The War Against Amalek
By Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg 

The mashpia Reb Mendel Futerfas, a’h, related: One of the Alter Rebbe’s greatest Chassidim was R’ Zalman Zezmir, who later became the teacher and spiritual guide of R’ Hillel of Paritsh. R’ Zalman was the one who brought R’ Hillel to Chassidus Chabad.

R’ Hillel was holy from birth. While still a young child, his father brought him to R’ Mordechai Chernobler to receive his blessing. Little Hillel asked his father, in surprise, “Why is there a fire burning over the head of the ‘zeide?’”

When R’ Hillel matured and got a taste of Chassidus Chabad, he couldn’t get enough of it. He went to Lubavitch to the Mitteler Rebbe, despite the fact that R’ Mordechai Chernobler was very annoyed by this and warned him that if he did so he would end up “lying on the ground mitten pupik aroif (that is, face up, or literally, “with the navel facing up” — an expression describing one who has passed on).

The warning was clear and frightening, yet R’ Hillel remained undeterred. He felt that he simply could not — and should not — overcome his longing for Chassidus Chabad. On his way to Lubavitch, the wagon overturned, throwing R’ Hillel to the ground. He lay there on his back, face up. When he finally reached Lubavitch and went to the Rebbe, he told him what the Chernobler had said and about his concerns. The Rebbe smiled and said, “Don’t worry, it was fulfilled already. You’ve already laid on the ground face up, so you don’t have to worry anymore.”

When R’ Hillel first began to devote himself to avodas Hashem (Dive service), he abhorred his body. He felt that his body was “dragging him down,” making him coarse and preventing him from rising up and cleaving to G-d. He decided that his body was the source of all evil, and he did what he could to put it in its place by “breaking it” so that it would no longer interfere with his G-dly soul.

When R’ Zalman Zezmir realized what he was doing, he said: You are making a bitter mistake. The physical body, despite its lowliness and materiality, is a vehicle by which one may rise up and cleave to Hashem. This is done by refining it, not breaking it.

The body is nothing but a filter through which you can see G-dliness. Just as a blackened piece of glass is needed to gaze at the sun — for the light of the sun is too powerful to look at it with the naked eye — so too with the physical body. By working on it and with it to purify and fix it (and not by breaking and afflicting it) one can achieve a true Divine service, and even the aspect of “seeing” G-dliness.

The Baal Shem Tov explained this concept with the verse:

When you see — when you contemplate and “see” that…

the chamor — (literally, donkey, but here referring to) the “physicality” — chumriyus — of the body…

of your enemy — who hates the soul that pines for G-dliness and spirituality, and you consider breaking it — know that this is not the Torah way; rather…

help it — you must refine the body and fix it, and not break it with fasting and affliction.

R’ Zalman continued: Just as the sun can be seen in a drop of water even though it is only a tiny drop, so too, through the “glass” of the body all of G-dliness can be seen.

From then on, R’ Hillel stopped despising his body. He came to appreciate the advantage of the body when it is refined, and worked to achieve this.

* * *

R’ Hillel would say: R’ Zalman taught me not to loathe the physical body, but R’ Zalman hated “Amalek” with a passion. When he heard Parshas Zachor he was filled with such an utter rage for Amalek that one could see it on his face; his face reddened in anger.

I have seen many people who hate evil, said R’ Hillel, and I have seen Chassidim who hate Amalek and want to erase him, but such a deep hatred of Amalek as I saw in R’ Zalman, I never saw anywhere else.


In fact, R’ Zalman actually became close to the Alter Rebbe through hating Amalek...

The famous Chassid R’ Binyamin Kletzker was one of the Alter Rebbe’s Chassidim. [He is well known for the story about the “bottom line.” He had a large lumber business and when he did his accounts the bottom line was “ein od milvado” (there is nothing aside from G-d).]

He would contemplate the greatness and unity of G-d amidst the hubbub of his business. When asked, “how can you think these deep thoughts in the tumult of the business world?” he would reply in surprise, “If it isn’t utterly impossible in the middle of “echad” (of Krias Shma; that is, the moment of contemplating Hashem’s oneness) for a person to have a thought about his lumber business, why should you consider it impossible that in middle of conducting business, one thinks about “echad?”

