Beit Midrash

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Even the Wicked are Important


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

Elul 19 5779
We have discussed in the past the connection between the end of Parashat Ki Teitzei, which deals with the struggle against Amalek, and the beginning of Parashat Ki Tavo, which deals with the mitzva of bikurim. Both sections (Devarim 25:18-19; 26:1) include a reference to coming to "the Land that Hashem your Lord has given you as an inheritance."

One can ask: how was Amalek able to effectively attack Bnei Yisrael as they left Egypt, considering that they were protected by the miraculous clouds that previously shielded them from the Egyptians (see Mechilta D’Rabbi Yishmael, Beshalach 4)? The Midrash, followed by Rashi, explains on the word "vayezanev" that the Amalekites inflicted wounds at the area of the tail, specifically, that they cut off foreskins and threw them up in the air. On the words "hanecheshalim acharecha," it explains that these people were "those lacking in strength due to their sins, who were expelled by the cloud." In other words, Amalek was able to harm only those who did not agree to perform a brit mila, which is a marking of oneself or of his child as a servant of Hashem. Another midrash, cited by the Bechor Shor, learns from the proximity of p’sukim in Ki Teitzei that the vulnerable people were those who violated the laws of honest weights. In other words, the unprotected were sinners in the realm of monetary honesty.

Rav Kook (Orot Hatechiya 20) has a very novel, related idea. He posits that evil people actually support the righteousness of the righteous. As long as they remain connected to the nation in general, one can apply to them the pasuk, "Your nation are all righteous people" (Yeshayahu 60:21), which is from this week’s haftara. The external, evil behavior actually helps the righteous, like the yeast at the bottom of a wine barrel, which protects the wine from spoilage. It is like the idea that the incense in the Temple service has to contain chelbena, even though, individually, it has a very offensive odor.

Our conclusions from this matter are thus as follows. On the one hand, the cloud did not protect the type of sinners that we discussed. On the other hands, the Land was promised to the whole nation, including such people, lacking in morality. On the way to the Land, it is not possible to give up on any Jew, even if he was expelled by the cloud. If Amalek takes advantage of their weakness and attacks them, we will remember this treachery and not forget or forgive.

Let us pray that we all be on the level of, "Your nation are all righteous people."
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