We must make heroic efforts not to harm or insult others when delivering unwelcome news or unfortunate tidings.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Vayishlach” (Genesis 32:4-36:43) and in it we read about the birth of the eternal arch enemy of the Jewish people: a fellow by the name of “Amalek.” Who was this guy Amalek?
Well, believe it or not, he actually comes from the Jewish people! Let’s take a look: “Timna was a concubine to Elifaz, the son of Esau, and she bore Amalek to Elifaz.” Recall that Esau was the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham! In other words, Amalek was the great-great grandson of the founder of the Jewish people!
The Torah also tells us more about Timna, as it says, “And the children of Lotan were Hori and Hemam and Lotan’s sister was Timna.” And there’s even more about Lotan, Timna’s brother: “These are the chiefs who came of the Horites: the chief Lotan, the chief Shobal, the child Ziboen…”
It emerges, therefore, that Timna was no simple woman. She came from royalty!
It gets even better. The Talmud tells us that Timna wanted to convert to Judaism. (Although the Abrahamic line of the family were technically Jewish, the rest of the family remained idol worshipers though they were all essentially on good terms.) Unfortunately, however, her desire to convert was rejected by all three Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Talmud then seems to imply that the birth of Amalek was a punishment for having rejected Timna from joining the Jewish people.
Timna didn’t let her rejection impede her from pursuing her goals and getting as close to the Jewish people as possible. As such, she agreed to live as a concubine to someone connected to the royal Jewish family rather than remain in her own royal family.
What’s going on here?
Granted it was wrong to reject Timna from conversion, but even so, how does a woman who so loves the Jewish people produce a son who only wants to kill them? Not to mention that Amalek’s father, Elifaz, was “raised on the lap of Isaac.” How did this monster of a person emerge from two such parents?
It is explained that the rejection of Timna was a very significant event. She wanted to connect to the Jewish people and she was turned away. Apparently, they also didn’t turn her away in the nicest manner possible.
Although she didn’t admit it, or even show it, she did feel animosity and perhaps subconsciously even wanted revenge. As a result: Amalek was born with a DNA for revenge. Yes, the seemingly minor act of rejecting Timna is the source for the slaughter of countless Jews by Amalek and his descendants, with some suggesting that the German Nazis were descendants of Amalek.
The lesson here is that we must make heroic efforts not to harm or insult others when having to deliver unwelcome news and tidings. Just like we never know what or where a good word will lead to, so too, we never know where a bad word, a rude comment, or an act of insensitivity will lead to, either. As they say, “Everyone is fighting their own personal battle that you don’t know about. Please be kind.”
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:
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