AMALEK AND THE WEALTH OF BABYLON
Concepts related to Amalek relate closely to those regarding “Babylon’ as Revelation presents it. Previously, we mentioned Amalek in terms of “doubt” and its negative spiritual consequences. There is another important aspect to Amalek, that of accumulating wealth with no regard for G-d’s will regarding its usage.
The Exodus from Egypt represented the triumph of G-dliness over physical strength and power. Amalek represented the very antithesis to this notion. As Rav Hirsch writes: “Amalek finds its strength in the might of its sword and its love of glory in treading down all unprepared weaker ones. They stepped out to oppose by the power of the sword the first entry into the history of mankind of the people representing the victory of the power of the Word.” Amalek argued for the “survival of the fittest,” that one may utilize whatever means at his disposal in his struggle for wealth and prominence. Am Yisrael, by contrast, upholds the rule of G-d’s law and morality, which forbids the mighty from abusing their power and requires them to show concern and respect even towards the weak.
From http://www.vbm-torah.org/archive/salt-devarim/49-5kiteitzei.htm – comments to Parashat Ki Teitzei by Rav David Silverberg
Elsewhere in the New Testament we find warnings on being a servant to wealth:
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve G-d and mammon.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
1 Timothy 6:9-10
ELEVATING THE SPARKS OF HOLINESS
With regard to the proper function of wealth in terms of bringing tikkun (repair) to creation, which is made up of the four levels of mineral, vegetable, animal, and human, Judaism teaches that there are “Holy Sparks” (Nitzotzei Kedushah) throughout each of these four levels. These sparks were scattered at the time of creation, and further dispersed by the fall of Adam and subsequent sin.
The purpose of mankind is to elevate these sparks back to their source. When that occurs, “G-d’s Name will be One.” It is G-d who gives each spark its source and path of tikkun. For example, the sparks in the mineral world are elevated when they sustain vegetation. At the vegetable level they are then elevated when an animal eats the vegetation. They then reach the final level of elevation when man eats the animal in a holy fashion (i.e., giving blessing to G-d.)
Of course some minerals do not sustain vegetation and some animals are not kosher, but G-d has His way of elevating these sparks, as all of creation must be rectified. But how is this done? And what if man fails to do his job?
We turn to the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov:
The answer is through business and trading, buying and selling. This is another messianic concept that has been perverted today into the pursuit of wealth. Rabbi Nachman (of Breslov) taught: “There is a great beauty in coins — gold, silver, copper — for these minerals contain a supernal beauty. Their supernal beauty lies in their being composed of holy sparks which radiate continually (according to the Sefirah to which each corresponds. Those who are wise will look “inside the money” and will see therein the beauty of G-d and the revelation of the Malkut of holiness. But this beauty can be misleading and can direct a person toward avarice. This strengthens the kingdom of impurity. The verse states (Ecclesiastes 2:26), “Surely He gives to a man that which is good in His sight, wisdom knowledge and joy; but to the sinner He gave the task of gathering and amassing…” The Talmud comments (Megilah 10b), “Surely He gives to a man” — this refers to Mordekhai. “Good” — this refers to Torah. “To the sinner” — this refers to Haman, a descendant of Amalek, corresponds to the evil attribute of avarice, gathering and amassing wealth. Thus the sinner, Amalek, will seek to gather the sparks of holiness that are located within the money, in order to swallow them up. However, the Malkut of holiness will gather the sparks of holiness through Chokmah (Wisdom) and Daat (Knowledge) and will elevate them. Not only will these sparks atttain rectification, but they will even be transformed into Torah! (Likutey Moharan I, 56:5).”
… As we have seen, the concepts of “Man” and “Torah” are synonymous on certain levels. Thus, when the sparks of holiness found in every bit of matter in the world are elevated, they are unified with their source, their soul, and can be transformed into Torah. This is why we see continual trade between people, countries and continents. People bring goods from one part of the globe to another, carrying with them the sparks of holiness that must now be elevated by a person in another place. For this reason, many items continually change hands. This explains why certain items, such as family heirlooms, can remain in one family’s possession for centuries, and then are given away or sold to another person, group or organization; all because the moment for the elevation of those sparks has come and it is time for them to move onward to a new rectification. Eventually, a good deed is performed with the money received or perhaps even with the goods themselves (such as the mitzvah of hospitality where inanimate items — beds, linens and dishes, etc. — are used while honoring a guest.
… But rectification occurs only when people conduct themselves honorably and honestly in business. If not, they are further dispersing the sparks, as we have seen in the case of sexual sins, for the result is the same (as can be seen in the Generation of the Flood, which was steeped in idolatry, immorality and theft; see Rashi, Genesis 6:11). Amalek, symbolizing avarice, has always been an unprincipled enemy of holiness. He tried to “gather” whatever holiness he could, by lying, cheating, stealing and so on. Those of other nations who break their lust for wealth will merit the revelation of the Malkut of holiness. This will be at the time of the ingathering of the Exiles, for the sparks of holiness will all be gathered and rectified, opening the way for Mashiach to come. Amalek, on the other hand, is completely evil. The only good he might possibly contain is that infinitesimal spark of G-dliness that sustains him. When Mashiach comes, that spark will depart, and nothing will be left of Amalek. This is the meaning of the Torah’s injunction (Deuteronomy 25:17-19) to leave no remembrance of Amalek. When Mashiach comes, every iota of good must be elevated, and then nothing will remain of Amalek. We can understand this point better if we recall that the Torah calls Amalek (Numbers 24:20), “Reishit Goyim, the first of foremost of the nations.” The word reishit also translates as “head,” indicating that Amalek’s goal is honorand the wealth that accompanies it, to be first at the head of whatever is taking place. That is, the evil forces represented by Amalek correspond to haughtiness and false leadership which, as we have seen are a major impediment to Mashiach and messianic ideals.
Mashiach – Who? What? Why? How? Where? When? Chaim Kramer, pp. 264-266.
As stated, it all goes back to Adam. “Materialism” is something caused by the fall:
The sparks were scattered even among inanimate objects, and must be rectified through business, manufacturing and trading, because Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge. … Therefore, instead of benefiting from the Garden of Eden, i.e., living a spiritual life without work, Adam was cursed with the need for material pursuits (Genesis 3:17-19), “You shall eat with sadness, by the sweat of your brow. … Therefore, the sparks of holiness must now be elevated through business. … The main test of a person is how he relates to money and wealth. One who breaks his lust for wealth merits to see Divine Providence clearly operating in his life. Then he can elevate the sparks of holiness found within money …
Mashiach – Who? What? Why? How? Where? When? Chaim Kramer, pp. 266,267.
1 After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory.
The arrival of angels performing different tasks continues from the previous chapters.
As mentioned above, the love of money can lead to other sin. The following Zohar section associates the “big three” sins of adultery (unchastity), murder and idolatry in the context of Amalek, whom we have equated with the love of money.
