All or Nothing

by Rabbi Nussbaum

March 6, 2020
Adar 10, 5780
Candlelighting Time 5:39 PM

As we enter in to the realm of Shabbos, we are reminded of the evilness of Amalek which manifested itself in Haman’s desire to destroy our nation during the Persian rule. Of course he was unsuccessful, but it’s vital that we understand what caused that episode and the resultant repentance that thwarted his heinous plan to murder the Jews. Perhaps with this in mind, we can celebrate Purim in a manner more significant and meaningful than in previous years!

In the Haftarah for this week King Shaul is commanded to annihilate our archenemy Amalek and not leave over any remnant of their civilization, including their animals as well. As we know, he did not heed this directive and even the king of Amalek was spared. The prophet Shmuel admonished him for this folly and berated him stating that he had done evil in the eyes of Hashem! Chofetz Chaim questions the language of this verse because although King Shaul did not exterminate Amalek fully however it did not constitute a performance of an evil act, rather he did not fulfill the mitzvah incumbent upon him. Therefore, Shmuel should have rather rebuked King Shaul by stating that he had not accomplished that which he had been commanded to do!

Chofetz Chaim explains that if King Shaul had carried out his orders explicitly as commanded by Hashem, then, of course, he would have achieved a great goal, fulfilling a mitzvah as instructed by Hashem. However, since he only killed out part of the nation, therefore he did not heed the mitzvah and, on the contrary, he actually murdered those people of Amalek that he killed because there wasn’t a mitzvah to only kill some of them, only all of them which he did not do. Therefore, he actually did commit evil in the eyes of Hashem since he is now defined as a murderer as opposed to one who had partially fulfilled a mitzvah. But we still need to understand what indeed caused such a great person as King Shaul to sin so aggressively?

Amalek is characterized by the Torah as a nation that were not ‘fearful of Hashem’. Rashi explains that they were not fearful to attack and harm us. There seems to be an equation between their agenda to harm us and their lack of fear of Hashem. Our Sages comment that at the battle that raged between our nation and Amalek, the Amalekites attacked us, severing our area of the bris milah, the place of circumcision and tossing them upwards. The mitzvah of bris milah indicates our commitment to elevate ourselves from our physical existence and to dwell in a dimension that is spiritually inclined! Amalek rejected that theme of living and displayed their protest by disposing of that symbolic representation which would necessarily create that demand upon those that serve Hashem. Therefore, we may assume that contact with them carries with it the danger of exposure to their theme of life and crude philosophy. And that is exactly what happened to King Shaul that, although he was such a righteous man, he erred and was led astray.         

Purim is that time of the year when we renew our bond with Hashem and our ancestors did as well after they experienced the miraculous events that eliminated Haman and capitulated Mordechai to great heights, even being accepted in to the government. Therefore, it is appropriate that we read the portion in the Torah which details the battle between us and Amalek, and our victory over their oppositional stance which allowed us to continue our fight against the principles that they espoused.


The Midrash compares us to an olive tree. Olive oil does not mix with other substances and floats to the top. We, similarly, do not mix with other cultures and subsequently we seek to elevate ourselves indicative of our heightened sense of purpose motivated by our inner strength, our soul.                                           S’FAS EMES