa, and hence from Agag the Amalekite. Sheyarei Korban (13a sv. ve-khi), R. Yerucham Fishel Perlow (Sefer Ha-Mitzvos Le-Rasag, p. 262) and R. Yerachmiel Zelcer (Ner Le-Me’ah on Purim, ch. 12) explain the Talmud Yerushalmi in that way.

Similarly, some modern commentators sever the lineage between Haman and Amalek. Da’as Mikra (Esther 3:1) quotes some recent commentators who suggest that Agag was the name of a Persian family and others who suggest that the Jews only called Haman an “Agagite” because of his evil ways. While it is often difficult and methodologically improper to reconcile modern biblical commentary with midrashic tradition, perhaps in this case, because of the Talmud Yerushalmi, we can do so without causing damage.

Yet, despite the Talmud Yerushalmi, Purim traditions ranging from the Torah reading to the obliteration of Haman’s name through booing clearly associate Haman with Amalek. The Talmud (Megillah 13a; Masekhes Soferim 13:6) explicitly states that Haman descended from Agag the Amalekite. While the Talmud Yerushalmi must disagree with this view, it would be difficult to separate Haman from the Amalek connection so common in rabbinic tradition.

Unless we assume that the Talmud Yerushalmi disputes the link between Haman and Amalek, we can infer from the text an indication that the status of Amalek is not dependent solely on descent. Even though Haman was not the son of Hamedasa, and therefore not a linealogical descendent of Amalek, he is still considered an Amalekite. As R. Soloveitchik explained as the Rambam’s view, someone like Haman who follows in Amalek’s footsteps acquires the nation’s despised status.

 

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Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Torah Musings.

 
The opinions and facts here are presented solely by the author. Torah Musings assumes no responsibility for them. Please address religious questions to your rabbi.
 

83 Responses

  1. Joseph Kaplan says:

    Whenever the position of the Rav is discussed it is important, I think, to explain the careful nuances of his position because he is, unfortunately, all too often misunderstood and misquoted. He notes in footnote 25 in Kol Dodi Dofek that there are two mitzvot regarding Amalek; one from Dvarim — a mitzvah on each individual Jew to blot out the memory of each individual Amalekite — and one from Shmot — a mitzvah on the community of Israel to do battle with the people of Amalek. It is the Shmot mitzvah that the Rav, in the name of his father, said applies to all nations who seek to destroy the Jewish people like the Nazis. But the Dvarim mitzvah, which is the “obligation to wipe out individual Amalekites . . . applies only to genealogical descendants of Amalek . . . and does not apply to any nations other than Amalek, even if that nation seeks to destroy the Jewish people [and this obligation is no longer in force....]“

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have a hard time believing that Haman himself would even know that he was descended from Amalek. Regardless of what time period the Purim story took place, Amalek was long forgotten, and it is very unlikely anybody knew who it’s decedents are. To think that the jews knew about Haman’s ancestry is far fetched.

    People that discuss this issue are doing what the Chassam Sofer terms Klayim, a mixture of aggada and halacha. The Yerushalmi is speaking homiletically. What kind of question is ‘was he really the son of Hamdasa?’ who ever heard of that name before, it appears only in the Megillah. The gemara is just pointing out the ה”א הידיעה in both names which in context obviously connotates something bad. Agag is also not to be taken as a literally. The pesukim say nothing about him conceiving a child in jail. That drash comes from a conflict of killing all of them, and then finding them a few years later in a story with Dovid (BTW it isn’t even possible if one accepts that Shaul’s reign was only 2.5 years). That question can have a simpler answer, and the drash was only meant to instill into the crowd the consequences of even just delaying to do the command of the navi for even one night.

    What the words actually mean we might never know (cf. אחשדרפנים) but the gemara uses it in a drash to refer to the already well known homiletic interpretation about Agag. The above understanding does not tell us anything about the halachik criteria for Amalek, which can still go both ways.

    If you were going to adopt a fundamentalist’s understanding of the sources, you might as well just quote the Zohar (which fundamentalist assume was written by Rashbi) which clearly did not think it was genealogical. Once you quote him the case is closed, right?

  3. yaak says:

    The Targumim also clearly show Haman’s lineage from Amalek.

    The Targum says: ית המן בר המדתא די מזרעית אגג בר עמלק רשיעא

    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=9596&st=&pgnum=661

    Targum Sheni has his entire lineage:

    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=35990&st=&pgnum=23

  4. Anonymous says:

    And Matthew has a list of 28 generations from Jesus until David, and Luke has one that spans 43 generations.

    The targumim to Ester are of very late origin. Rav Hai wrote that they were written by a hedyot. Targum Sheini actually utilizes the LXX text, as it has two extra chapters. Of course they also used the Agada in the Bavli!

  5. Nachum says:

    The Greek version of Esther describes Haman as a “Bougean,” which may be a corruption of “Agagi,” but at the very end calls him a “Macedonian.” There are a few explanations for this, but it may simply be replacing a historical enemy (Amalek) with a more contemporary one. If that’s the practice, it would indicate even more strongly that “Agagi” isn’t literal.

    Much has been written, of course, on the parallels between the Shaul/Agag and Mordechai/Haman stories.

  6. Moshe Shoshan says:

    Gil,
    I think there is a flaw in some of your arguments. You assume that the megilah describes a literal fulfilment of the mitzvah of mechiyat amaleck. Putting aside Joseph K.’s argument that the Rav never clsimed that this mitzva applied to non-genetic descendants of amalek, I think that this assumption is hardly neccessary. Those who say that Haman was not actually a descendant of agag king of amalek, would hold that the negilkah does not describe the fulfilment of mechiyas amalek, but at best makes a midrashic comparison between the war against amalek and the war against Haman and his followers.