Various impurities are mingled in the composition of Israel, like animals among men. One kind is from the side of the serpent; another from the side of the Gentiles, who are compared to the beasts of the field; another from the side of mazikin (goblins), for the souls of the wicked are literally the mazikin (goblins) of the world; and there is an impurity from the side of the demons and evil spirits; and there is none so cursed among them as Amalek, who is the evil serpent, the “strange god”. He is the cause of all unchastity and murder, and his twin-soul is the poison of idolatry, the two together being called Samael (“poison-god”). There is more than one Samael, and they are not all equal, but this side of the serpent is accursed above all of them.
ENERGIZING OF AMALEK
There is another aspect to Amalek, namely what causes “him” to appear with such power and influence in the days prior to the coming of the Messiah. The following passage of the Zohar describes this in terms of the result of union of the “ox and the ass” – defined as the powers behind the nations who come against Israel:
THEN CAME AMALEK AND FOUGHT WITH ISRAEL IN REPHIDIM. R. Jose quoted in connection with this the following verse: Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass (Isaiah 32:20). ‘Water’, he said, ‘has many symbolic meanings: there are many kinds of water. Blessed are the Israelites who “sow beside the water”-the water which is under the branches of the Holy One’s Tree, a Tree great and mighty, containing food for the whole universe. This Tree is encompassed by twelve frontiers and adjoins all four sides of the world, and has seventy branches, and Israel is in the “body” of the Tree, and the seventy branches encompass her. This is symbolized by the “twelve wells of water and the threescore and ten palm trees”, as we have often explained. But what do the words “and they encamped there by the water” signify? This. At that time the Israelites had control over the waters which are under the branches of that Tree, those which are called “the insolent waters,’ (Psalm 124:5). And this is the meaning of the words, “blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass”, namely, the two “Crowns of the Left”, to which are attached the pagan nations who are called “ox and ass”. When the Israelites are worthy, then they dismiss these evil powers, and they have no dominion over them.’ Said R. Abba: ‘When the two (i.e. the ox and the ass) are united, the inhabitants of the world cannot stand up against them. For this reason it is prohibited to “plough with an ox and an ass together” (Deuteronomy 22:10). From them, when united, emanates the power, called “dog”, which is more insolent than all of them. Said the Holy One, blessed be He: “Ye said, ‘is the Lord in our midst or not?’ Behold, I will deliver you to the dog!”, and straightway came Amalek.’
Zohar, 2:65a. Also see https://www.kabbalaonline.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/379452/jewish/An-End-to-Evil.htm
Torah gives us a hint as to who the “ass” may be. Speaking of Ishmael it says:
And he is a wild-ass man, his hand against every one, and every one’s hand against him — and before the face of all his brethren he dwelleth.
Another source gives us an idea who the “ox” in this equation may be:
The Vilna Ga’on explains chad gadya as being a parable of Jewish history throughout the generations up until the final Redemption; the author of the Ma’asei Nissim similarly interprets it. The end of this song brings us to the End of Days: Then came the ox, these are the nations (principally Edom [Rome], who is symbolized by the ox);
Who are modern day Esau/Edom and Ishamel that come together at the end of days to energize Amalek for a final time? One opinion has it that their final manifestation is found in the other two religions of the world that trace themesleves back to Abraham:
For the rabbis, Esau/Edom symbolised the Roman Empire, and then (after the conversion of Constantine), Christianity. Ishmael was the Arab world and later, Islam.
Another text explains how Esau/Christianity and Ishmael/Islam, though they are against Jacob/Israel, turn on each other:
Here, at the End of Days, after Israel has already settled on the land of Israel, in the future, the peoples of the world will gather together to conquer Jerusalem. Then will gather together to conquer the land of Israel from the Jews Gog, the President of [the country] Meshek [which means “Market”] and Tuval from the lands of the North and West who are uncircumcised and called Edom. (Meshek and Tuval are of the descendants of Yafet [one of the three sons of Noah] that live [now] in Europe, as Josephus has written; there it is also written “Persia and Kush and Put are with them” [Ez. 38:5]). And also [with them will be] the house of Torgama that are all circumcised and adhere to the religion of the Ishmaelite (Islam). But when they come there will be trouble between them, and they will fight each other – that is, Edom and Ishmael will fight against each other because their religions are different. There G-d will judge them with sword and blood. This is as is written there and in Zechariah, chapter 14. In relation to this, it is told here how each will fall into the abyss. First Egypt and Assyria and Elam that hold by Islam – they are all circumcised nowadays – and after He will account for Meshek and Tuval and Edom and their kings and princes in the North who are all uncircumcised. The first and most important to fall will be Egypt because they are close to the land of Israel. They will come first and be defeated. Then the Assyrians and the Persians will come to take their vengeance and the two sides will both fall.
Inevitably, the wealth accumulated by Ishmael and Esau is given to Jacob. (See notes to verse 6.)
2 And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen …
The term “is fallen” is mentioned twice. The significance of this is that both the lower (physical) and upper (spiritual) Babylon have met their end.
R. Simeon said: ‘There is a deep allusion in the name “Rephidim”. This war emanated from the attribute of Severe Judgement and it was a war above and a war below. The Holy One, as it were, said: “when Israel is worthy below My power prevails in the universe; but when Israel is found to be unworthy she weakens My power above, and the power of severe judgement predominates in the world.’ So here, “Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim”, because the Israelites were “weak” (raphe) in the study of the Torah, as we have explained on another occasion.’ AND MOSES SAID UNTO JOSHUA, CHOOSE US OUT MEN, AND GO OUT, FIGHT WITH AMALEK. Why did Moses abstain from fighting the first battle which G-d Himself commanded? Because he was able to divine the true meaning of his Master’s command. Hence he said: “I will prepare myself for the war above, and thou, Joshua, prepare thyself for the war below.” This is the meaning of the words :”When Moses lifted up his hand, Israel prevailed” (Exodus 17:11), namely Israel above. Therefore Moses did not participate in the war on earth, so that he might throw himself with greater zeal into the war in Heaven, and thus promote victory on earth. Said R. Simeon: ‘Let us not think lightly of this war with Amalek. Verily, from the creation of the world until then, and since then till the coming of the Messiah, there has been and will be no war like that, nor can even the war of Gog and Magog be compared with it; and this not because of the mighty armies taking part in it, but because it was launched against all the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He.’ AND MOSES SAID TO JOSHUA. Why to him, who was then but a “youth” (Eodus 33:11)? Were there in Israel no greater warriors than Joshua? The reason was that Moses in his wisdom was aware that it was not going to be merely a battle against flesh and blood, but against Samael, who was coming down to assist Amalek. Now Joshua, “the youth”, had reached at that time a high degree of spiritual perception, not, indeed, as high as Moses, who was united with the Shekinah, but his soul was, in fact, attached to the supernal region called “Youth” (=Metatron). Now when Moses perceived that Samael was going to fight for Amalek, he thought: “this young man, Joshua, will surely stand against him and prevail”, and therefore he said unto him: “go and fight against Amalek! It is thy battle, the battle here below, and I will prepare myself for the battle above. Choose worthy men, righteous and the sons of the righteous, to accompany thee”.’ Said R. Simeon: ‘At the moment when Joshua, the “young man”, started out to fight Amalek, the “Young Man” above was stirred, and was equipped with weapons prepared by his “Mother” (the Shekinah) for the battle in order to “avenge the covenant” (cf. Leviticus 26:25) with the “sword” (Exodus 17:13). Moses equipped himself for the war above. “His hands were heavy” (Ibid. v, 12), that is to say, “weighty, honourable, holy hands”, that had never been defiled, hands worthy to wage the war above …
… FOR I WILL UTTERLY BLOT OUT (lit. for blotting out I will blot out); that is, both their celestial forces and their power here below: similarly THE REMEMBRANCE of them on high as well as below. Said R. Isaac: ‘Here it is written: “For I will utterly blot out”, whereas in another passage it says, “Thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek” (Deuteronomy 25:19). The Holy One, blessed be He, said in effect: “Ye shall blot out his remembrance on earth, and I will blot out his remembrance on high”.’ R. Jose said: ‘Amalek brought with him other peoples, but all the rest were afraid to commence war against Israel. Hence Joshua cast lots which of them to slay.’ AND MOSES BUILT AN ALTAR AND CALLED THE NAME OF IT YHVH NISSI (the Lord is my sign). He built an altar below to correspond to the Altar above.
