Midreshet Amit


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Parshat Vayeitzei

By: Rabbi Daniel Goldstein

What is the difference between Bnei Yisrael and Amalek? Of all of the nations with whom we have come into conflict in the past several millennia, Amelek is the most enduring foe. Perhaps, if we find the roots of the relationship between Amalek and Bnei Yisrael, we will find an anwer.

In this week's Parsha, Vayeitzei, we find Yaakov on the run, fleeing from the wrath of his brother. He arrived at the home of his uncle Lavan, where he meets his future wife Rachel. The Torah records the encounter: "And Jacob kissed Rachel, and he raised his voice and wept. (Ber. 29:11)" Why did he cry? Rashi explains, citing the Medrash:

"Since he came empty-handed, he said, "Eliezer, my grandfather's servant, had nose rings, and bracelets and sweet fruits in his possession, and I am coming with nothing in my hands. [He had nothing] because Eliphaz the son of Esau had pursued him to kill him at his father's orders; he (Eliphaz) overtook him, but since he had grown up in Isaac's lap (*bi-cheiko shel Yitzchak*), he held back his hand. He said to him (Jacob), "What shall I do about my father's orders?" Jacob replied,"Take what I have, for a poor man
is counted as dead."

What is the meaning of the Medrash? What does the confused Elifaz offer to our understanding of the story? Furthermore, who is this Elifaz altogether?

R'Chaim Shmuelevitz explained. To understand this Medrash, we must keep two things in mind. First, the Medrash paints a picture of conflict—a person being pulled in two directions. Elifaz, like a deer in  headlights is trapped between Eisav and Yitzchak. His father tells him to kill, but his grandfather, in whose lap he was raised, would tell him not to.

The second thing we must keep in mind is who Elifaz is. Later, the Torah tells us "And Timna was a concubine to Elifaz, son of Esau, and she bore to Elifaz, Amalek. These are the sons of Adah, the wife of Esau. (Ber. 36:12)"

With these two facts in mind, the Medrash imparts a powerful lesson: Amalek is created by a choice not made. Elifaz was caught between two antithetical poles. He needed, in that moment, to make a choice and stand with a side—good or bad. But he did not. He thought he could manage to hold onto everything—to appreciate his grandfather's heritage while obeying his father. The lesson of the Medrash is clear: The father of avoidance is the father of Amalek.

It is fitting that earlier this week, the students of Midrehet Amit stood on Har Carmel; the very place where Eliyahu Hanavi implored Bnei Yisrael to make a choice. You can not worship Hashem and worship Baal at the same time. Elifaz, caught by competing forces and feeling paralyzed by life's choices,
avoided the soul searching and introspection required in making a choice.