  7. Shlomo says:

    People that discuss this issue are doing what the Chassam Sofer terms Klayim, a mixture of aggada and halacha. The Yerushalmi is speaking homiletically.

    There are many places where the Talmud mixes aggada and halacha and sees it as perfectly acceptable.

  8. IH says:

    מבני בניו של המן למדו תורה בבני ברק

    B. Sanhedrin 96b

  9. Hirhurim says:

    Joseph K is certainly correct and I quote the relevant footnote in this post: http://torahmusings.com/2007/02/rav-soloveitchik-on-amalek-peshat-or/

    Moshe S: Those who say that Haman was not actually a descendant of agag king of amalek, would hold that the negilkah does not describe the fulfilment of mechiyas amalek, but at best makes a midrashic comparison between the war against amalek and the war against Haman and his followers

    I find it more plausible to suggest that they would deny the connection between Haman and Amalek.

    IH: That will IYH be the subject of a post next week.

  10. ironi burgani says:

    The Rav seems to be saying that the mitzva of waging war against Amalek obligates the community to wage a pre-emptive war against a nation that threatens to destroy us.

    It is not clear whether this mitzva would require military actions that are not otherwise required under the general rules of self defense, or whether such a war would merely be a double “kiyum”.

    This is of course not devoid of current practical applications.

  11. aiwac says:

    The Greek version of Esther describes Haman as a “Bougean,” which may be a corruption of “Agagi,” but at the very end calls him a “Macedonian.” There are a few explanations for this, but it may simply be replacing a historical enemy (Amalek) with a more contemporary one.

    Um, when Macedon an enemy of the Jews? Or even the Persian Empire (at least until Philip II)?

    On a side note, I’d find it deliciously ironic to learn that Haman was a Greek – since they too were “divided amongst the nations” and often maintained a separate identity.

  12. Nachum says:

    aiwac, good points. Like I said, there are other explanations. But if we take “Macedonian” as written, Greece was an enemy of Persia in the time of Xerxes. Clearly this would be an anachronism dating to the time of the Septuagint or later, but perhaps “Macedonian” simply was meant as “Greek.” Or, possibly, the translation dates even later, like to the time of the Maccabees, and “Macedonian” means “Seleucid.”

  13. Ari Kahn says:

    The Rav cites this teaching in a few places, in one place in the name of his father and in another in the name of his grandfather Rav Chaim.
    See Divrei Hashkafa (Jerusalem: Elinor Publications, 1992) p. 217, Fate and Destiny (Hoboken, N.J.: Ktav Publications, 1990) p. 65, 92-95
    for more on this see
    http://arikahn.blogspot.com/2010/03/amalek-question-of-race.html

  14. Rafael Araujo says:

    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=51984&st=&pgnum=33

    See this link to a kuntres posted on hebrewbooks.org, “Hadras Kodesh”, where he discusses that Agag wasn’t from Amalek. In fact, he has a theory that Agag was king of Amalek, not an Amaleki himself, and that he was obligated to be killed just as the animals of Amalek had to be put to death. He also suggests that Agag’s mother was an Amalekis but not his father.

  15. aiwac says:

    Is Haman a linguistically “Greek” name?

  16. Tal Benschar says:

    Gil, I was thinking about it, and I think you can bring a different proof from the Megillah.

    1. The gemara says that the reason we lein Parshas Zachor before Purim is le hakdim zechirah le asiah. This certainly implies that the war waged in the time of Esther was a kiyum in Mechiyas Amalek.

    2. Putting aside Haman’s lineage, the Megillah is clear that the Jews waged war on all who hated them and wished them ill, and it seems that geneological heritage was not a requirement.

    Esther 9:2
    נִקְהֲלוּ הַיְּהוּדִים בְּעָרֵיהֶם, בְּכָל-מְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, לִשְׁלֹחַ יָד, בִּמְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתָם; וְאִישׁ לֹא-עָמַד לִפְנֵיהֶם, כִּי-נָפַל פַּחְדָּם עַל-כָּל-הָעַמִּים

    Esther 9:16

    וּשְׁאָר הַיְּהוּדִים אֲשֶׁר בִּמְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ נִקְהֲלוּ וְעָמֹד עַל-נַפְשָׁם, וְנוֹחַ מֵאֹיְבֵיהֶם, וְהָרוֹג בְּשֹׂנְאֵיהֶם, חֲמִשָּׁה וְשִׁבְעִים אָלֶף; וּבַבִּזָּה–לֹא שָׁלְחוּ, אֶת-יָדָם

    On the last point, I believe there are mefarshim (maybe midrashim?) who say that the reason they did not take the spoils of war was precisely because of the halakha of milchemes Amalek which forbids that.

  17. Nachum says:

    aiwac, like almost every name in the Megillah, it’s a Persian name. Isaac Asimov has a whole theory comparing the story to Persian mythology, in which Marduk and Ishtar inherited the positions of gods whose names sound suspiciously like “Haman” and “Vashti.” This was a fashionable idea among Bible critics from the 19th Century and, I suppose, into Asimov’s day, but is not accepted nowadays.

    Tal, we can assume that most Persians weren’t Amalekim. On the other hand, one wonders who the diehard anti-Semites who tried to attack Jews even after all the events took place were coming from.

  18. Rafael Araujo says:

    Here is an interesting Seforno in Parashas Beshalach, 17:13:

    אֶת עֲמָלֵק וְאֶת עַמּו. הַמְקֻבָּץ מֵעַם אַחֵר לְהִלָּחֵם

    In other words, commenting on the fact that Amalek is identified separate from him people, Seforno comments that Amalek himself waged war with a collection of other peoples. Therefore, this would be the basis for the idea that Amalek is not only geneological but a matter of ideology.

  19. aiwac says:

    Nachum,

    So on what basis did the translators call him a Macedonian?

    “This was a fashionable idea among Bible critics from the 19th Century and, I suppose, into Asimov’s day, but is not accepted nowadays”

    What is accepted? Is there a consensus? I did a bit of research on the subject a few weeks back and noticed that opinions seem divided on the historicity of Esther and its provenance.

  20. shlomo says:

    in reference to this statement: “in the Frankel edition of the Rambam’s index of commentaries despite the editor’s general rule of omitting Lubavitch and Religious Zionist authors” i can’t resist a purim wort, as unfortunate as it is. they don’t let in Chabad, the Rav, and Rav Kook. so that makes it’s rashei teivot: ChaRaK, which everyone knows in Hebrew is cockroach – and that’s it – they don’t let the charakim in, nebich for them and those who are looking for emes and the entire torah

  21. zach says:

    “Isaac Asimov has a whole theory comparing the story to Persian mythology, in which Marduk and Ishtar inherited the positions of gods whose names sound suspiciously like “Haman” and “Vashti.””

    Either you or Asimov got this one wrong. Marduk & Ishtar are analogous to Mordechai & Esther.

  22. Ariel says:

    The link between haman and amalek does not have to have halachik ramifications. Even if the yerushalmi meant he wasn’t from amelek, they could have still read about another group that wanted to destroy us. That doesn’t make haman into an amalekite halachically.

  23. shmuel says:

    Was the queen’s Heberew name hadassah or Esther? Siddhartha Mukherjee in his excellent Emperor of All Maladies describes a Persian Queen Atossa, whose Greek slave cut off her malignant breast and lived at the same time as King Cyrus (aka Koresh) Kinda sounds like Haddasah aka Esther? Speculative I know but interesting still

  24. ANON:

    “The targumim to Ester are of very late origin. Rav Hai wrote that they were written by a hedyot.”

    and are you refering to targum rishon and sheni? source? (EJ has an article on sheni, but not rishon)

    NACHUM:

    “Tal, we can assume that most Persians weren’t Amalekim.”

    of course not, but so what?

    TAL:

    “On the last point, I believe there are mefarshim (maybe midrashim?) who say that the reason they did not take the spoils of war was precisely because of the halakha of milchemes Amalek which forbids that.”

    i just read this in r. fohrman’s “The Queen You Thought You Knew,” although he doesn’t cite a source. however, i’m not sure if it’s accurate. what is the source that we can’t take spoils of war with amalek? iirc the peshat (certainly so with shaul) forbids taking animal booty, as they must be killed with the humans, but where is the issur on non-living booty?
    (and interestingly, in the first letter that mordechai dictates to the scribes he does state that the jews may take the spoils of war, although of course later the megillah testifies they did not do so)

  25. wrt to the moral question of committing genocide (my son keeps asking me about why the kids are killed), i found an interesting article by r. melamed today http://www.yeshiva.org.il/midrash/shiur.asp?id=7037
    where at end he discusses under what conditions an amalakite can be spared.

    IH (and GIL):

    “מבני בניו של המן למדו תורה בבני ברק”

    see the link i just posted at the end

  26. ruvie says:

    gil – “Rambam rules that the commandment to destroy the seven Canaanite nations no longer applies because Sancheriv dispersed the nations but fails to rule similarly regarding the commandment to destroy Amalek”

    of course we need to acknowledge that the rambam limited the halacha as it applies to amalek (as oppose to the sefer hahinnukh). see hilkhot melachim 6:1 and 6:4 where he makes the point that the same rules applies to make peace – wikth amalek – and accept the noachide laws (as the seven nations) there is no war. he does to some degree equate the law with 7 nations with amalek.

    there is no absolute law to eliminate amalek (proof would b e gittin 52b – haman’s descendants learning torah – assumes they can convert as well which is the rambam’s view too). we some times confuse the view with the more stringent view of the sefer hakhinnukh.

  27. ruvie says:

    abba’s ranting – for your son’s question see r’ helfgot’s – amalek:ethics, values, and halakhic development in his new book Mikra and meaning.

  28. aiwac says:

    Interesting side point, but I remember clearly from reading both the Torah and the Nevi’im Rishonim that in practice Amalek never changed its belligerent activities. They joined up with Midyan to attack the northern tribes in Shoftim and constantly raided Judaea during Saul and David’s time.

    It makes me wonder what would have happened if they had done teshuva and/or made peace with Israel at the time, whether they could have halachically been spared (and how could Saul keep an Amalekite youth on hand if this wasn’t the case?). Doesn’t solve the genocide dilemma, but it does make things more interesting.

    On another side note – both from text and archaeology it’s pretty clear that many of the Canaanites were assimilated rather than killed. What does that say about zera Yisra’el? :) Could the same process, lehavdil, be justified post-facto today with all the ‘non-Jewish Jews’? Rav Yoel Amital wrote an article on just such a subject (in Hebrew):

    http://www.shaalvim.co.il/uploads/files/11-B-8_21-31.pdf

    OK, rambling over.

  29. aiwac says:

    “abba’s ranting – for your son’s question see r’ helfgot’s – amalek:ethics, values, and halakhic development in his new book Mikra and meaning.”

    Ruvie, how did you get your hands on a copy – according to Amazon it hasn’t been released yet?!

  30. Daniel says:

    “…I believe there are mefarshim (maybe midrashim?) who say that the reason they did not take the spoils of war was precisely because of the halakha of milchemes Amalek which forbids that.”