2 … and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!
“Birds” and “fish” are kabbalistic terms for spiritual entities. The following text describes the “serpent” as having scales and fins and residing in (spiritual) rivers, striking at other “fishes”:
Eleazar: ‘Thirteen springs. [Tr.note: These are supposed to symbolize the forces of judgement which issue from the Sefirah Malkuth.] emerge in the upper world, on the right side, which give rise to thirteen deep streams. Of these streams, whilst some are rising others are falling, and their waters mingle with each other. These thirteen streams, issuing from thirteen springs, branch out besides into a thousand rivers, flowing in all directions, namely, four hundred and ninety-nine and a half to the one side, and four hundred and ninety-nine and a half to the other side, the remaining two half rivers being joined into one and metamorphosed into a Serpent, whose head is red as the rose, and whose scales are solid as iron, and who has fins by means of which he propels himself through all the rivers. When he raises his tail he strikes against all fishes coming in his way so that none of them dare stand in his path. His mouth emits a flaming fire. When he sets out to traverse the rivers, all the fishes fall a-trembling, take flight and precipitate themselves into the great ocean. Once every seventy years he crouches on the one side and once every seventy on the other side; the thousand rivers less one are thus filled with him. So he remains for a time; but when he bestirs himself there issues from him a strip of fire in his scales, which stand out and quiver, and the waters of the rivers become turbid and assume a dark-blue colour, and waves surge in every direction. He then lifts his tail and lashes with it upwards and downwards, so that everything flees before him; until finally a flame of fire is projected from the North and a proclamation goes forth, saying: “Arise, ye old females, [Tr.note: Alluding to Lilith, the night-demon, and her female retinue, According to the commentators, there is, besides old Lilith, also young Lilith, who is at the service of Asmodeus.] be scattered into all the four corners, for, behold, there is awakened the one who is about to put fetters on the jaws of the monster.” So Scripture says: “And I will put hooks in thy jaws”, etc. (Ezekiel 29:4). Then they all scatter, and the monster is seized and pierced through his jaws and thrust into the cavern of the great abyss, so that his power is broken. After that he is brought back to his rivers. This performance is repeated every seventy years in order to prevent him from doing damage to the heavenly regions and their foundations. For this we all give thanks and offer up praise, as it is written: “O come, let us bow down and bend the knee; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker” (Psalm 95:6). The superior dragons abide on high, to wit, those that were blessed, as we read: “And G-d blessed them “ (Genesis 1:22). These rule over all the other fishes, of whom it is written, “and fill the waters in the seas” (Ibid.) Concerning this it is written: “How manifold are thy works, O Lord! In wisdom hast thou made them all” (Psalm 104:24).’
Rome and Babylon are both used in Hebraic literature when describing things such as exile and evil. In the text of Revelation its destiny is to be a “prison” for a great number of entities (demons, spirits, “birds”) of the Sitra Achra.
The following text hints at the multitude of demons associated with Rome/Babylon/Lilith:
AND IF THE WHOLE CONGREGATION SHALL ERR, ETC. R. Simeon cited in this connection the verse: “Rise up, ye women that are at ease, and hear my voice, etc.” (Isaiah 32:9). He said: ‘A man should be ever solicitous for the honour of his Master in order that his son may be without flaw. For when G-d created man, He created him without flaw, as it is written, “G-d made man upright” (yashar, lit. straight) (Ecclesiastes 7:20). The word “man” (adam) means male and female, the female being included in the male, and hence it says “upright”. Now in the depth of the great abyss there is a certain hot fiery female spirit named Lilith, who at first cohabited with man. For when man was created and his body completed, a thousand spirits from the left side assembled round that body, each endeavouring to enter, until at last a cloud descended and drove them away and G-d said, “Let the earth bring forth a living soul” (Genesis 1:24), and it then brought forth a spirit to breathe into man, who thus became complete with two sides, as it says, “And he breathed in his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul” (Genesis 2: 7). When man arose, his female was affixed to his side, and the holy spirit in him spread to each side, thus perfecting itself. Afterwards G-d sawed the man in two and fashioned his female and brought her to him like a bride to the canopy. When Lilith saw this she fled, and she is still in the cities of the sea coast trying to snare mankind. And when the Almighty will destroy the wicked Rome, He will settle Lilith among the ruins, since she is the ruin of the world, as it is written: “For there Lilith shall settle and find her a place of rest” (Isaiah 34:14). In ancient books it says that she fled from man before this, but we have learnt differently, that she associated with man until this soul (neshamah) was placed in him, and then she fled to the seaside, where she tries to harm mankind.
3 For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.”
As mentioned, Rabbi Nachman mentioned the evil Haman as representative of misusing wealth. The following adds some insight into how badly Haman acted:
Haman, we know, was a descendant of Amalek. … Let us then take a moment to examine this Haman character. Material bliss, it seems, was among Haman’s blessings. In exchange for permission to kill the Jews, Haman offered King Achashveirosh a cool ten thousand kikar of silver. Just to put that in perspective: The Jews in the desert were commanded to give a half-silver shekel each. The proceeds of these half-shekels would be used to purchase communal sacrifices for the entire year, after which a new collection was taken. In parshas Pekudei, the Torah gives a total of the silver collected as a result of the half-shekel census: One hundred kikar. One kikar of gold was enough to fashion the menorah, which stood so tall that Aaron needed to stand upon a ladder just to clean out its lamps. Haman offered ten thousand kikar. Haman was no pauper.
The tactics of Amalek are subtle. The subsequent text puts it in simple terms and offers some sound advice – enthusiasm for G-d and Torah!
