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The “Logical” Approach to Amalek

By: Rabbi Gershon Turetsky

This week’s Haftarah tells us the story of King Shaul taking mercy on Agag, the King of Amalek by sparing him and his nation’s choicest sheep and cattle. This was against the will of Hashem and eventually led to Shaul losing his crown to David Hamelech.

This Haftorah and Parshat Zachor are obviously connected to Purim. The simplest explanation of the relationship is that Haman “Ha’agagi” is a descendant of King Agag who Shaul battled. This is consistent with the Gemarah in Masechet Megilla (13) that explains that the reason Haman even existed was only because Shaul did not kill Agag when he had the opportunity.

Based on the Gemarah in Yoma (22), which describes Shaul as a person who had not “tasted the tatse of sin”, the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Likutei Sichot Vol. 3 pg. 168) provides an alternate approach. The Rebbe explains that Shaul erred and thought that he was indeed fulfilling the will of Hashem by not killing Agag and his cattle. Shaul believed that he could use what he captured for a higher purpose.

When one sacrifices an animal upon the Mizbeach he turn the physical animal into something spiritual. Shaul thought that sparing the cattle of Amalek would provide the perfect opportunity to turn the physical and impure world of Amalek into something incredibly spiritual. The problem was that Shaul f0llowed his own “seichel” instead of the true will of Hashem. He made the wrong call by putting his understanding of the situation above Kabalat Ol Malchut Shamayim. What Shaul did not realize is that there is room in Judaism for using one’s own seichel, but only after being Mekabel Ol Malchut Shamayim and understanding that our logical approach to issues and challenges must be through the lens of Kabalat Ol Malchut Shamayim, not in spite of it.

As a result of Shaul’s poor judgment the Jews suffered through the persecution of Agag’s descendant, Haman.

The Jews, during the time of Haman were charged with the task of being Mitaken the error of Shaul by submitting themselves to the will of Hashem and being Mekbal Ol Malchut Shamayim. In commemoration of this victory, of this fixing of the sin of Shaul, we have the concept of “Ad D’Lo Yada”. On Purim, we try to excise our own Seichel from the day (by taking a brief nap after the Seudah – See Rema OC, 695:2) and symbolically show that ultimately the will of Hashem takes precedence over all.


Categorized under: 1: Chagim > Purim