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Yisro, The Gift of Amalek

R Pesach Siegel

Parshat Yisro

Feb 6, 2015

The Gift of Amalek

Parshas Yisro 5775


VaYishma Yisro – and Yisro heard. Yisro heard the miracles of the splitting of the Red Sea. He also heard about the war with Amalek. Yisro heard and he came.


The Bnei Yisroel were about to receive the Torah. Yisro knew of this and yet he remained in Midyan.


What caused Yisro to leave his homeland and join the Bnei Yisroel in the desert? It was kriyas Yam Suf and the war with Amalek.


It is quite understandable that Yisro would be moved to make a life changing decision due to the miracles of kriyas Yam Suf. Hashem directly intervened in creation. The laws of nature were defied. It was a revelation of G-d’s direct role in creation.


And yet, it was not enough.


He made his decision due to the combination of kriyas Yam Suf and mil’chemes Amalek.


What was so unique about the war with Amalek?


It was a war that ended without a decisive victory. There were those among the Jews who lost their lives. There were no open miracles of note. It ended in a stalemate. Amalek was weakened and limped away.


Mori VeRabi, Rav Aizik Ausband, z”l, explained.


There are those who believe that there are two separate entities in the world; the average human being and those who study Torah.


A connection to the Torah is a positive, worthwhile attribute. It fosters growth and improvement. It takes one who is already a person and makes him into a better person.


Yisro was among those who held that belief. He believed that joining the Jewish nation in the desert was a luxury. It was a luxury that he could not afford. He chose to remain in his place, and from his place attain a level of humanity without the benefit of a bond with the Torah.


What changed his mind?


It was the war of Amalek.


When the nation of Israel emerged from Mitzrayim none of the nations dared engage them in battle. To attack them would be suicidal. The entire world heard of the ten plagues. The entire world heard of the emergence of a nation of millions from their enslavement.


And yet, Amalek attacked.


Amalek, of all the nations, has set for themselves an objective, the total eradication of any representation of the Creator in this world. The connection of the Bnei Yisroel to the Torah brings the Creator into this world. This is something that Amalek cannot tolerate. They cannot live with it. It makes no difference to them whether attacking the Bnei Yisroel is suicidal or not. They have no choice. Attack, they must.


Yisro had never seen a human being sink to such a level. Amalek is devoid of all humanity. Amalek is an example of what becomes of one who has no connection to G-d’s wisdom.


And Yisro understood, that without a connection to something higher, without a bond with the divine, man is less than human.


Humanity is defined by its connection to the word of G-d. Torah is not a luxury. It is not a worthy ideal.


It is the definition of man itself.


And so Yisro underwent a change of heart. He went to the desert to become a human being.

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