R’ Binyamin once spent Shabbos Parshas Zachor in the city where R’ Zalman Zezmir lived. R’ Zalman at the time was a lamdan and a gaon (scholar and genius), but far from Chassidus. There was no Chabad shul in the town, so R’ Binyamin davened in the shul of the Misnagdim (those opposed to Chassidus). That Shabbos his davening took a long time, as it usually did, but he stopped to listen to krias ha’Torah.

When Parshas Zachor was recited, R’ Binyamin’s face turned red. He was suffused with a powerful antipathy towards Amalek and passionately desired to wipe them out. R’ Zalman could see that R’ Binyamin truly despised Amalek and wished to get rid of them, and this impressed him greatly.

At some point R’ Binyamin realized that R’ Zalman’s eyes were upon him, and he asked him what he wanted.

“What did Amalek do to you, more than any other Jew, that you hate him so thoroughly? Where does this come from?”

Instead of answering him directly, R’ Binyamin said, “Go to Liozna to the Alter Rebbe.”

R’ Zalman went to Liozna and became one of the greatest students and Chassidim of the Alter Rebbe. He learned to serve Hashem in the ways of Chassidus Chabad and learned how to erase “Amalek.” On Parshas Zachor one could see how his hatred of Amalek permeated his being, to the point that his student R’ Hillel commented, “I have never seen a hatred like this.”


Amalek comes to each one of us when we come to “Refidim,” as Rashi explains, “when their hands were weak from words of Torah.”

As long as we delve into Torah, the Torah of the Rebbe MH”M, particularly the Dvar Malchus of 5751-5752, then we have nothing to fear from “Amalek.” The Rebbe’s Torah permeates a Jew’s entire being and guides him forward to Mattan Torah and to greet Moshiach without taking anyone or anything else into consideration.

It is only when “their hands were weak from words of Torah” that Amalek is likely to come. That is, specifically the “hands” and not the “head.” For the head may well continue to learn and understand and delve into and even publish novel insights on the Torah, and even material on the topics of Moshiach and Redemption. But when these things are said merely with the “head,” on the elevated level of learning and pilpul, when they are not “brought down” to the low level of the body, of the “hands” and heart (which is “physical just like the other limbs of the body, which are the tools of action, except that it is internal and [gives] life to them” — Tanya 16), when what is learned does not come down into daily life such that it is permeated with “living with Moshiach” and it becomes the axis around which everything turns — when this happens, when the “hands” are weak, then Amalek is indeed likely to come.

 Amalek also “knows his Master,” he learns Nigla and Chassidus and even contemplates G-dliness and davens at length. He also refers to the “seventh generation” and excitedly gets involved in the “maamarim and sichos of Nasi Doreinu.” However, he comes to make a separation between theory and action, between Torah and the heart and “hands.” He says that not everything that is good and true on a theoretical level is good and true on a practical level, in this physical world.

“Amalek” shares the same etymological root as “u’malak es rosho” (and he pinches off its [the bird’s] head). Amalek tries to “pinch off” the head from the body, to separate the inner emuna of a Jew and his conduct in daily life, particularly when he goes out to deal with others.

He makes use of all the holy and truthful words that he learned, starting with “keilim d’Tikkun,” “ofen ha’miskabel,” and including “ahavas Yisroel,” “unity amongst Chassidim,” and “b’koach ha’Torah.” He wants to instill doubt (“Amalek” being the numerical equivalent of “safek,” doubt) and cool off a Jew’s enthusiasm to hold him back from greeting Moshiach.

Amalek knows who to deal with. He knows that there are those who are “within the cloud,” those who are surrounded and protected by the “clouds of glory” (the Dvar Malchus), and that he won’t be able to affect them even with all the “proofs” of the one “who knows his Master.”

But there are those who the cloud threw out, “the weak ones following you,” those who are “tired and weary,” tired of Exile, tired of the projects to bring Moshiach after the seven or eight years have passed since the besuras ha’Geula.

