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Basics of Judaism

The Messiah

Amalek and the Messiah

I know that one of Moshiach’s (Messiah) tasks is to rid the world of the nation of Amalek. Up until recently I understood this to be a literal killing of a nation who has always been our arch enemy. Recently, though, I read an opinion that states that the Amalek that we are referring to is actually the Amalek which resides inside each one of us in the form of uncertainty as the word “Amalek” in Hebrew actually means “uncertainty.” Can you explain this? Will Moshiach actually lead us to kill a nation called Amalek or is it meant figuratively? If it is literal, how are we to know which nation is actually Amalek thousands of years later?

Questions pertaining to Moshiach are from the most difficult to answer, simply because of the amount of unknown information.

What we do know about Amalek is based upon the various episodes in history that discuss Amalek. Amalek is the same numerical value as doubt (Safek), hence the idea that Amalek is rooted in doubt. Essentially, they created the initial doubt in the world about G-d’s ability to oversee the details of the Jewish People. By jumping in and attacking us after the world had witnessed all the miracles of Egypt and the Sea, they cast aspersions on the sanctity of our relationship with G-d. That is what the Midrash comments “they cooled off the bath water”, they created doubts in the minds of the nations and the Jewish People. The Almighty’s Throne will not be restored to its full glory until all doubt about His Omnipotence is eradicated. This was the task that King Shaul was to achieve and didn’t. This remains our ongoing task, removing doubt.

Whether Moshiach will literally or figuratively fight the battle, I can’t tell you. But our job is to continue to strengthen our relationship with the Almighty step by step until the goal is achieved.

Best wishes,
Rabbi Yehudah Abrams

4 Follow-ups »

  1. I have always heard that Germany represents the nation of Amalek, is that true?

    Amalek is represented two ways, by lineage, and also by actions. If one thinks and acts as Amalek thought and acted, then he is Amalek. During WWII we saw a lot of Amalek. Today we are seeing more and more of Amalek. Amalek is not constrained to any single country.

    Regards, Eliahu Levenson

    Comment by ATR — March 20, 2007 @ 2:59 pm

  2. I have read on the internet that the Vilna Gaon believed that the nation of Germany was descended from Amalek. I have also read that Haman’s son, Porata, had fathered children prior to his death and his descendants later settled in Germany. Is this true?

    I saw the reference on the internet that the Vilna Gaon taught that Germany was Amalek. I have not seen any source for that statement, and, to the best of my knowledge, it is a misinterpretation of one of the glosses of the Vilna Gaon. There are references in the Talmud to a nation called GermaMia. In one instance (Tractate Yoma p. 10a), the Vilna Gaon corrected the text to read “GermaNia”. However, the reference there is to Genesis 10:2, where it lists the sons of Japeth, starting with “Gomer”. The Talmud refers to “Gomer” as “Germamia”, which the Vilna Gaon corrects to read “Germania”. Some scholars say that this is a reference to Germany, whereas others say it is a reference to Kerman, a province in southern Persia (Iran). In any event, this “GermaNia” is not Amalek, because Amalek is a descendant of Esau (of course a Semite, as being Jacob’s son), and not of Japheth. Thus, we see that this reference precludes GermaNia from being Amalek.

    In Megillah 6b, there is a reference to GermaMia of Edom, which Rashi tells us is the name of a Kingdom that descends from Edom. That people, if unified, would destroy the world. This may have a connection to Amalek, but it is not clear. Therefore, it is mere conjecture. However, in this instance, there is not the correction from the Vilna Gaon to read GermaMia as GermaNia. Thus, this reference is probably also not to Germany. I am going to try to look at more commentaries on that passage.

    I am not familiar with the reference to Porata going to Germany, if you could cite a source I would be interested in checking it out.

    Generally speaking, our sages say that since Sancherib’s reign in the times of the First Temple (he was the Assyrian king who exiled the ten lost tribes of Israel), all nationalities enter the realm of the unknown with regard to Torah law. Therefore,the restrictions regarding Moab, Ammon, Edom, etc. mentioned in Scripture are no longer possible to follow since we cannot ascertain their national identity. This was due to Sancherib’s policy of moving people from one place to another. Of course, there were individuals, such as Haman, who did know their lineage; thus we know that Haman was an Agagite (i.e. a descendant of Agag, King of Amalek—See Samuel I Chapter 15).

    Therefore, today, the concept of Amalek is considered to be a spiritual one, not a racial one, and any person who fights against G-d and His people is considered to be in the spirit of Amalek. Yet this probably has little to nothing to do with biology. The Talmud in Sanhedrin 104b and Gittin 57a says that some of Haman’s great-grandchildren learned Torah in Bnei Brak, meaning that they converted to Judaism and studied Torah! Thus we see that even being a biological descendant of Amalek is not a hindrance in any way for spiritual growth, as long as a person does not follow in the ways of Amalek.

    All the best,

    Rabbi Joseph Kolakowski

    Comment by ATR — May 15, 2008 @ 9:30 am

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