    Rabbeinu Bachye says so, IIRC.

  31. Anonymous says:

    @ Shlomo
    I was quite tired when I made my comment and I didn’t not explain well. There are also two inaccuracies in what I wrote do to my tiredness. אחשדרפנים should really be אחשתרנים. And the Chasam Sofer said his comment in reference to mixing Kabalah with halacha, not aggada and halach. Nonetheless I think he would agree to both, as many people have said similar things. He was referring to mixing Kabalah with halacha in halachik discourse. Kabalah is full of references to halacha in kabalistic exposition, but per the Chasam Sofer non were ever meant to be incorporated into psak. The same goes for aggada, its fine to mix them as long as you don’t take any halachot out of it. But truth be told the gemara does seem to even do this sometimes. I would assume that ChS would explain those gemras away so as to fit with his ideology. Some would say that those instances are the work of the redactors and the sages themselves would have never mix the two. Either way, it is now accepted not to mix the two in halachik discourse.

    In regards to LXX’s identification of Haman as a Macadonian. Achashverosh is to be identified with Xerxes, see the appendix to Mitchell First’s Jewish History in Conflict. The rise of Macadonia didn’t not occur until Phillip’s reign, 100 years after Xerxes had died. Nachum is incorrect about wars between the two. These additions to the Megillah while appearing in LXX are actually from a hebrew addition translated to greek in 114BC, see http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%AA%D7%95%D7%A1%D7%A4%D7%95%D7%AA_%D7%9C%D7%9E%D7%92%D7%99%D7%9C%D7%AA_%D7%90%D7%A1%D7%AA%D7%A8. These additions do not appear in the masoretic text, as it was canonized before then. They were added some time before then by somebody who did not know their history. The identification of Xerxes as a Achoshverosh may help identify Mordichai and Esther, see First cites above.

    @Abba
    Rav Hai’s teshuvah does not say any particular targum. He was referring to the many targumim that were about at that time.

  32. ruvie says:

    aiwac – yu seforim sale.

    aiwac – the genocide issue really comes from the command to kill to shaul- shmuel 1 15:2-3.
    he quotes r’ medan who proves in his well known esssay on amalek (its probably on vbm-torah.org – amalek in al derekh haavot : alon shvut 2001) that the command to kill “infant and suckling” is not literal but only in the context of war we must be willing to make no comprimeses and equates it to the allied bombing of civillians in wwII.

  33. aiwac says:

    “aiwac – the genocide issue really comes from the command to kill to shaul- shmuel 1 15:2-3. he quotes r’ medan who proves in his well known esssay on amalek (its probably on vbm-torah.org – amalek in al derekh haavot : alon shvut 2001) that the command to kill “infant and suckling” is not literal but only in the context of war we must be willing to make no comprimeses and equates it to the allied bombing of civillians in wwII”

    Ruvie,

    That would be more logical and it makes sense in the historical context as well (or literary context if you’re an allegorist). I’ve often felt people who discuss Amalek need to learn the full textual story first before debating the issue.

  34. ruvie says:

    aiwac – i try not to confuse history and halacha. the nice derashot we see on amalek and facts in the megillah story – to reconcile that with the talmud falls into the same paradigm (for me ) to the 100 plus reasons by many of the holiday of chanukah being 8 days vs the the miracle the pach shemen (what was and how long). the reality of what and how things happen are one thing – in the end we like to harmonize everything in halacha to the reality of history as chazal may have understood it. makes for lomdus.

  35. TAL:

    furthermore, wrt the booty issue, mordechai does get haman’s rechush. i guess you argue he didn’t take it, but rather achashveirosh gave it to him. but still, as i commented above, in his letter he permitted the jews to take booty.

    btw, acc. to midrash artscroll “mordechai had permitted the jews to take the property of hte people they killed. but the jewish people themselves decieded not to. they did not want anyone to think they cared about other people’s money. the poor people had the hardest time not taking the spoils because htey were so needy. this is why the poor people receive matanos l’evyonim every year on purim”

    RUVIE:

    perhaps you should have told me about the book last week when i was at the sale. although probably better i didn;t know about it.
    also, my son is very young. if you tell me to buy the book rather than give me a one-line answer then it’ll be over his head :)

  36. RUVIE:

    “haman’s descendants learning torah – assumes they can convert as well which is the rambam’s view too”

    yes. or the descendants of a raped woman. see link i gave above. (unless the book discusses all this anyway)

  37. Nachum says:

    aiwac:

    I don’t know why they call him a Macedonian, but they do. (One website I’ve seen suggests that Gog was identified with Macedonia and “Agagi” was corrupted to that. No evidence, though.) That tells me that they were either trying to stress that he was not Persian (Wikipedia suggests that it may be a corruption of “Mede”), or that he was an *enemy* of Persia, anachronistically conflating Greece and Macedonia, or that they are writing post 175 BCE and anachronistically making his nation an enemy of the Jews (conflating Macedonia and the Seleucids).

    “What is accepted? Is there a consensus? I did a bit of research on the subject a few weeks back and noticed that opinions seem divided on the historicity of Esther and its provenance.”

    The origin is Bible critics from the 19th Century. It seems the theory is not accepted today even by those who doubt the provenance of the book (and I’d hardly use the word “divided” here). Of course, those who *promoted* the theory clearly didn’t hold the book to be historical.

    zach: The *names* are clearly analogous, but that’s small potatoes. This theory was that the whole *story* is analogous to the story of those gods.

    shmuel: Haddasah is Hebrew; Esther is Persian. Cyrus is far too early for this story, most likely.

    abba: Most of those out to kill Jews here would have been Persian, not Amaleki- at least in Shushan. Sancheirev didn’t get to Persia to mix them up.

