Everyone is Amalek

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The commandment to wipe out the nation of Amalek is, perhaps, one of the most morally complicated parts of the Torah.

In the Torah, Amalek is as close as it comes to evil manifest. Amalek attacked the Israelites when they were at their weakest; and Haman, the paradigmatic biblical villains, is a descendant of Amalek.

Still, the commandment to kill all the men, women, and children of any group is a bit troubling, which is why we should be relieved that most commentators conclude that there is no longer a commandment to wipe out Amalek — since we don’t who Amalek is.

And yet, it’s been quite common for Jews throughout the centuries to refer to their contemporary enemies as Amalek. On more than one occasion, I’ve heard “the Arabs” referred to in this way. Given the violent ramifications of actually establishing a group as Amalek, casual references like this should terrify us.

Thus, in 2006, when Rabbi Jack Riemer linked Islamic Fundamentalists to Amalek, there was quite the uproar.

Well, Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz has just taken irresponsible Amalek-talk to a whole new level.

In an article published on Yeshiva World News, Rabbi Lipschutz basically labels all those concerned about Agriprocessors as Amalek.

A cursory reading of the current events in today’s newspapers will give ample evidence of the damage done by the Amaleiks of our time.

Consider how the media has taken on the cause of the unions in their battle against the Rubashkins of Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa.

Anyone who takes the trouble to visit the far-off plant, tour it and interview its employees will find a state-of-the art, modern, safe, clean facility we should all be proud of.

You’d think this kind of accusation might be held in check given that just two days ago the company was officially charged with 9,000 child labor violations an event that even inspired the Orthodox Union to threaten pulling its kashrut certification.

Want to argue for “innocent until proven guilty”? Fine. But associating critics of Agriprocessors with Amalek? Please.

But Rabbi Lipschutz is just getting started. Next Amalek? Richard Joel, president of Yeshiva University (and perhaps their roshei yeshiva, as well).

Amaleik appears in so many different guises. When a Jewish university maintains on its payroll a person who openly lives an immoral lifestyle and the institution’s president tells the New York Post that he is “proud of my university and all my faculty,� is that not an expression of “asher karchah�? Such a person is conferring legitimacy on behavior the Torah considers abhorrent.

When its rabbinic faculty sits on the sidelines and does not act vociferously and publicly to project and protect Torah values, are they not reinforcing the moral decline which is eating away at the fabric of the Am Kadosh?

(He’s referring to this story.)

Luckily, Rabbi Lipschutz’s reckless Amalekizing might be so ridiculous that it stops being scary. And don’t worry, despite his anger at everyone for totally hating Orthodox Jews, he still thinks you should still try to be nice to people.

We need to greet everyone who we meet with kindness and civility. We must display proper patriotic symbols and behave honestly in all our financial interactions. That way, when our neighbors read scandalous charges about us in their local papers and hear ludicrous allegations on the local news, they will know that these charges that tar all Jews with the same brush are far from the truth. They will say, “Well, I have a religious Jewish friend and he’s dignified, upstanding, scrupulous and cordial. These accusations can’t be true.�

Posted on September 11, 2008

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