Purim: The Ice Villain
Just as people's hearts begin to glow with the fires of emuna, along comes the Ice Villain and cools their faith down, calling them primitive imbeciles...
by Rabbi Shalom Arush
The international awareness and fear of Hashem reached an all-time high after Hashem split the Red Sea and miraculously took the Jews out of Egypt. According to the Torah, "The nations heard and were unnerved; terror gripped the inhabitants of Philistia" (Exodus 15:14). There wasn't a person alive who ignored the fact that Egypt, the greatest superpower on earth at the time, was routed by the G-d of Israel. "The chieftains of Edom were shocked, the leaders of Moab trembled, the inhabitants of Canaan dissolved" (ibid, 15).
The nations of the world talked about nothing other than what Hashem did to the Egyptians. Now that the Israelites had left Egypt and were on the way to the Promised Land, they were trembling with worry that this former-slave nation under the protection of their G-d's mighty hand would soon devastate them. With no exception, they trembled with fear of Hashem. There was no deity who could stand up to the G-d of Israel. The nations knew that they must either surrender to Hashem and believe in Him or face destruction. That is, until Amalek came along.
"Remember what Amalek did to you on the way, when you were leaving Egypt; that he showed up on the way and struck those of you who were weakest" (Numbers 25:17-18). Rashi explains that the Hebrew word korcha, which is generally understood as something that randomly showed up, should actually be understood as meaning something that cools, in other words, that he cooled you on the way. So this is what Amalek has always done throughout history - he cools down emuna.
The nations of the world were on the verge of throwing away their useless idolatry and accepting Hashem. They heard all about the miracles. But Amalek came along and laughed at them. "Hey, you imbeciles! Haven't you ever learned any science? Don't you know about the influence of the moon on high and low tides? Big deal! So what if Moses is a great astronomer and physicist?! You Edomites, Canaanites and Moabites are a bunch of fools. You believe that far-fetched fable about some supernatural power splitting the Red Sea? And now you all want to convert? You're bigger dummies that I thought you were. Come out of your caves and into modern civilization! There's no such thing as G-d..."
Amalek always appears confident. He's the well-dressed demagogue who knows how to embarrass others and make them look primitive. Without exerting himself, he cools people's emuna down really fast.
Rashi explains from a Midrash that there was once a burning hot bathtub that no one could stand. Amalek jumps in it; he gets burned, but he cools the water down for everyone else.
Emuna is like a fire that warms the heart. But Amalek is the ice villain that cools the fire. Sure, he gets hurt in the process, but meanwhile, the damage is done.
Since Amalek cools down emuna, he's Hashem's public enemy number one. As such, Hashem commands us to wipe out Amalek and not to rest until the task is done.
Rebbe Nachman explains that the Amalekites are still alive and well in our generation. They are the ones who try to diminish the marvel of a miracle by explaining it through natural phenomena (see Likutei Moharan I:9). Once they do, people lose their will to pray, for prayer is a miracle in that it overrides nature. It also causes a blemish in the Land of Israel, for the Land of Israel is the land of miracles as we all know so well. And, worst of all, Amalek destroys emuna, particularly our emuna in Divine Providence. Amalek tries to see that everything is random and happenstance, rather than precision exacting Divine care and planning for each creation from the tiniest ameba to the greatest galaxy.
Hashem's Name doesn't appear a single time in the Megilla of Esther. That doesn't mean that Hashem's amazing Divine providence doesn't weave one of the most awesome miracles in our history by delivering us from our arch-enemy Haman, the direct descendant of Amalek.
We must still fight Amalek today, every day and every hour. Whereas the ice-villain Amalek is busy cooling down emuna, our job is to spread emuna far and wide and kindle every human heart with the fires of faith. If we're steadfast, we shall prevail and all of mankind will call Hashem's Name, speedily and in our days, amen!
Rabbi Shalom Arush is an Israeli Breslov rabbi and founder of the Chut Shel Chessed Institutions. He spreads the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov among Sephardic and Ashkenazic baalei teshuva around the world through his books and speaking appearances. Rabbi Arush is considered one of today's leading Hasidic spiritual guides, inspiring hundreds of thousands through his books, audio CDs and online presence.