    Anonymous: As I wrote, “Macedonian” would be an anachronism. Xerxes, of course, fought the Greeks. (See a recent film.) The mention of “Macedonian” is actually not in one of the “additions” but in the text, which is different in a number of ways. None of that is important- of course they got their history wrong. I’m just pointing out that in getting it wrong, they may have shown us what they thought about Haman and his people.

  38. Ruvie says:

    Abba’ ranting- r’ maintains the rambam’s view is there is no genocide from an halachik point of view – see my responses above but will quote the ending later when I can.

  39. Tal Benschar says:

    “Tal, we can assume that most Persians weren’t Amalekim.”

    of course not, but so what?

    Nachum and Abba’s Rantings, that is precisely my point. The gemara calls the war of Purim “asiyah,” meaning Milchemes Amalek. And yet most were not geneologically Amalek. They were anti-semites — those who hated the Jews and wished them evil. That seems to support the position that Amalek is an ideological, not geneological status.

  40. aiwac says:

    “and I’d hardly use the word “divided” here”

    So what word would you use?

  41. Tal Benschar says:

    Another possible proof (or at least support). The Torah says that Hashem’s war against Amalek is for all generations — mi dor dor.

    Yet we all now that Sancherev mixed everything up and there is no more identifiable Amalek at least in a geneological sense. So one might infer that the war pan-generational war on Amalek includes ideological Amalek.

    (Tosafos makes a similar diyuk w.r.t. geirus. The gemara says that geirus requires three things — milah, tevilah and korban, based on the bris at Har Sinai. So how do we do geirus today without korbanos. Tosafos answer that the possuk from which the gemara learns out the three requirements for geirus (kachem kager) also states that the law is “le dorseichem.” Meaning it functions in every generation. Since we have no Beis ha Mikdash today and cannot bring korbanos, then Tosafos reason perforce geirus must operate without the need for korbanos.)

  42. Rafael Araujo says:

    Tal – my citation of the Seforno is also a support to this idea, even pre-Sancherev. According to the Seforno’s pshat in the pasuk, Amalek gathered ideological brothers in arms to attack BY in the midbar. Therefore, the war against Amalek is a war against an ideology of anti-Jewish hatred, whatever the nationality of the hater, just like those who joined Amalek in his attack.

    BTW, in the kuntres I linked to, it discusses many of these inyanim.

  43. Rafael Araujo says:

    “Rabbeinu Bachye says so, IIRC.”

    Yes. Parashas Beshalach, 17:16.

  44. Rafael Araujo says:

    In the kuntres, Rabbi Menashe Miller argues that there are two mitvos: “timcheh amalek” and “emche amalek”. Emche amalek is only required by a nevuah, and that is the mitzvoh that was placed on Shaul HaMelech’s shoulders. In the mitzvoh of “emcheh” there is a mitzvoh of killing amalek’s animals. However, that is not part of the mitzvoh of “timcheh” and is the reason the RAMBAM doesn’t mention it. This chiluk then answers why when Dovid HaMelech attacked amalek he didn’t kill their animals, since he did it as part of the mitzvoh of “timcheh” and not “emcheh”. See page 13: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=51984&st=&pgnum=13

  45. Steve Brizel says:

    Sometimes, we tend to forget that even a Jew R”L can act and behave like Amalek ( possibly as in the annexed link http://www.jewishideasdaily.com/content/module/2012/2/29/main-feature/1/gertrude-stein-fascist/g/1, or in the well documented role of Jews who played no small role in the rise of Communism), and that Bnei Haman can learn Torah today in Bnei Brak and elsewhere.

  46. Steve Brizel says:

    For those interested in contemporary anti Semitism and its threats to the Jewish People, see the annexed link. http://www.jidaily.com/3w40/e

  47. Joseph Kaplan says:

    While there are, unfortunately, Jews whose actions we are not proud of, I think it would be wise to be a bit more careful about throwing around the appellation of Amalek with regard to our brothers and sisters.

  48. Anonymous says:

    @Nachum
    What qualifies as an addition if not a whole sentence not found in the masoretic text?

  49. shaul shapira says:

    In thinking aloud, the Rav says Fatah is amalek.

  50. Steve Brizel says:

    Joseph Kaplan-Someone who aided and abetted Petain Yimach Shmo VZicro, and in 1934 claimed that Hitler Yimach Shmo VZicro deserved the Nobel Peace Prize ( see the linked article) , as well as Trotsky & Co., deserve the appellation of Jews acting in furtherance of the goals of Amalek.

  51. Tal Benschar says:

    iirc the peshat (certainly so with shaul) forbids taking animal booty, as they must be killed with the humans, but where is the issur on non-living booty?
    (and interestingly, in the first letter that mordechai dictates to the scribes he does state that the jews may take the spoils of war, although of course later the megillah testifies they did not do so)

    furthermore, wrt the booty issue, mordechai does get haman’s rechush. i guess you argue he didn’t take it, but rather achashveirosh gave it to him. but still, as i commented above, in his letter he permitted the jews to take booty

    1. The TOrah Temimah (Dev. 25:19) cites a Midrash, quoted in the Tur and Orchos Chaim, that the mitzvah of blotting out the name of Amalek extends even to stones and wood.

    In fact, the mitzvah comes from “timcheh es zecher Amalek” — wipe out their name. Rashi explains this means wipe out their name EVEN on their animals, so that no one should say, this animal comes from Amalek. No reason why that should not apply to other property — the point is to wipe out their name. (Yimach Shmo, as we say.)

