Not Racist but Reishis
By Rabbi Label Lam
When he saw Amalek, he took up his parable and said, "Amalek was the
first of the nations (Reishis goyim Amalek), and his fate shall be
everlasting destruction." (Bamidbar 24:20)
Reishis goyim Amalek- Amalek was the first of the nations: He came before
all of them to make war with Israel, and so Targum renders. And his fate
shall be to perish by their hand, as it says, “You shall obliterate the
remembrance of Amalek” (Deut. 25:19). Rashi
What had Amalek done so wrong that they are worthy of ultimate destruction?
Why are they crowned with the title “Reishis”? Being called “Reishis” is the
most exalted name in the universe. “B’Reishis” With Reishis…the Torah is
called Rieshis… HASHEM created heaven and earth. HASHEM looks into the Torah
and creates the universe, as the Zohar states. B’Reishis- for the sake of
Torah which is called Reishis HASHEM created the heaven and earth. The Torah
is of primary importance. It predates the world, as a blueprint, as DNA,
precedes the man. The world is only worthy because of the study and the
guidance the Torah offers to free willed humanity. Israel is also called
“Reishis” because we have been selected as protagonists in the paly of
history, a primary role in revealing HASHEM’s good plan.
King Davis tells us in Tehillim, “The primary wisdom (Reishis Chochmah) is
fear of HASHEM” Why is that the chief form of wisdom? Without it nothing
makes sense! Go watch a baseball game and ignore the ball. It’s small but
without it, it is impossible to know what’s going on. Leave HASHEM out of
the equation of life, and as interesting as things may seem at times, it
will register as sound and fury signifying nothing. The primary lens through
which to observe reality in a meaningful way is to seek to recognize HASHEM
in all phenomena. It’s a “Reishis” of thought and of primary import.
In a way, Thomas Edison was a “Reishis”. What would the world look like
without his invention of the light bulb? Others have taken it to new heights
but he was the first, the catalyst. How dark our world would be without him.
Similarly, Avaraham Avinu was a “Reishis”, having discovered the kindliness
and the source of all kindliness. Avraham, over the course of the last of
the 3700 years has lit up the world with an appreciation of his discoveries.
He was the first, a real “Reishis”. Karl Marx was a “Reishis” too. His
myopic picture of a world without HASHEM, gave rise to a Stalin who sent 39
million people to the gulag and put a wet blanket on and an iron curtain
around the spirit of a large part of humanity. Chairman Mao gained courage
and idealism from the “Reishis” of Marx and he murdered between 70 and 100
million of his people to secure his cultural revolution, blocking, even
today, a ¼ of humanity from the opportunity of freedom and dignity and from
perceiving the name of HASHEM. How dark the universe is because of the
“Reishis” of his false ideals!?
A “Reishis” is the initiator. He catalyzes some dramatic change. He is the
first to get something that will later become bigger than big started. He
gets all the credit or all the blame. So it better be true. Bilaam spoke
with prophetic clarity about the “end of days”. He realized that Amalek
would be worthy of destruction because they were “Reishis”- first and
primary. Amalek was the first to attack Israel when the whole world was
quaking with ultra-respect for what HASHEM had done for us during the
Exodus. Along came Amalek at the first instance of vulnerability. They
cooled us off! It was a suicide mission, as Rashi explains, like someone who
leaps into a scalding hot tub, gets burnt him-self, but reduces the heat of
the water. Amalek was a primary instigator and the father of anti-Semitism.
All future atrocities are to be traced back to their bad “Reishis”.
Therefore the grudge with Amalek is not racist but “reishis”.
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.