Amalek disguises himself as the sophisticated businessman, making light of our commitment to G-d’s Torah. Once again, he argues, “Forget what the Torah has to say about business ethics, honesty, morality, and responsibility. Forget that G-d is guiding your steps and that you need His help to succeed. No one believes this, much less acts on it. Your job is to make money, and in the dog-eat-dog world of workaday reality, you have to play by the rules if you expect to survive.” The Torah here tells us that even though it sounds like we’re talking to an astute businessman, we should recognize that it is really Amalek, the archenemy of Israel, who is talking. Despite his concessions to our private spiritual life, his goal is to wipe us out. Therefore, the only proper response to this inner voice is to wipe it our first, by constantly renewing our impetuous enthusiasm for G-d and His Torah, and our desire to see it assume its rightful role as our guide in all aspects of life.
Subtle compromise, rearding the keeping of Torah, is another tactic of Amalek:
Amalek had another weapon up his sleeve. Rashi teaches us that the verse “how he met you on the way [in Hebrew, “asher korcho baderech”] (Deuteronomy 25:18) can be understood “how he cooled you off along the way”. Amalek, spreads his poison in each and every Jew and tries to dampen one’s enthusiasm for serving G-d. “Pray, learn Torah and keep mitzvot”, he declares, “but why do you have to be so religious? G-d didn’t create such a big world out there just for you to ignore it, did He?!” When this attitude, or one of extreme chutzpah like Amalek’s, takes hold amongst the Jewish People, we must uproot it to the core.
(From the article, “Rest Assured,” originally at kabbalaonline.org but since removed.)
Money, power and fame are not evil. It is the misuse of these things that energizes Amalek:
We must learn that power and strength can be used to destroy and uproot, or they can be used to repair, to build and protect. As a nation we must abhor the power that destroys and love the power that gives us strength to redeem the world. It is the abuse of power, the greedy materialistic pursuit of wealth at the expense of the needy and weak that which we must eradicate and “blot out”. That is the lesson of Amalek.
The misuse of material wealth is directly tied to denial of the Name of G-d in this text:
They shall condemn the stars of heaven, shall life up their hands against the Most High, shall tread upon and inhabit the earth, exhibiting all their works of iniquity, even their works of iniquity. Their strength shall be in their riches, and their faith in the gods whom they have formed with their own hands. They shall deny the Name of the Lord of Spirits, and shall expel him from the temples, in which they assemble.
4 And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.
The term “plague” is often used to represent the demonic realm and/or the result of demonic activity: This Zohar text teaches on Psalm 91, known as the Psalm of demons, as it is a prayer for protection against such evil. Again, the demon Lilith plays a central role:
LEFT ALONE, ETC . R. Hiya discoursed on the verse: There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy tent. (Psalm 91:10). ‘When G-d’, he said, ‘created the world, He made on each day the work appropriate for that day. This has already been explained. Now on the fourth day the lights were created; but the moon was created without light, since she diminished herself. This is implied in the phrase “Let there be lights”, wherein the term meoroth (lights) is written defectively (less the letter vau), as it were me’eroth (curses); for as a result of the moon’s diminution, occasion was granted to all spirits and demons and hurricanes and devils to exercise sway, so that all unclean spirits rise up and traverse the world seeking whom to seduce; they haunt ruined places, thick forests and deserts. These are all from the side of the unclean spirit, which, as has been said, issues from the crooked serpent, who is, indeed, the veritable unclean spirit, and whose mission is to seduce man after him. Hence it is that the evil prompter has sway in the world, following men about and employing all manner of ruses and seductions to turn them aside from the paths of the Holy One, blessed be He. And in the same way as he seduced Adam and thereby brought death into the world, so does he ever seduce men and cause them to defile themselves; and whoever allows himself to be defiled draws upon himself the unclean spirit and clings unto him, and numerous unclean influences are at hand to defile him, so that he remains polluted in this world and in the world to come. Contrariwise, should a man strive to purify himself, the unclean spirit is foiled and can no longer dominate him. Thus it is written: “No evil shall befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy tent”.’ R. Jose said: ‘ “Evil” here alludes to Lilith (night-demon), and “the plague” to the other demons, as has been explained elsewhere.’ R. Eleazar said: ‘It has been taught that a man should not go out alone at night, and especially when the time of the creation of the moon recurs and it is without light. For at that time the unclean spirit, which is the same as the evil spirit, is at large. Now, the term “evil” here is an allusion to the evil serpent, while “the plague” alludes to him who rides on the serpent, so that evil and plague work together. It is true, we have also been taught that the term “plague” signifies “the plagues of the sons of man”, which issued from Adam.
5 For her sins have reached to heaven, and G-d has remembered her iniquities.
The Revelation text expresses this sin in terms of “reaching heaven” – which may seem strange in that “proximity” to G-d (heaven) is based on likeness, and sin of course is “missing the mark,” i.e., not in the likeness of G-d. What we have here is the idea of “fullness of sin,” which has to do with it reaching the end of its purpose. This “length of time” is actually grounded in Hesed, G-d’s attribute of Mercy, as he gives the unrighteous ample time to repent.
These concepts are found in several places:
Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
IF THOU SEEST THE OPPRESSION OF THE POOR (V, 7). If you see the oppression of the lowly and the needy,and the Righteous One who liveth for ever granting prosperity and comfort to the oppressor, [DO THOU SEE] IN THE STATE (BAMMEDINAH) – see at work on him the judgment (bo’dinah) of Gehinnom. FOR ONE HIGHER THAN THE HIGH WATCHETH: viz. the angels, AND THERE ARE HIGHER THAN THEY: viz. the Holy One, blessed be He. R. Jose b. Haninah interpreted the verse as applying to Esau [i.e. Rome]. If you see Esau in the great city of Rome oppressing the lowly and robbing the poor, and the Holy One, blessed be He, granting him prosperity, see at work on him the Attribute of Justice. MARVEL NOT at what the ancient [Isaac] said and that his desire was fulfilled, as it is stated, Behold, of the fat places of the earth shall be thy dwelling (Genesis 27:39). FOR ONE HIGHER THAN THE HIGH WATCHETH:viz. the commanders, captains, and lieutenants; AND THERE ARE HIGHER THAN THEY: viz. the King who liveth for ever.
Midrash Rabbah, Ecclesiastes 5:5
This principle applies to G-d’s overall plan as well. All evil has its purpose and its end:
“G-d has set a limit to darkness…”(Job 28:3), meaning that He has limited the time during which the darkness of kelipa will be permitted to derive sustenance from the leavings of holiness, from the most extrinsic level of holiness. When that time expires, the kelipa will be utterly destroyed and annihilated, leaving no vestige of itself, because it does not possess any intrinsic form of true existence; it is a non-entity… In contrast to the side of holiness, the kelipot derive their existence from a “lack of divine desire” and were therefore sundered from G-d’s unity. They have no existence other than the animation which they receive from the encompassing level of divine light. When this source is removed they will be totally cut off and will be utterly obliterated. This is the meaning of the above-quoted verse, “[G-d] has set a limit to darkness…”. The darkness of the kelipot has a limited time period, after which the kelipot will be utterly destroyed and annihilated, since they originate from a “lack of divine desire.” While this applies to the sitra achra in general, it is especially true of the kelipa of Amalek, whose whole being is brazenness and chutzpa, with no inner content at all. Every other kelipa has at least some content, albeit evil, such as the “ chesed of kelipa”. This is not the case with the kelipa of Amalek, the kelipa of brazen chutzpa; an insolent individual, as he himself is aware, is essentially a non-entity. The more degraded such people are, the less they retain their human aspect – the more they relate with insolence, in an animal-like fashion, to people more elevated than themselves. So, too, the kelipa of Amalek, whose whole being is insolence, is essentially a non-entity. Amalek thus resembles the waves of the sea that are lifted by the wind. While water, by its nature, descends, it is capable of being lifted by the wind and momentarily standing upright like a wall; however, as soon as the wind abates, the water collapses. So, too, kelipot in general and Amalek in particular derive their sustenance only from the encompassing level of divine life-force, and will thus “appear and disappear with the wind.” This, then, is what is meant by the phrase, “[G-d] has set a limit to darkness”: the darkness of the kelipot have an appointed end, after which they will be cut off and utterly destroyed, leaving no trace.
Israel said to G-d: ‘ Lord of the Universe! How long wilt Thou delay in judging the heathen?’- The reply was: ‘Until the time of vintage comes’; as it says, In that day sing ye of her: A vineyard of foaming wine (Isaiah 27:2). Does then one glean his vineyard before the grapes ripen? No, only after they are ripe does he pluck them, place them in the vat, and tread them, while his fellow-labourers sing with him. Thus said G-d to Israel: ‘ Wait until the time of Edom comes and then will I tread upon her,’ as it says, Upon Edom do I cast my shoe (Psalm 40:10); ‘I will begin [the song of redemption] for you, and you will respond after Me;’ therefore does it say, ’In that day sing ye of her: A vineyard of foaming wine.’ I the Lord do guard it, I water it every moment (Isaiah 27:3).-I am biding My time with her to make her drink many cups, as it says, ‘I water it every moment.’ I have only to glance at them to destroy them completely from this world, but Fury is not in Me, as it is in them against My children. What will I do to them? I would with one step burn it altogether
Midrash Rabbah – Exodus 30:1
There are two other important and related concepts behind verse 5.
- It is necessary for both evil and good to reach their fullness in order for the end to come. It is the intensification of evil that “squeezes out” the greatest good.
And, like Pharaoh before them, G-d will take advantage of their faulty assumptions to create a path to redemption for the faithful.
“One More Step, One More Chizuk,” Rabbi Pinchas Winston
- The soul of Messiah emanates from the highest realms. Because of the “loftiness” of this soul, the “lower” it can decend to redeem everything in creation – even the darkest elements of the Sitra Achra. (A positive spin on the old saying, “the bigger they are, the harder they fall!) When the sin (emanating from the lowest point) reaches its “highest point” (reaching heaven) then Mashiach comes to bring redemption.
Regarding this latter point, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov’s teachings make the most amazing claims to the power of the Messiah:
Keter actually has two levels, a lower level corresponding to Arikh Anpin and an upper level, the intellect of Arikh Anpin, which corresponds to Atik (“The Ancient One”), Atik Yomin (“The Ancient of Days”), Atika Kadisha (“The Holy Ancient One”). … The connection between Mashiach and Atik is learned from Daniel’s vision: “A man came and he approached (the level of) the Ancient of Days..” Rashi explains that this refers to Mashiach, who will administer justice to the entire world. … Atik thus transcends anything we can conceive … at this level there is neither past nor future. Everything is in the present. And, as we have seen, every part of Creation, from the first constriction to the lowest level of Asiyah, is contained within the Keter Atik. Thus, Atik includes all time and space – yet transcends it all. The soul of Mashiach “resides” within Atik, and it is from this level that all his powers will be drawn. And, since he transcends time and space, Mashiach can trascend every transgression ever done, he can bring each person to a state prior to his having sinned. This is because in Keter, G-d overrides the rules that He set up for all the Sefirot and their interaction between each other and man. With the power inherent in this exalted level, Mashiach will be able to bring the world to a state of perfection.
Mashiach – Who? What? Why? How? Where? When?, Chaim Kramer, pp. 208-209.
The idea of sin “reaching heaven” may be thought of in terms of it seeking to defile the heavenly Temple, which kabbalistically is located in the world of Beriah/Creation. This is clearly conveyed in the following passage from the Zohar:
AND MOSES ASSEMBLED ALL THE CONGREGATION OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, ETC. R. Hiya opened here a discourse on the text: “And Saul said unto the Kenites: Go depart”, etc. (I Samuel 15:6). ‘Observe’, he said, ‘that in regard to Amalek it is written: “I remember that which Amalek did to Israel”, etc. (Ibid. 15:2). What is the reason that none of the wars waged by other nations against Israel was so displeasing to the Almighty as was the war waged against them by Amalek? The reason, assuredly, is that the battle with Amalek was waged on both fronts, both on high and below; for at that time the evil serpent gathered all its forces both above and below. It is the way of a serpent to lie in wait on the cross-roads. So Amalek, the evil serpent of Israel, was lying in wait for them on the cross-roads, as it is written: “how he set himself against him in the way” (Ibid.). He was Iying in ambush on high in order to defile the Sanctuary, and below in order to defile Isracl. This we deduce from the expression, “how he met thee by the way” (Deuteronomy 25:18), where the term qar’kha is meant to suggest the kindred term in the passage, “If there be among you any man that is not clean by reason of that which chanceth him (miqre) by night” (Ibid. 23:11). By using the term qar’kha, the text as much as says: “He has arrayed against thee that evil serpent from above that he may defile thee on all sides”; and were it not that Moses from above, and Joshua from below, put forth all their strength, Israel would not have prevailed against him. It is for this reason that the Holy One, blessed be He, cherished His enmity against him throughout all generations, inasmuch as he planned to uproot the sign of the covenant from its place. ([Tr. note: i.e. to lead Israel into ways of unchastity.]
6 Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her.
The material wealth of Esau and Ishmael will in the end all go to Jacob (Israel). The former is punished “double” while the latter receives “double” the blessing:
But you shall be named the priests of the LORD, They shall call you the servants of our G-d. You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, And in their glory you shall boast. Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; Everlasting joy shall be theirs.
This all happens in the time of Messiah:
Another interpretation of ALL THE RIVERS RUN INTO THE SEA: All wealth only goes to the kingdom of Edom, and the kingdom of Edom is never filled; for R. Levi said: It is written, So the eyes of man (adam) are never satiated (Proverbs 27:20), i.e. the eyes of Edom are never satiated. Do you mean to say that when wealth enters Edom it never returns to its owners? Thereforethe text states, UNTO THE PLACE WHITHER THE RIVERS GO, THITHER THEY GO AGAIN. From the place where wealth accumulates, viz. the kingdom of Edom, in this world, thence it will be dispersed in the days of the Messiah; as it is written, And her gain and her hire shall be holiness to the Lord (Isaiah 23:18).
Midrash Rabbah – Ecclesiastes 1:21
The great “mystery” of “Babylon” eludes most of those who write about the end times. Commentaries are typically focused on some “outwardly idolatrous” religious practice – often described as some combination of “new age,” “liberal christianity,” and/or Catholicism. The idolatry of Babylon however lies in materialism (serving ‘mammon):
7a In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow …
Here we have a more direct reference to the principle of midah knegged midah – G-d administrating either his justice,”measure for measure.”
7b … for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen …
Again we see Babylon proclaiming herself to be “queen” in place of the true “queen” – the Shekinah:
“The Holy One prepared for Himself a holy Palace, a supernal Palace, a holy City, a supernal City, which is called ‘Jerusalem, the holy city’. He who wishes to see the King, must enter through this holy City and thence take his way to the King: ‘this is the gate of the Lord into which the righteous shall enter’ (Psalm 118:20).” Every message which the King wishes to send out is sent through the Matrona, and, conversely, every message sent from the lower spheres to the King must first reach the Matrona, and from her it goes to the King. Thus the Matrona is the messenger between the upper regions and the lower. For this reason she is called “the angel (messenger) of G-d”. It may be asked, is it consonant with the dignity of the King that the Matrona should declare war for him and receive petitions to him? The following parable may explain. A king married a noble lady, whose worth he esteemed so highly that in comparison with her he regarded all other women as a mere vulgar herd. “What shall I do to honour her?” he thought. “I will give her full control over the palace and over my whole household!” So he made a proclamation that all the king’s business should pass through the hands of the queen. He also handed over to her all the weapons of war, all his military advisers and generals, all his regalia, and indeed all his treasures of every sort, and said: “From now anyone who wishes to speak to me must first make known his suit unto the queen.” Similarly, the Holy One, blessed be He, out of His great love for the Community of Israel (represented by the Shekinah) has entrusted everything to her (i.e. the Shekinah), proclaiming all the other nations to be of no account in comparison with her.
It is all part of G-d’s plan to allow the Shekinah to fall into a “dimished state” and allow another to take her place as “queen” for a short while. The following passage expounds on this, with several references to the “tzadik” (i.e., Sefirah of Yesod/Messiah) and “zedek” (i.e., Sefirah of Malkut/Shekinah):
One day, as the Companions were walking with R. Simeon, he said: ‘I see all other peoples elevated and Israel degraded. What is the reason? Because the King has dismissed the Matrona and put the handmaid in her place. Who is the handmaid? This is the alien Crown whose firstborn G-d slew in Egypt.’ R. Simeon wept, and continued: ‘A king without a queen is no king. If a king cleaves to the handmaid of the queen, where is his honour? A voice will one day announce to the Matrona, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion, shout, O daughter of Jerusalem, for thy king cometh unto thee; he is just and having salvation”, etc. (Zechariah 9:9); as if to say: The Righteous One (Zaddik) will be saved, he that was hitherto poor and riding on an ass, viz., as we have explained, the lower Crowns of the heathen nations whose firstborn G-d killed in Egypt. It is the Zaddik, as it were, who will be saved, because till now he was without Zedek (righteousness), but now they will be joined.’ R. Isaac here asked R. Simeon to explain how it is that some say the world is founded on seven pillars and some on one pillar, to wit, the Zaddik. He replied: ‘It is all the same. There are seven, but among these is one called Zaddik on which the rest are supported. Hence it is written: “The righteous one (Zaddik) is the foundation of the world” (Proverbs 10:25). This handmaid’, resumed R. Simeon, ‘will one day rule over the holy land below as the Matrona once ruled over it, but the Holy One, blessed be He, will one day restore the Matrona to her place, and then who shall rejoice like the King and the Matrona? — the King, because he has returned to her and parted from the handmaid, and the Matrona because she will be once more united to the King. Hence it is written: “Rejoice exceedingly, O daughter of Zion”, etc. Observe now that it is written, “This shall be to you a statute for ever” (Leviticus 16:29). This promise is a decree of the King, fixed and sealed.
The idea of “Babylon” assuming the role of “queen” is to come between the “king above” (Sefirah of Chokhmah/Wisdom) and the “king below” (Ze’er Anpin/the six Sefirot from Chesed to Yesod), or to put it another way, between the blessings of the spiritual realm above and the world below, a function of Amalek.
Rabbi Pinchas Winston alludes to this:
G-d told Moshe, “Write this as a memorial in the Book, and repeat it carefully (literally, b’aznei — in the ears) to Yehoshua. I will completely eradicate the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” (Shemos 17:14) … The gematria of Amalek is suffek (doubt). Interestingly enough, this word is very close to another word which is quite different in meaning: sippuk (contentment). The first one is spelled: Samech-Peh-Kuf, and the second one is spelled: Samech-YUD-Peh-VAV-Kuf; the Yud and the Vav are extra. Nothing creates a greater sense of lacking than doubt, the exact opposite feeling of sippuk. … The question is, what difference does the letter Yud and Vav make? … First of all, they are two letters from G-d’s four-letter Ineffable Name, the first and the third. The Yud corresponds to the sefirah called Chochmah (Wisdom), whereas the Vav corresponds to the sefirah of Yesod, which corresponds to our millennium, Lamed-Vav, (36). The other two letters of the Name are the same, the letter Heh twice, one is for Binah, and the other for Malchus. … In fact, though the Name is normally written from right to left, when it represents the Sefiros, it is written from top to bottom. Then it resembles, of all things, a tree, with the final Heh (for Malchus) becoming the ground, the Vav acting as the trunk and the tree, and the other Yud and Heh acting as the top of the tree. It is Amalek’s goal to sever the Yud from the Vav, so that wisdom cannot flow down to the world below, so that suffek and discontentment can rule mankind.
From Weekly Parshah Sheet, Tetzaveh/Zachor: Shedding our Skin, Rabbi Pinchas Winston, from www.thirtysix.org
7c … and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’
This verse strikes an interesting contrast to the following, and personifies Babylon as “delusional,” thinking it has actually become the “queen”:
For Israel has not been widowed, nor Judah of his G-d, of the Lord of hosts; though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel.
Arrogance is at the heart of Amalek who disregards where he stands before G-d. Conversely, an understanding of where one stands before G-d, and acting accordingly, is what defines true “humility.”
The higher a person becomes spiritually, the more humble he becomes. As we get closer to G-d, we become more realistic about our own limitations, vulnerability and mortality. We internalize the reality that every human’s position is tenable and only G-d is eternal. Moses was called “the most humble” because when he stood before G-d he knew his place. Anything else precludes room for G-d to fit in. That’s why the Talmud likens arrogance to idol worship; both push away the presence of G-d.
The history of Israel’s enemies is one of arrogance and accusation, constantly mistaking Israel’s troubles as a sign that they are spiritually superior to the Jews. The following story illustrates this well, and gives an interesting response:
One day a certain clever non-Jew came to him and said: Old man, old man, I want to ask three questions of you. One is, how can you maintain that another Temple will be built for you, whereas only two were destined to be built, the first and the second. A third and a fourth you will not find mentioned in the Scripture, but it is written, “Greater shall be the glory of this latter house than of the first” (Haggai 2:9). Again, you maintain that you are nearer to the King than all other peoples. Now, one who is near to the King is ever in joy and free from sorrow and oppression, but you are ever in sorrow and oppression and anguish, more than all the rest of mankind, whereas we never suffer sorrow or oppression or anguish at all. This shows that we are near to the King and you are far away. Again, you do not eat nebelah and terefah, [Tr. note: Flesh of animals not killed according to Jewish rites.] in order to protect your health, but we eat whatever we like and we are healthy and strong, whereas you who do not eat are all weak and sickly beyond other peoples. You are a people who are wholly hated of your G-d. Old man, old man, don’t say anything to me, for I will not listen to you. R. Eleazar raised his eyes and looked at him, and he became a heap of bones. When his wrath subsided he turned his head and wept, saying: “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth” (Psalm 8:2). How mighty is the power of the Holy Name, and how beloved are the words of the Torah, since there is nothing at all which cannot be found in the Torah, and there is not a single word of the Torah which does not issue from the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He. These questions which that wretch put to me I also one day asked Elijah, and he told me that they had been raised in the celestial Academy before the Holy One, blessed be He. The answer given was as follows. When Israel left Egypt, G-d desired to make them on earth like ministering angels above, and to build for them a holy house which was to be brought down from the heaven of the firmaments, and to plant Israel as a holy shoot after the pattern of the celestial prototype. Thus it is written, “Thou shalt bring them in and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, the place, O Lord, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in”- this is the first Temple-”the sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established” (Exodus 15:17) – this is the second Temple; and both were to have been the work of the Almighty. But as they provoked G-d in the wilderness they died there and G-d brought their children into the land, and the house was built by human hands, and therefore it did not endure. In the days of Ezra also on account of their sins they were forced to build it themselves and therefore it did not endure. All this time the first building planned by G-d had not yet been set up. Now of the future time it is written, “The Lord buildeth Jerusalem” (Psalm 147:2)-He and no other. It is for this building that we are waiting, not a human structure which cannot endure. The Holy One, blessed be He, will send down to us the first House and the second House together, the first in concealment and the second openly. The second will be revealed to show all the world the handiwork of the Holy One, blessed be He, in perfect joy and gladness. The first, which will be concealed, will ascend high over that which is revealed, and all the world will see the clouds of glory surrounding the one which is revealed and enveloping the first one which ascends to the height of the glorious heavens. It is for that building that we are waiting. Even the future city of Jerusalem will not be the work of human hands, all the more so then the Temple, G-d’s habitation. This work should have been completed when Israel first went forth from Egypt, but it has been deferred to the end of days in the last deliverance. As for the second question, assuredly we are nearer to the supernal King than all other peoples. G-d has made Israel as it were the heart of all mankind, and as the limbs cannot endure for a moment without the heart, so the other nations cannot endure without Israel. And what the heart is among the limbs, such is Israel among the nations. The heart is tender and weak, and it alone feels sorrow and distress, since in it alone is intelligence. The other limbs are distant from the king, which is the wisdom and intelligence situate in the brain, but the heart is near. So Israel is near to the Holy King, while the other nations are far away. Similarly in regard to the third question, Israel being the heart, which is tender and delicate and king of the members, takes for its food only the most purified part of all the blood, and leaves the remnant for the other members, which are not particular. They are therefore strong, as we see, but they also suffer from boils and from other ailments from which the heart is quite free. So G-d takes to himself Israel, who are clean and pure without any blemish.’
Amalek epitomizes this arrogance to the point of not fearing G-d:
R. Judah said: ‘It is written, “Amalek is the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever” (Numbers 24:20). Was, then, Amalek the first of the nations? Were there not many tribes, nations, and peoples in the world before Amalek came? But the meaning is that Amalek was the first nation who feared not to proclaim war against Israel, as it says, “and he feared not G-d” (Deuteronomy 29:18); whilst the other nations were filled with fear and trembling before Israel at the time of the Exodus, as it says: “The peoples heard and were afraid; trembling took hold of the inhabitants of Pelesheth” (Exodus 15:14); in fact, apart from Amalek there was no nation that was not awestruck before the mighty works of the Holy One, blessed be He. Therefore “his latter end shall be that he perish for ever”.’
The prophet Daniel spoke of such an insolent person to come:
And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the G-d of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the G-d of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.
Looking back, we see these are the characteristics of Laodicea in chapter 3:
I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.
The description of Laodicea being “lukewarm” is another hidden reference to Amalek:
Rabbi Tzadok of Lublin explains that there is a mystical klipah (barrier to holiness) called snow which is associated with the nation of Amalek, the Jews’ arch-enemy. Amalek attacked the beleaguered Jewish people as they left Egypt, and G-d instructed us to remember this evil deed of Amalek, as they will always seek to harm the Jewish nation. (see Exodus 17:8-16; Deuteronomy 25:17-19) In fact, the Hebrew word for snow — sheleg — has a numerical value (gematria) of 333 — the same as the word shich’cha, which means forgetfulness. This seems to suggest that snow is not a vehicle for growth at all. And when we venture outside on a snowy day, we are surrounded by forgetfulness and Amalek. What could this possibly mean? … The Torah tells us to remember what Amalek did as we left Egypt because he “happened upon you (karcha) and attacked.” (Deuteronomy 28:17-18) The simple reading, as Rashi explains, is that Amalek’s attack was a surprising and unexpected one — “he happened upon you.” A key aspect of their hideous crime was the sheer brazenness and trickery involved. However, Rashi suggests that karcha can also mean “he cooled you off,” coming from the Hebrew word kar — cold. As Rashi explains, the Jews were compared to a hot, scalding bath of water, symbolizing their great passion for spiritual achievements as they left Egypt. But Amalek was willing to burn themselves by attacking the Jewish people with the aim of showing that the heat of inspiration will not endure. By doing so, Amalek cooled off the tremendous fear that all of the other nations had for the Jews, giving them license to attack as well. Amalek, we see, relates to cooling.
8 Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord G-d who judges her.
Ironically, the punishment in Torah for the adulterous daughter of a priest was death by burning.
If a kohen’s daughter becomes desecrated through adultery she desecrates her father; she shall be burned in fire.
9 “The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning,
Having ignored the following advice, they lament the loss of what they had deemed important:
Do not store up for yourselves wealth here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and burglars break in and steal. Instead, store up for yourselves wealth in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and burglars do not break in or steal. For where your wealth is, there your heart will be also.
10 standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’
The fact that these kings are allowed to “stand at a distance” and avoid this (particular) punishment is an indication of G-d’s tremendous mercy. It is also reminiscent of another episode from Torah, where an arrogant person was judged and others were advised to “stand clear”:
Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Say to the assembly, ‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.'” Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. He warned the assembly, “Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins.” So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.
11 “And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore:
Typically, though these men “see the lesson” they don’t “learn the lesson,” as repentance remains far from them despite seeing with their own eyes what G-d has done. This resembles how the nations acted after they heard what G-d had done to mighty Egypt (the “Babylon of its time) on behalf of Israel:
The people will hear and be afraid; Sorrow will take hold of the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed; The mighty men of Moab, Trembling will take hold of them; All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away. Fear and dread will fall on them; By the greatness of Your arm They will be as still as a stone, Till Your people pass over, O LORD, Till the people pass over Whom You have purchased.
