This Weeks Haftorah
Rabbi Levi Langer

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"Zachor!" we are enjoined--remember! You must forever remember what Amalek did unto you on the road out of Egypt, when you had just experienced the wonderful miracles of the manna and the Red Sea and the clouds of glory. Unprovoked by you, Amalek nonetheless launched an all-out attack against your people.

Why did Amalek do this? Not because his land or his people were in any danger. Rather, he did it because his world-view was threatened. Amalek glorifies violence and blood and lust, and he sensed that the Jews, striding proudly through the desert under the banner of Hashem, posed a threat to his values and his lifestyle.

And so we are taught never to forget this attack, never to forget that even Amalek recognizes that his way of life can never mix with ours. For in fact there is a danger that we may ourselves forget this; that we may come to think that we can adopt some element of these foreign values for our own. So the Torah commands us to remember for all time that the battle between Amalek and us can never be brought to a halt. The very existence of the Amalek value-system is a contradiction to the role of the Jewish people in the world.

Our haftorah describes the victorious campaign King Saul waged against the Amalekite people. The story concludes with the death of Agag, king of Amalek, at the hand of the prophet Samuel. Agag had been taken captive during the battle. Samuel commanded that Agag be brought before him, and-- "Agag came to him in good spirits. And Agag said, 'Truly the bitterness of death has passed away.'"

Agag knew that he was about to be put to death. Then why did he say that "the bitterness of death has passed?" Because, writes Me'am Loez, Agag was now satisfied that he would die the death of a hero. He had been concerned that his death would be at the hand of some nameless executioner and would go unrecorded by posterity. But now that he was to be executed by the great Samuel himself, he was satisfied. Surely the history books would make much of this epic event: the final confrontation between the great Agag and the prophet Samuel

This, the final picture we are shown of the Amalekite king, portrays for us the essence of Agag in stark relief. Agag is going to his grave; he leaves behind nothing of endurance. His country lies in ruins. Yet he is satisfied, for he leaves behind him a proud trail emblazoned with the crimson blood of all the victims of his lifetime of butchery, and his death will provide a fitting conclusion for the drama of his life.

The life-work of the servant of Hashem is perhaps less dramatic. His work seldom makes headlines. But when he leave this earth, he leaves a world which is just a bit better for his having been there.

Copyright (c) 1997 by Rabbi Levi Langer

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