The following presents a traditionalist spiritual perspective on the mitzvah [commandment] to wipe out Amalek, the nation that attacked the Children of Israel soon after the Exodus from Egypt, and from which Haman is said to be descended. Excerpted from Celebrate! The Complete Jewish Holiday Handbook. Reprinted with permission of the publisher (Jason Aronson Inc).
One of the hallmarks of Purim is our raging against Amalek/Haman. The original attack by Amalek against the former Egyptian slaves came from behind, when they were starving and exhausted (Deuteronomy 25:18). And it came immediately after they expressed doubts–despite everything God had done for them–as to whether or not God was still providing protection (Exodus 11:14-16).
This is a paradigm of Jewish history [according to the rabbinic traditionalist approach]. Amalek (Haman, Antiochus, Hitler) arises when we are weak, when our defenses are down. When there is dissension within our own community, when we are scattered and assimilated (like the Persian Jews), when we stray from the commandments that define and defend us as Jews, when we lose faith in our mission and disavow our relationship with God, we invite Amalek.
For what is absolute depravity but godlessness? What threatens to eliminate us, we who are supposed to be a kingdom of priests, is our own denial of our responsibilities. If we do not live as Jews, upholding the moral standards that are supposed to light the way for all nations, then we cease to exist.
Pronounced: MITZ-vuh or meetz-VAH, Origin: Hebrew, commandment, also used to mean good deed.
Pronounced: PUR-im, the Feast of Lots, Origin: Hebrew, a joyous holiday that recounts the saving of the Jews from a threatened massacre during the Persian period.