In every generation, there is evil. It rises in the form of hatred toward a people or a conglomerate of peoples, and it is carried out by blind masses hoping to believe in a supreme leader who pledges to lead them from darkness into light.
Except light can never contain evil. Evil lives in darkness, shrouded in its corners and crevices, and only when the light is allowed to shine bright and cover the landscape, can evil be finally wiped away.
The Jewish holiday of Purim is coming up this Wednesday night and Thursday, and a Torah passage we read yesterday in synagogues around the world reminds us to eliminate Amalek from the face of the Earth, once and for all.
Amalek is a biblical people whose descendants seek the destruction of the Jews. We have endured many attempts at annihilation and somehow, we remain alive and well, today at the AIPAC Policy Conference 16,000-strong in Washington, D.C., advocating for a strong and continued friendship between the United States and Israel.
Jews feature in every industry in America. We have the freedom to observe as we so choose, to befriend whomever we like, to attend the best universities.
But we haven’t always had this luxury. And in many parts of the world today, Jews are targeted, afraid, unsafe.
When will it end? Will we ever succeed in eradicating Amalek from the Earth?
Can you imagine a time when evil could not survive? When the Hitlers of the world are shut down before they can grow big and onerous?
I can’t. For this globe has never experienced a true peace, where people live for the love of one another and the shared goal is success, health, and well-being for all.
Why is that so hard? Tell me. I honestly don’t know.
Perhaps hatred exists to motivate us to do better. After all, that’s why so many of us have come to Washington this weekend and into the week, to advocate for what we believe will be best all-around, to have heartfelt, meaningful conversations on Capitol Hill so that maybe, just maybe, we can make a lasting difference.
If every nation loved Israel and none threatened its borders, would we need an AIPAC? If the Muslims in France lived in harmony with the Jews, would many Jews feel the need to move to Israel?
If, If, If.
The holiday of Purim is the time when we are encouraged to don costumes and blur the lines between awareness and dream. The most important parts of this holiday, said a speaker during the Shabbaton, are the ones that encourage us to give to others.
We are mandated to give gifts to other people and to donate to the poor. Those, he said, are the most important activities of this upcoming holiday.
And, the story of Esther teaches us that we must be careful, at all costs, not to turn indifferent, not to gain a “palace perspective” and disassociate ourselves with the masses.
We must forever keep our eyes trained on the populace, on the fact that the man sitting in the 20-degree street with tears in his pants and holes in shoes showing pavement is just the same as you in your Armani suit. If he is cold, you are cold, and if you can’t relate to that, there is your biggest challenge.
Amalek is alive and well in this world in many forms (ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, to name a few). But sometimes, Amalek lives within each of us.
The only way to eliminate evil for good is to embody its antithesis, to be the antidote, the advocate for peace.