There was a stand-up comic in LA who used to say, "Comedy is dead. What you're laughing at is ridicule."

Ridicule is a lot easier than comedy - and it takes a lot less talent. Comedy takes an appreciation of life, a modicum of wit, and a certain amount of love of one's fellow man. Ridicule is easy and cheap. It's a blunt instrument that bludgeons large unmoving targets. Where is the real comedy that fills our mouths with laughter?

The message of ridicule is that life is absurd. Nothing is important. The best job in Southern California is to be a psychiatrist, and the second best job is to be a divorce lawyer - not surprising when life is ridiculous.

The opposite of happiness isn't unhappiness - it's apathy. Happiness is the knowledge that things are important and that I have a connection to them. Apathy is the feeling that nothing matters. Why get out of bed? Apathy is the air that ridicule breathes.

When the Jewish people were leaving Egypt, there was a nation who came out and attacked them. That nation knew of all the miracles that God had done for the Jewish people in Egypt, but it didn't faze them. They still attacked. Why? Because their name is Amalek. Because they are the incarnation of all apathy in this world. They are the scoffer who says nothing is important. Nothing is real. There is no law. No judge. No judgment. Nothing. The world stood in awe as the sea divided for the Jewish people. But Amalek merely smirks.

One good sneer can banish a million miracles.

The Torah tells us that Amalek attacked the Jewish people when they were "on the road" (Devarim 28:18). What is the significance of the road? A road always connects. No road leads nowhere. Amalek waits in ambush beside the road from the head to the heart. Deep inside every Jew there is a primordial sense-memory of standing at Sinai. We are believers, children of believers. Why then do so many of us feel so far from God?

Enter the clown.

Amalek stops that sense-memory on the highway from the head to the heart. His very name spells out his mission. The gematria (numerical equivalent) of Amalek is 240. Thegematria of afek, doubt, is also 240. Amalek is the source of existential doubt in the world that tries to sever the Jewish heart from its Source.

But there's another road on which Amalek awaits in ambush. The Jewish people are on a road from this world to the next. This world is no more than a narrow dark corridor that leads to a great palace of light. Amalek is that force in the world that tells us to stop. Just a second! Stay here! What's the hurry? Relax!

In Bilam's prophecy it says, "Reishit goyim Amalek - Amalek is the first among nations" (Bamidbar 24:20). If you take the first letters of these three words - reish, gimmel, ayin - it spells "rega! - just a second!" Stand still! Don't move! When people get depressed and apathetic, their movements tend also to be lethargic. Amalek stands in one place. He never moves. He is waiting for us to pass. But he is always standing still, for he is the epitome of apathy, of hopelessness.

Amalek is the archenemy of the Jewish people. He was incarnated as Haman, who tried to obliterate the Jewish people. We rejoice in our victory over him at the festival of Purim on the fourteenth and fifteenth of the month of Adar. However, Amalek makes frequent other guest appearances in his theater of the absurd. In every generation he arises to destroy us. He appeared recently as Adolf Hitler. Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, "The Jews have inflicted two wounds on mankind - circumcision on its body and conscience on its soul. These are Jewish inventions..."

Behind all conscience is the awareness that things are important. That life is important. Hitler saw man as nothing more than an animal. An intelligent speaking animal, but an animal nonetheless.

Wherever you find someone with a fanatical, implacable, and illogical enmity to the Jewish people - you have found Amalek. His very existence is founded on his antipathy and hatred for the offspring of Jacob, the agents of that "wound" called conscience. Amalek is called the "first of the nations": he was the first of the nations to attack Israel. Everything that is first contains the blueprint of all that is to follow. The seed comes first. Contained in the seed is the tree. Amalek is the bitter seed of Jew-hatred.

The Midrash says the name Amalek is formed of the two words am lak, literally, "people that lick." Says the Midrash: The name is apt, for they are "the nation who wants to lick the blood of Israel." (It's interesting that through the ages, Amalek's blood libel always accuses the Jews of being bloodsuckers, murdering gentile children for matzot, etc.)

Blood is the link between the body and the nefesh - the life force of the body, as the Torah tells us when it prohibits the consumption of blood, "because blood is the life force" (Devarim 12:23). Amalek wants to sever that connection between the body and the soul. Between this world and the next. Between the head and the heart. Amalek is the force in this world that lays in wait, ready to kidnap the Jew's innate knowledge of God on the way to its destination - to the place where it will be crystallized into conviction, the heart. Intellect devoid of emotional conviction leads to cynicism and hedonism. Amalek's two great protégés.

As E. M. Forster once put it, "Only connect the prose and the passion..." Only connect the head and the heart, and man will reach his true vocation, offering his mind on the altar of the heart to his Maker.

More articles available at Ohr Somayach's website.