True Love Necessitates Animosity
In addition to the regular Torah reading, this week we read about the commandment to remember the episode with Amalek. Shortly after the Jews left Egypt, on their way to the Promised Land, they were attacked by the nation of Amalek. We are commanded to remember this incident forever, and for this reason we are required to have these verses read out loud from the Torah annually. The Rambam (laws of Melochim 5:5) writes that it is a Mitzvah (fulfillment of the laws of the Torah) to remember constantly the repulsive actions of Amalek in order to arouse hatred against these people within us. This notion calls for an explanation. As we know, in general, the Torah discourages hate and strife and seeks to encourage peace and tranquility. Why is the Torah hereby instructing us specifically to invoke hatred?
The answer to this quandary can be found in an idea introduced to us by Rabeinu Yonah (Sha’arei Teshuvah 3:190-191). Rabeinu Yonah says, based on the verse in Proverbs (29:26) that righteous people despise a wicked man. For a servant must not truly love his master if he loves those whom his master hates. In other words, if you really love someone, then his enemies become your enemies. The Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzvah 603) explains that the arousal of Amalek against the Jews in the desert, with purely evil intentions, served as a declaration of their status as enemies of the Almighty Himself! It therefore would follow, based on the words of Rabeinu Yonah, that we too must carry hatred in our hearts against Amalek in order for us to be properly loyal to our Master in Heaven. Just as God hates evil, we cannot claim to truly love God unless we ourselves despise the kind of people whom He does.
A woman once called Rabbi B. and asked him, “Am I permitted to attend the wedding of my brother?”
“Why not?” asked the rabbi.
“Well, the wedding is taking place in a church…” answered the woman.
“A church?” asked the rabbi. “What’s a Jewish boy doing getting married
in a church?”
“Well you see rabbi… he is getting married to a gentile girl and her family
wanted it to be in a church…” she said in response.
“You want to attend such a wedding?” asked the rabbi. “Do you have any
love in your heart towards God?” And with that, the woman hung up the phone.
A little while later, the same woman called back the rabbi, and with an angry tone in her voice she said, “You accused me of not loving God! How dare you say such a thing! If I don’t love God, why do I do this and why do I do that?”
Rabbi B. was unfazed and responded calmly, “I cannot explain why you do
what you do, and it was not my personal opinion which I expressed to you about not loving God. You know very well that for a Jew to marry a gentile is from the most shameful and disloyal acts to the Jewish heritage that one can commit. God despises such a union utterly. You want to rejoice at an occasion which causes God much grief and you want to honestly claim that you love God?”
It is not easy to invoke animosity which doesn’t come natural to us. It’s often uncomfortable for us to build up bad feelings against something, and we rather just ‘live peacefully’ without any “extra” strife. We must realize when confronted with evil ideas, evil groups or people, and evil actions, that we are being faced with a matter of loyalty. When we hear of movements which contradict Torah values, we should test ourselves: Do we become terribly disturbed and feel revolted, or do we merely shake our heads, click our tongues and move on to the next thing? How do we feel about people with corrupt morals? Do we despise them or do we prefer to tolerate and ignore their behavior? If we don’t sense the feelings of dismay arising within us, it is an opportunity for us to do some introspection and reassess our true feelings about God. The more we are pained by the sight of God’s will being transgressed, the more loyal we are in our love to our Father in Heaven.
Parshas Tetzaveh 5780/2020
email@example.com by Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber