When we remember Amalek, certainly we consider their ideology, their hatred of G-d and the Jewish people, their deviousness and cruelty, and especially their assault on the weak and the stragglers. And when we think of Haman, certainly we think of his diabolical plans to exterminate us, his virulent hatred of Jews, and his obsession with Jews that eventually destroyed him. But there is something else to consider: why are they so popular ?
Amalek attacks, and no one seems to object. (Of course, they probably argued that what Israel was doing – marching through Sinai on the way to conquer the land of Israel – violated international law and the sovereign rights of Canaan.) Haman hatched his scheme and persuaded a very pliable Achashveirosh, but why did everyone else go along so willingly ? The couriers left with alacrity; the decree was published widely, in every province. When the Jews heard the news, there was intense mourning, but was there no group or no person in any of the 127 provinces of the Persian empire – who objected, who questioned, who dissented, who even thought of protecting Jews ? Apparently not.
This is not a question of why Mordechai is hated, but rather why Haman is so loved? Why are people drawn to evil ? Is it fear ? Fecklessness ? Expediency ? Or is it something else ? Do they support the wicked because they think he will be successful, and then jump ship like Charvona when it looks like it is sinking ? The Megila teaches that when the tide turned, many people feigned being Jewish, i.e., the enemies who hoped for our destruction were defeated, but the common man who one day supported Haman the next day is wore a shtreimel or a kipa seruga, trying to look Jewish. So why are people drawn to evildoers ?
This is not just a theoretical question. Amalek has become so popular today that most of the civilized world could not really care if Iran acquired a nuclear weapon, and used it against Jews. Indeed, Israel’s politicians and generals travel in fear that some European country will detain, arrest and prosecute them for “war crimes,” even as Iran’s Ahmadinutjob can travel most of the world freely and even be feted like a global celebrity. The hypocrisy is so sharp that it could be the stuff of satire (actually, it is: see www.latma.co.il)
Israel’s cause does not receive much sympathy these days – from non-Jews and their Jewish accomplices – despite its good works around the globe. The more concessions they make, or wish to make, the less popular is their cause. So what is about the wicked person that earns him so much good will ?
The average person doesn’t identify with the evildoer, but he is drawn to him like a moth to light. The evildoer represents a life without restraint or inhibitions – a pure yetzer hara (evil inclination). Normal people live with limitations – whether the result of self-control, the impact of law and social conventions, or in our case, the Torah. This is the attraction with the celebrity culture; it is like the freak show in the circus. No normal person would think of living that way – but we get to observe people who can seemingly say anything, do anything, betray anyone, live with any person and choose any lifestyle. All the things that motivate simple people to strive for good – spouses, children, law, rectitude, fidelity, decency, values – none of that applies. The evildoer lives in a parallel universe, flouting the norms of respectable people – and people watch and even enjoy. The parts of the instinctual drive that are ordinarily suppressed can find here vicarious expression.
Amalek has a very unique niche in the world of the evildoer. They denied G-d, defied G-d – and they did not even need Sinai or Torah to hate Jews/ They were our first enemies, and so made it easier for others. They have active supporters and tacit cheerleaders. They are the unbridled animalistic instinct in man, and make it nearly impossible to look away. Amalek made Jew-hatred kosher for everyone – as does the existence of Israel today. It is a respectable way of defying G-d and hating His people – as if to say, “I’m just defending the rights of the oppressed, I’m just against racism, imperialism, expansionism, Zionism, and nothing more.”
The love of Haman – like the hatred of Mordechai – both speak to something deep within the human psyche. It opens the faucet on latent human desires in a way that is not easy to control or regulate. Some just watch, amused; others identify and support from a distance; and still others sacrifice themselves wholeheartedly for the cause.
We cannot fully understand the tranquility that many evildoers have that allows them to concoct their schemes, and wins them so many adherents and advocates. We do know that they are able to seize the weaklings among us, and we do know that our weaknesses – our fears, doubts, hesitation, and even our occasional fecklessness – embolden them, and gain them new activists, and new opportunities to promote their evil.
This is part of the great struggle of mankind from our earliest history until today, and why we can never forget that it is G-d’ s battle we fight in every generation, and that the war will not end simply because we wish it to end. And with that understanding, we fulfill the mitzva of remembering Amalek and enjoy the true elation of Purim, and will again merit the salvation of G-d from all our foes, speedily and in our days.