Those in the situation of “and did not fear G-d” are faced with Amalek, who tries to sabotage their emuna and their absolute knowledge that we are moving forward towards the revelation of the Rebbe MH”M with the final Redemption.


On the verse “ki yad al keis ka,” Rashi says, “Hashem swears that His name remains incomplete and his throne remains incomplete until the seed of Amalek is destroyed.”

Amalek tries to separate and “pinch off” the Yud from the Hei of Hashem’s name, he tries to separate chochma from bina, and the Vav and Hei of Hashem’s name, which add up to Yud-Alef (11) the first letters of “Yechi Adoneinu.” In other words, he tries to leave us with “theories” and not allow us to bring it down into action.

Even Hashem’s throne and the throne of Melech HaMoshiach remain incomplete until Amalek is destroyed, for Amalek wants to “cover over” (from the same root as “throne”) the royal throne of Moshiach, leaving him as a teacher and not as king.

In earlier battles we were instructed not to fight on the front line. We were told “Hashem will fight for you and you be quiet.” We knew that our strength came not from our efforts in war, but from following Hashem and Moshe. We did not pay attention to those around us who demanded a “normal” reaction, for we knew that our job was to disseminate light and warmth. If there was a need for war, Hashem would fight for us. We wholeheartedly followed Moshe and did not care about whether our approach met the approval of others or not.

But suddenly everything changed. This time we have to take weapons and actually fight. This time the enemy doesn’t threaten us from behind or from the side; he is standing in the middle of the road. He prevents us from moving forward to Mattan Torah. He precludes our following Moshe’s guidelines, and therefore, we cannot take anything into consideration, not even the fact that this was never our approach before and we are not accustomed to fighting and we don’t even know how to fight.

This time there is no choice. If we want to follow Moshe, we must fight the enemy standing in the way, who disturbs us and tries to stop us.


At such a critical time, during a war with such a dangerous enemy — an enemy that can only be vanquished by “choose men for us,” “Moshe’s men,” who are completely devoted to Moshe, the “first redeemer and the final redeemer” — it seems as though Moshe is not with us. He went “up the hill” along with Aharon and Chur. He seems to have left the fighting down below to “Moshe’s men” who seem to be alone.

But the truth is that this war can only be won with the strength of Moshe Rabbeinu. He is directing this war. When his hands are raised or lowered it affects the battle. Only “Moshe’s men” can deal with Amalek and win the war.

Although this is true — for the bystander, or even for the person actually fighting — it seems as though Moshe went up the hill and left his soldiers alone, open to the attack of Amalek. In order to defeat Amalek, even Moshe “raises his hands above his head,” which refers to a strengthening in simple faith, which is above intellect.

Intellect on its own does not have the ability to defeat Amalek. This is true of even Moshe’s intellect. It is only when we have uncalculated simple faith that we can be victorious.

“Moshe’s men” knew good and well that Moshe Rabbeinu is the one directing this war and that he is with us every step of the way. When we know that the Rebbe takes every one by the hand, and when we throw ourselves into the war, completely dedicated to Moshe Rabbeinu, and we learn his Torah with the awareness that the Rebbe is saying these sichos to us now; and we disseminate the besuras ha’Geula; live with the definite knowledge that the Rebbe is with us and with the simcha that Moshiach is arriving momentarily (and conduct ourselves with true ahavas Yisroel towards those who don’t think like us, while trying to influence them into becoming “Moshe’s men”), while simultaneously screaming “ad masai?!” how much longer will this abnormal situation go on?! — we will merit the final and complete Redemption.


R’ Hillel went to Lubavitch despite the fact that R’ Mordechai Chernobler was very annoyed by this and warned him that if he did so he would end up “lying on the ground mitten pupik aroif...”







R’ Zalman hated “Amalek” with a passion. When he heard Parshas Zachor he was filled with such an utter rage for Amalek that one could see it on his face; his face reddened in anger.





In order to defeat Amalek, even Moshe “raises his hands above his head,” which refers to a strengthening in simple faith, which is above intellect.



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