    2. Why did Mordechai write that they had permission to take the spoils of war if no one took it? The Megillah seems to go out of its way to point out that he gave permission but they did not take it in fact.

    I think the answer is that all that was done was at the permission of Ahasuerus, the ultimate authority in the Persian Empire. They needed his permission to even defend themselves, let alone take the spoils of war. Had Mordechai not written the permission in the decree, then they would have had no right to take the spoils of war, and their refraining from doing so would have meant nothing. It is only because they were entitled to do so yet refrained is there any kiyum of not taking the spoils of war from the Amalekites. (Contrast this to Shaul, who was a sovereign king with full rights of the spoils of war.)

    3. The possuk in Shmuel I says that they should wipe out (hehecheramtem) all that belongs to Amalek.

    4. Ahasuerus actually gave Haman’s house to Esther, not Mordechai. If one says that women are patur from Mechiyas Amalek (as does the Chinuch, others disagree), then there is no question.

    Another answer, as suggested, is that Ahasuerus is the one who actually gave it. It seems that somehow the title passed to Ahasuerus. (Eminent Domain? Or, I vaguely recall that in the ancient world, when someone was condemned to death, his property was forfeit to the king. In fact, the Gemara in Sanhedrin 48b quotes a baraisa that this is the halakha — i>harugei malchus nichseihen le melech)

    If so, I wonder (this is my speculation) whether the intervening ownership by the Persian Ahasuerus was “metaher” the property. (Similar thing by Moab and Sichon. Klal Yisroel was forbidden to conquer Moabite land. But when Sichon conquered a piece of Moab, that conquest was “metaher” that land and permitted its conquest. So says Rashi, quoting Chazal.)

  52. Tal Benschar says:

    One more point. In the Sefer Talelei Oros, he asks the question about how Esther was allowed to take Haman’s house, since he was from Amalek.

    He answers that the entire prohibition of benefitting from Amalekite property is when it is seized as the spoils of war — meaning during the waging of the war against Amalek. This is why the Jews, when they warred with Amalek, refrained from taking the spoils.

    Esther, however, did not wage war on Haman — he was killed at the king’s command, some 11 months before the war began. Her receiving the house had nothing to do with the waging of war — the house was simply confiscated by the King. As such there was no issur at all. He adds this is why the Megillah says “On that day” Ahasuerus gave the house to Esther — that day was months before the war.

  53. Joseph Kaplan says:

    Steve, The problem with glibly throwing around the epithet Amalek is the same problem with doing that with the words “Nazi” or “Holocaust.” When every tragedy is a Holocaust and every two-bit despot is a Nazi or Amalek, then the Shoah and Nazis and Amalek are no big deal. The Rav knew about Gertrude Stein and Jewish communists, but the examples of Amalek that he used in KDD were “the Nazis, with Hitler at their head . . . [and] the mobs of Nasser and the Mufti.” His careful and thoughtful use of words is something we all can learn from.

  54. Nachum says:

    Tal: Don’t get me wrong; we’re agreed. My point about the Persians was in support of you. I was also responding to those who might argue that the mixing of nations means that *anyone* can potentially be Amalek, which if I read you right is the exact opposite of your point. (They mean genetically; you mean as anti-Semites.)

    aiwac, I suspect there are very few (secular) Bible scholars who treat Esther with any credibility as history. A few might try to find a similar name here or there, but that’s about it.

    Anonymous: There are a set of “additions” to Esther. They were part and parcel of the Greek text, but Jerome removed them and put them at the end. (This is why they’re numbered chapters 11, 12, etc., as the numbering of chapters came long after Jerome.) Jerome and the Catholics, though, used the rest of the Greek texts for their Bible. The Protestants used the Hebrew Esther for theirs, but included the “additions” alone in the Apocrypha. The Oxford NRSV Apocrypha, realizing that the Greek text is different, includes a translation of the Hebrew in the “Old Testmament,” and a translation of the Greek (with the additions restored) in the Apocrypha.

    Short answer: There are a number of differences between the Hebrew and Greek apart from the “Additions.” Some references to “Macedonian” are in the Additions, but one is not. See http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/17-esther-nets.pdf for the whole book (two versions, in fact), and search for “Macedonian.”

    Tal, wouldn’t p’shat be that they could have taken spoils but acted l’fnim m’shurat hadin?

    Steve, you’re going a bit overboard. A lot of perfectly respectable people were fascists in the 20′s and 30′s without being anti-Semites (some were Jews!). See Jonah Goldberg’s book for more on this. Among other things, fascism for a while was actually seen as progressive and something a good liberal should support. (Yes, it makes sense in context. Hitler and Stalin were best buds for a while.) It’s not like they knew about the Holocaust in 1930, or even 1934. Mussolini was a fascist and most likely not an anti-Semite.

    It’s not like I’m a big fan of Stein or what she did. (I’m certainly no fan of fascism or the nearly indistinguishable Naziism, both very similar to Communism.) But let’s remember that she suffered during the war because of her Jewishness, something that can’t be said of most of us.

  55. Nachum says:

    By the way, I have a policy of not judging anyone who didn’t live up to perfect standards in that era, so long as we’re honest about history. (Except, of course, those who actually killed Jews.) Do you even know what you’d have done if you were in Petain’s shoes? I think Kastner was no hero and did some awful things, but I shudder to think what I would have done if I was given his choices. I’m reminded of something Cecil Adams once wrote:

    “Some say Vlasov and the other Russians who collaborated with the Nazis aren’t worth crying over–they were traitors, after all. But I’d say they deserve a little sympathy. They could fight for either Hitler or Stalin, and life offers few choices more dismal than that.”

