ישיבת כרם ביבנה

Haftorah: Rachel and Leah in the War Against Amalek

הרב אברהם ריבלין, המשגיח הרוחני לשעבר

This week's Haftorah, which deals with Shaul's war against Amalek, opens with an enigmatic pasuk: "Shmuel said to Shaul, 'Hashem sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel, so now hear the sound of Hashem's words'." (Shmuel I 15:1) Following this comes the command, "I have remembered what Amalek did to Israel ... Now go and strike down Amalek." (15:2) Shmuel's introductory words seem superfluous. What is he adding with his emphasis, "so now hear the sound of Hashem's words?"

It is possible that this warning comes on the footsteps of Shaul's first sin, as Rashi explains, "You failed [already] one time. Now, be careful!" But what is the need for the emphasis, "Hashem sent me to anoint you?" What is the connection between the fact that Shmuel anointed Shaul and the war against Amalek?

The Malbim explains that Shmuel was emphasizing that the mitzvah of eradicating Amalek is rooted in the kingship, and it is a precondition for the monarchy to endure in Shaul's hands. Shmuel is warning him: "Be aware! This mitzvah flows from the fact that you were anointed king. Just as I was sent to anoint you, so too I was sent to you with this agency."

The sefer, "Be'er Moshe," quotes the explanation of the "Sha'ar Hapesukim," that Shmuel is emphasizing that from all aspects this is a special responsibility:

From the aspect of the sender -- "Hashem sent."

From the aspect of the agent -- "me."

From the aspect of the task -- "to anoint you"

From the aspect of the recipient, Shaul, "as king"

These four elements of the agency form an important task that cannot be missed.

However, it seems that Shmuel joined himself in the command to Shaul to eradicate Amalek based on a little known principle regarding the war against Amalek and the commandment to eradicate them.

There is a well-known tradition, "The descendents of Esav will fall only in the hands of Rachel's children." (Mechilta D'Rashbi) Similarly, Chazal comment on the pasuk, "When Rachel had given birth to Yosef" (Bereishit 30:25) -- "Once Yosef was born, Esav's adversary was born." (Bereishit Rabbah 73:8) They brought many psukim to support this idea:

"The house of Yaakov will be fire, the house of Yosef a flame, and the house of Esav for straw, and they will ignite them and devour them." (Ovadia 1:18)

"From Ephraim, whose root [fought] against Amalek; after you came Binyamin with your peoples." (Shoftim 5:14)

"Therefore, hear the counsel of Hashem that he has devised against Edom ... the youngest of the flock [i.e., Yosef and Binyamin, who were the youngest of the tribes] will drag them off." (Yirmiya 49:20)

However, this strength of Rachel's children is only partial. Rav Goren suggests, based on the Zohar, that in truth the war against Amalek is two-fold -- in the upper and lower realms, as Moshe says to Yehoshua, "I will prepare myself for that upper battle, and you, Yehoshua, prepare yourself for the lower battle." (Zohar Beshalach 65b) The upper, spiritual, battle is always done by the children of Leah, and the lower, physical, battle is done by the children of Rachel. Only the integration of the two strengths forms the decisive blow against Amalek.

Therefore, Moshe tells Yehoshua, "choose for us men -- for me and you" (Shemot 17:9 and Rashi there). Also, in the future, Mashiach son of David and Mashiach son of Yosef will join forces to complete the job. This principle also explains why Yehoshua and King David were not commanded to fight Amalek, since in their times there was no combination of this kind. [We can add to this the idea that Mordechai was, "Ish Yehudi ... ish Yemini" ("A Judite ... a Benjamite") (Esther 2:5), that Mordechai descended from both Yehuda and Binyamin. David fought aginst Amalek at the end of Shmuel I when he had with him from the tribe of Menashe.]

This principle also explains the magnitude of Shaul's sin and G-d's great anger. Not in every generation do the two necessary forces for the eternal war against Amalek come together, while here there was such a combination. Shmuel (from Leah's children) and Shaul (from Rachel's children) presented a rare opportunity to finish the war against Amalek. Therefore, passing up this opportunity was indeed a critical loss.

Based on this, the opening pasuk is well understood. Shmuel emphasizes, "Hashem sent me to anoint you." I, just as Moshe, from amongst Leah's children, and you, just as Yehoshua, from amongst Rachel's children -- this is an opportunity that will not return so fast. When these two forces for the war against Amalek exist, "Now, be careful!"

Since we were not worthy, however, and Shaul failed, we hope for the coming of Messiahs from Yosef and from David to eradicate the memory of Amalek, and to establish G-d's Throne complete in the world.

 

 

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