Monday, January 30, 2012

Adar Sheni and Amalek

Towards the end of the Parsha we read about the war with Amalek. Yehoshua was charged with leading the army to combat this formidable foe. The classic commentaries to Tanach with regard to Shaul HaMelech's campaign against Amalek teach us that the Amaleki were proficient in the occult and were especially educated in the ways to harness the astrological forces to their benefit. Rabbeinu Bachye maintains that in the battle discussed in this week's parsha that Amaleki chose soldiers who were destined to live out the year based on their astrological sign.

By utilizing such a "draft", the Amaleki were confident that they could not be defeated since their soldiers were unable to be killed. Rabbeinu Bachye mentions that this is why it was necessary for Yehoshua to choose men to go out to war. The pesukim in our Parsha state that Yehoshua was charged with selecting men to go out to fight. Rabbeinu Bachye is of the opinion that this was not merely a command that Yehoshua assemble an army. Yehoshua was charged with finding people with the correct astrological signs so that the Israelite army would also be comprised of men who were unable to fall in war. This, says Rabbeinu Bachye, is why when Yehoshua's offensive was successful that the pasuk mentions that the enemy was weakened. They were only weakened because they could not be defeated entirely. The enemy soldiers became weak and tired of battle, but there were no actual casualties of war since the soldiers were unable to be killed in battle.

Rabbeinu Bachye makes it seem that the individuals mentioned had specific astrological signs and that is what protected them. The Chizkuni takes a slightly different approach. The Chizkuni also is of the opinion that the Amaleki were harnessing the forces of the astrological signs and that Yehoshua was charged with selecting Israelite warriors who had appropriate astrological signs to combat them. Unlike Rabbeinu Bachye's interpretation, the Chizkuni felt that the Amaleki were using the astrological forces directly to fight the Israelites. Therefore, the Chizkuni states that the men chosen to fight Amalek were not those who had specific astrological signs, rather, they were those who had no astrological sign whatsoever. Yehoshua was charged with gathering men who had been born in Adar II. The Chizkuni maintains that Adar II has no mazal since all twelve have been assigned to the earlier twelve months. Since they were not bound by mazal, the Amaleki would not be able to use astrology to combat them.

This approach of the Chizkuni is fantastic because based on Rashi (Rosh Hashana 11b) and the Ibn Ezra (Reishis Chachma and Sefer HaTaamim) it would seem that the astrological signs are based on the solar calendar and that which we state that the lunar months align with the signs is only based on the average years. In a solar calendar there are always twelve months and all months are assigned a sign. The Chizkuni would seem to argue with this premise and state that the signs are based on the lunar months. Perhaps the Chizkuni would actually maintain that the nations of the world who only have the solar calendar would have their signs based on the solar calendar, but the Jews would be based on the lunar calendar. If that is true then this technique of Yehoshua was a surprise defense that the Amaleki had probably not counted upon. The Amaleki, only familiar with the solar calendar, would have no understanding of what it would mean to have a person that has no mazal since they have no such month of Adar II. Yehoshua, on the other hand led an army of signless warriors and routed this archenemy of ours.

I find it interesting to mention something written by Rav Dovid Cohen in his Masos Kappai. Rav Cohen points out that Ephraim and Menashe were compared to fish by their grandfather Yaakov when he blessed them in Parshas VeYechi. Sometimes we find that Ephraim and Menashe are considered like one Shevet and are referred to as Shevet Yosef, and other times we find that they are two and called by their own names. This is similar to Adar, symbolized by the astrological sign of fish, which is sometimes one month and other times, like this year, two. It is important to note that Yehoshua was a scion of Ephraim and it was he who led this army in this week's parsha.

On a different note, often I have heard people try and prove the existence of aliens from this week's Haftarah. See here for a discussion of this topic.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful and fascinating post.

What are the implications of a person born without mazalot-- which is to say all those born in Adar Sheni? Are you aware of any sources?

It is also interesting that in ivrit the sign is at least sometimes referred to as DagIM? Is it possible that the mazal for Adar Sheni could also be a dag?

Finally, perhaps within Yaakov Avinu's bracha lay shevet Yosef's strategy for confronting Amalek, as brought by by the Chizkuni.

Shabbat shalom,

Ari S. said...

Thank you.

The Bnai Yisaschar speaks at length about the supernatural qualities of those born in Adar Sheni. He expounds greatly on the concept of the Chizkuni that they are not constrained by mazal. Since nature is perceived as a result of mazal it would seem that those born in this month can raise above nature more than others can.

I have never seen a source split the Dagim with one per Adar, but it seems to be implied by Rav Cohen's suggestion.

Very interesting point, as I read your comment I was also reminded of Chazal's statement that the progeny of Eisav (Amalek) fall in the hands of the progeny of Yosef. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

"He expounds greatly on the concept of the Chizkuni that they are not constrained by mazal. Since nature is perceived as a result of mazal it would seem that those born in this month can raise above nature more than others can."

I was going to suggest this, that in absence of mazal, these would have to rely on merit, tefila, BRACHOT, etc.--as we all do, of course--but that perhaps that these people were less encumbered by the concept of mazalot.

Shabbat shalom


Son of a Preacher Man said...

Amazing Shtikel!
Keep them coming my friend. Shkoyach.

Son of a Preacher Man said...

The Da'as Zikainim Mibaalei Tosfos says like the Rabbeinu Bachye.

SoaPM said...

Also, where is the Bnei Yissaschar?

Ari S. said...


The Bnai Yisaschar is spread throughout his Maamarim on Adar. For example, the last piece in Maamar 1 there. Maamar 3 is specific to Milchemes Amalek.

Anonymous said...

Rubbish. Rambam tells us astrology has no part in Judaism and Israel is controlled only by God directly. Abraham was ordered to refute astrology and believe in God’s promised son from Sarah. Belief in astrology borders on idol worship.

Anonymous said...

Joshua could not defeat Amalek because God created a challenge for us and not rely on miracles