  56. [...] people (though the Tanach claims that this has been accomplished; see Chronicles I 4:41-3).  A more modern reading of this aspect of Jewish identity is to see Amalek not as a distinct people, of whom the guilty and [...]

  57. ruvie says:

    abba’s rantings and aiwac: you can read r’ helgot’s article here (part of a companion analysis of shmuel):
    see page 92-93

    http://books.google.com/books?id=y74-x96GwSkC&pg=PA79&dq=amalek:+ethics,values+and+halakhic+development,+helfgot&hl=en&sa=X&ei=iWFPT9bjNonw0gGp0NGDDg&ved=0CDIQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=amalek%3A%20ethics%2Cvalues%20and%20halakhic%20development%2C%20helfgot&f=false

    it seems that the rambam rejects genocide understanding of the mitzvah (one must klill every descendant etc.). the avnei nezer and the chazon ish adopt his approach and reject the idea that one must kill baby amalekites and/or would be converts – see the end of the article.

  58. aiwac says:

    “I suspect there are very few (secular) Bible scholars who treat Esther with any credibility as history”

    I can understand doubting many of the details of the story, but I was under the impression that there are those who hold to a “middle view” that acknowledges an historical kernel while not accepting the story in its entirety.

    ruvie,

    Thanks.

  59. Steve Brizel says:

    Joseph Kaplan wrote:

    “Steve, The problem with glibly throwing around the epithet Amalek is the same problem with doing that with the words “Nazi” or “Holocaust.” When every tragedy is a Holocaust and every two-bit despot is a Nazi or Amalek, then the Shoah and Nazis and Amalek are no big deal. The Rav knew about Gertrude Stein and Jewish communists, but the examples of Amalek that he used in KDD were “the Nazis, with Hitler at their head . . . [and] the mobs of Nasser and the Mufti.” His careful and thoughtful use of words is something we all can learn from”

    Joseph Kaplan-I don’t use the term Amalek lightly, but I would point out that RYBS was a rather strong critic of Communism, ( see Days of Deliverance at Pages 104, 112,126, and viewed it as a failing to understand Koheles 3:2-8 that “with respect to a movement such as Nazism and certain aspects of Communism,the absence of a hatred that dictates action is just as mean and despicable as an unwarranted hatred. The fight against evil must be suffused with disjunctive emotions.” ( Out of the Whirlwind at Page 185). See also Noraos HaRav, Volume 5, Pages 23-24) for a comparison by RYBS circa 1972 between man made morality in the West and the then USSR.

  60. Steve Brizel says:

    Nachum wrote:

    “Steve, you’re going a bit overboard. A lot of perfectly respectable people were fascists in the 20′s and 30′s without being anti-Semites (some were Jews!). See Jonah Goldberg’s book for more on this. Among other things, fascism for a while was actually seen as progressive and something a good liberal should support. (Yes, it makes sense in context. Hitler and Stalin were best buds for a while.) It’s not like they knew about the Holocaust in 1930, or even 1934. Mussolini was a fascist and most likely not an anti-Semite”

    Let’s put aside the question of Mussolini and consider Hitler and Stalin, who became “allies” vby virtue of the shortlived Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939. One of their common denominators was the suppression of the Jewish People- even during the 1930s. AFAIK, none of the sympathizers with Hitler in the US or the UK ( Henry Ford, Col. Charles Lindberg, Joseph Kennedy, Sr, etc and the Cliveden set in the UK) were known for their Ahavas Yisrael.

  61. Steve Brizel says:

    For those interested in Harvard, which like many of the Ivies, welcomed Nazis to its campus, but which maintained a strict Jewish quota, now welcomes BDS and worse to its campuses in the guise of an “academic conference”, see the annexed link, http://www.jidaily.com/889fJ. Why am I not surprised that Santayana’s famous adage was my first impression?

  62. Nachum says:

    Actually, lots of people who were lukewarm to Jews came out very firmly against the Nazis when the persecutions began. This tended to be the attitude among many prominent Britons, for example- Chesterton I think was one. It was something along the lines of, “Well, I don’t really like them, but I’m not boycotting them/ smashing their windows/ rounding them up/ exterminating them.” Quite a few (Lindbergh, for example) who were sympathetic to them in the thirties enthusiastically joined the US (or even UK, earlier) cause once the war began. The Communists, of course, acting under orders, opposed the war until Operation Barbarossa. And some were quietly evil throughout.

  63. Anonymous says:

    Nachum wrote:

    “Actually, lots of people who were lukewarm to Jews came out very firmly against the Nazis when the persecutions began. This tended to be the attitude among many prominent Britons, for example- Chesterton I think was one. It was something along the lines of, “Well, I don’t really like them, but I’m not boycotting them/ smashing their windows/ rounding them up/ exterminating them.” Quite a few (Lindbergh, for example) who were sympathetic to them in the thirties enthusiastically joined the US (or even UK, earlier) cause once the war began. The Communists, of course, acting under orders, opposed the war until Operation Barbarossa. And some were quietly evil throughout”

    Nachum-I think that you are engaging in revisionism, especially with respect to the Cliveden set, and Oswald Mosley, in particular . In the US, it cannot be denied that Henry Ford, Lindberg and Joseph Kennedy were unrepentant isolationists and vocally anti Semitic until Pearl Harbor. Ford funded the Dearborn Independent, and IIRC, the stridently anti Semitic Father Coughlan’s radio broadcasts. IIRC, both Joseph Kennedy Sr and Lindberg were given minimal roles after Pearl Harbor because of their pre Pearl Harbor views. In one of the bios of FDR, it is mentioned that one of FDR’s assistants received a call in the presence of FDR from either Lindberg or Joseph Kennedy, Sr re their belated realization that they could aid in the war effort , and FDR’s response was a horizontal drawing of his hand across his neck, as if to signify that their services would be called on if and when needed, IOW, a nice way of declining their assistance.