These nations did not turn to G-d, join Israel or even act “neutral” towards G-d’s people. They may have “reacted” but not “acted.
See “Act, Don’t Just React,” Parsha commentary on Parsha Beshalach, from http://www.aish.com/torahportion/kolyaakov/Act3_Dont_Just_React.asp
12 merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble;
13 and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men.
The extensive list of things from creation, mineral, vegetable, animal – even the souls of men reflects back to Rabbi Nachman’s comments on the beauty of these things and their need for rectification. We can find specific reference to the redemption of all four levels of creation in the exodus account. Not only did the Hebrews extract physical elements from Egypt (to redeem them from the klippot of that dark realm) but the souls of men (the erev rav – “mixed multitude”) also came out with them.
Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. A mixed multitude went up with them also, and flocks and herds—a great deal of livestock.
A comparison can be made between the materials misused by Babylon in Revelation’s verses 12 and 13 above, to those used for the G-dly purpose of constructing the tabernacle in the book of Exodus:
And all the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the LORD’s offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments. They came, both men and women, as many as had a willing heart, and brought earrings and nose rings, rings and necklaces, all jewelry of gold, that is, every man who made an offering of gold to the LORD. And every man, with whom was found blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, goats’ hair, red skins of rams, and badger skins, brought them. Everyone who offered an offering of silver or bronze brought the LORD’s offering. And everyone with whom was found acacia wood for any work of the service, brought it. All the women who were gifted artisans spun yarn with their hands, and brought what they had spun, of blue, purple, and scarlet, and fine linen. And all the women whose hearts stirred with wisdom spun yarn of goats’ hair. The rulers brought onyx stones, and the stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate, and spices and oil for the light, for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense. The children of Israel brought a freewill offering to the LORD, all the men and women whose hearts were willing to bring material for all kinds of work which the LORD, by the hand of Moses, had commanded to be done.
14 The fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you, and all the things which are rich and splendid have gone from you, and you shall find them no more at all.
The concept of “fruit” once again concerns the idea of “tikkun.” Those who elevate the sparks of holiness in creation bring “good fruit.” However, even a “bad tree” (that “rooted” in the Sitra Achra) creates fruit:
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.
What is interesting regarding both Matthew passages above is that each follows a particular reference:
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
Both the “narrow gate” one enters, and the “Holy Spirit,” are synonymous in kabbalistic texts with the Shekinah or the Sefirah of Malkut, also called the Matrona or Queen. Thus we see the contrast between the “gate” of the “Matrona” versus the gate of the “handmaid” that has taken her place (See citation from Zohar 3:69a in notes to 7b above).
What is especially interesting is the way the desire of this handmaid is expressed as:
“the fruit that your soul longed for …”
Everything in creation has some type of “nefesh” (basic soul) – including that in the abode of the Sitra Achra (evil realm). As Rabbi Nachman of Breslov teaches, even the longings for wealth and power are rooted in the beauty of the Messianic era:
Interestingly, the pursuit of wealth and power is rooted in messianic concepts. In the days of Mashiach, everyone will have abundant wealth … Mankind was created to pursue a specific goal — G-d. Thus, man’s basic instinct is to seek a goal. But when clouded by evil desires, the quest for the goal becomes deflected. Since wealth will be widespread in the future, man’s desire for it is rooted in a worthwhile goal — that of the messianic era. Unfortunately, the pursuit of great wealth today, since it is currently not connected with the service of G-d, is idolatrous.
Mashiach – Who? What? Why? How? Where? When?, Chaim Kramer, p. 88.
15 The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing,
16 and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls!
See comments to verse 10.
17a For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.’…
When G-d “alters his course” from that of extended mercy to the final time of judgment, the results come quickly.
Our Sages said that G-d replied to Israel: ‘ If I were to alter My course of judgment, I would destroy them in a single flash, as it says, If I alter [My judgment], then with the flash of My sword [would I act] (Deuteronomy 32:41)
Midrash Rabbah – Exodus 30:1
17b … Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance
18 and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What is like this great city?’
19 “They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’
20a “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets …
Evil, defined as a “absence of G-d’s light,” and represented by the concept of “Babylon,” is present in all three worlds of Creation; Beriyah, Yetzirah and Asiyah. (See Preface to Chapter 6.)
As Rabbi Moshe Luzzatto states in Derech Hashem:
Included in G-d’s decree that the world contain both good and evil, He also decreed that evil would be found throughout Creation in every degree and at every possible level. … It was therefore arranged that every good concept have its counterpart in evil. This is what Scripture means when it says (Ecclesiastes 7:14) “G-d has made one opposite the other.”
Derech Hashem (The Way of G-d), Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, Feldheim Publishers, 1997, p. 207
Along the same lines, Rabbi Pinchas Winston says:
… there is the concept of ‘zu l’umas zu’ — ‘this against this’ — which means that, for everything positive in the spiritual world, there is something that corresponds to it in a negative way in the spiritual world, exactly. In fact, it is like standing on top of a mirror, where everything that exists on top of the mirror exists in reverse ‘below’ the mirror.
From Once a Spy Always a Spy? Rabbi Pinchas Winston. Commentary on Parsha Shlach, from http://www.torah.org/learning/perceptions/5761/shlach.html
20b … for G-d has avenged you on her!”
G-d’s vengeance is said to involved His “separating” the Sefirah of Mercy from the Sefirah of Judgment. The final judgment comes against Edom/Esau/Rome by the hand of His Messiah, who will hand over everything to Israel:
Zohar 1:112b – So it is written: “And he divided himself against them by night, he and his servants, and he smote them” (Genesis 14:15). By “dividing” is here meant that the Holy One separated His attribute of mercy from that of justice in order to avenge Abraham.
Zohar 2:36a – And as it was then even so shall it be in the future, as it says: “Who is this that cometh from Edom (=Rome), with dyed garments from Bozra?” (Isaiah 63:1); for He will clothe Himself entirely in judgement to avenge His people.’
Zohar 2:8a – the Holy One swears to them to destroy the wicked kingdom by the hand of the Messiah, to avenge Israel, and to give her all the good things which he has promised her.
21 Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore.
The book of Jeremiah bears similarity here:
And it shall be, when you have finished reading this book, that you shall bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of Euphrates; And you shall say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her; and they shall be weary. Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 51: 63-64
22 The sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters shall not be heard in you anymore. No craftsman of any craft shall be found in you anymore, and the sound of a millstone shall not be heard in you anymore.
23 The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived.
24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.”
As mentioned, the Sitra Achra has within it the aspects of messianism, such as the “voice of the bride and bridegroom.” (See comments to verse 14 above)
An interesting contrast can be made between the “messianic hopes” of Babylon and Israel:
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, And her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, And joy in My people; The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, Nor the voice of crying. “ No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; For the child shall die one hundred years old, But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; They shall not plant and another eat; For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, Nor bring forth children for trouble; For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD, And their offspring with them. “ It shall come to pass That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, The lion shall eat straw like the ox, And dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,” Says the LORD.