    In fact, Joseph Kennedy, Sr. maintained his views re FDR’s policies throughout the war. My father ZL who told me about cross burnings in our small town in the Catskills in the 1920s, attended and graduated Ohio State University, where Lindberg spoke on the campus , and gave his “America First” usual tirade with references to a “Jew’s war” literally on the eve of Pearl Harbor.

    The Soviets had a “Non Agression Pact” with the Nzzis whereby they maintained diplomatic and economic relations with the Third Reich from 1939 to 1941, while, as you correctly noted, stayed out of what they considered a war between imperialist dtates. It is well documented that the CPUSA especially trotted this line between 1939-41, until June 1941, when they suddenly became advocates of a second front. At that point, both FDR and Churchill came out in favor of an alliance against Hitler with Stalin, despite their obviously profound disagreements with Communism.

  64. Steve Brizel says:

    That last post was mine.

  65. aiwac says:

    ‘Tis the main reason why even though I am a conservative/libertarian, I don’t support Ron Paul. Back on topic, though, I was wondering what people thought of this post which recently appeared on Text & Texture:

    http://text.rcarabbis.org/remembering-amalek-constructively-and-meaningfully-by-yaakov-bieler/

  66. Lurk says:

    Another possible explanation of the Yerushalmi could be that while biologically Haman was descended from Hamdasa (and thus Amalek), Haman became an Eved Canaani, as the Gemara states, which is form of geirus which severed him from his lineage (ger shenisgayir kekatan shenolad dami). See R’ Yehonasan Eibshitz’s commentary on the Megillah which uses the concept of Haman as Eved Canaani to explain many passages in the Megillah.

  67. It never ceases to amaze me how this comment by the Rav is cited, misunderstood and abused. R. Hayyim/R. Moshe’s point that anyone who seeks to destroy the Jews has the status of Amalek is NOT an halakhic directive but a value judgement. IOW, we should understand that they are infected with the same irrational Jew hatred as the Amalekites and nothing more than that. There is absolutely no way that the Rav thought to create some kind of global license to kill Arabs, per se. (I believe I heard someone say that, but I don’t recall who). This is a homiletic point, people.

    Second, the Frankel edition shows that the two Halakhot are one, and that the words כבר אבד זכרם modify both. And, while R’ Hayyim and R. Moshe did not know that, the Rambam’s use of וכן achieves the same point.

  68. Nachum says:

    Steve, I think we’re agreed on all that.

  69. mycroft says:

    “There is absolutely no way that the Rav thought to create some kind of global license to kill Arabs, per se. ”

    Agreed-The Rav was certainly no Kahanist and in fact iti sclear he was far from a Betarist see his speech on Lord Carradon -Rubin schul Spring 1968.

  70. Nachum says:

    Thanks for the libel, mycroft. Kahanists and Meir Kahane do not and did not believe in murdering Arabs, much less on a “global” scale.

  71. Moshe says:

    Rabbi Meir Kahane advocated expelling the Arab enemy from Israel.

  72. Moshe says:

    When we look at what has transpired in Israel it is clear that Rabbi Kahane was right.

  73. Hirhurim says:

    R. Kahane was right in assessing the forthcoming problem. But plenty of people saw it coming. You might as well say that Yeshayahu Leibowitz was right! The question is what course of action would have prevented this outcome?

  74. Nachum says:

    Yeshayahu Leibowitz? Really? And since 1993? Reality, meet Gil Student. Gil Student, meet reality. He’s a good friend to have.

  75. Hirhurim says:

    Leibowitz was of the view that Israel had to immediately relinquish the territories conquered in 1967 because failure to do so would cause Arab animosity and Israeli moral ambiguity. Sounds like reality to me. According to him, Oslo was much too little, much too late.

  76. Nachum says:

    Yes, it’s always easy to say “too little, too late.” Those with more of a grasp of reality will point out that even the “minimal” Oslo was a disaster. You can imagine what listening to Leibowitz would have done.

    By the way, I have no “moral ambiguity” about holding onto land given by God. Do you?

    Oh, right. Forgot that.

  77. Hirhurim says:

    Nachum: Yes, it’s always easy to say “too little, too late.”

    He was saying it from the very beginning, as were others.

    By the way, I have no “moral ambiguity” about holding onto land given by God. Do you?

    Wow. Clearly there is no point in going into it.

  78. Nachum says:

    From the beginning? He died a few months after it was signed. Of course, those who supported it, even the chashuve roshei yeshiva, never had to apologize. Good intentions, yadda yadda. But those on the “right” side never have to apologize.

    No point indeed.

  79. Hirhurim says:

    From the beginning, meaning 1967.

  80. aiwac says:

    Leibowitz was great at extreme black-and-white statements that were edifying and useless in the real world. For instance, if it were up to him, we would have given up the Sinai without a peace treaty (remember, when he spoke of the territories, he meant these, too).

    Many of his predictions regarding Israel’s future moral degeneracy from the occupation were so wildly exaggerated that even with the passage of time it is hard to believe someone so intelligent could be so off-base. His frequent comparison of Israelis to Nazis and SS officers didn’t help much either.

    Which isn’t to say that I have any use for Kahana.

    “By the way, I have no “moral ambiguity” about holding onto land given by God. Do you?”

    The issue isn’t the land, but the disenfranchised population.

  81. [...] was not an Amalekite [see this post] (12, R. Yerucham Fishel [...]

 
 

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