AND MOSES ASSEMBLED ALL THE CONGREGATION OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, ETC. R. Hiya opened here a discourse on the text: And Saul said unto the Kenites: Go depart, etc. (I Sam. xv, 6). Observe, he said, that in regard to Amalek it is written: I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, etc. (Ibid. xv, 2). What is the reason that none of the wars waged by other nations against Israel was so displeasing to the Almighty as was the war waged against them by Amalek? The reason, assuredly, is that the battle with Amalek was waged on both fronts, both on high and below; for at that time the evil serpent gathered all its forces both above and below. It is the way of a serpent to lie in wait on the cross-roads. So Amalek, the evil serpent of Israel, was lying in wait for them
on the cross-roads, as it is written: how he set himself against him in the way (Ibid.). He was Iying in ambush on high in order to defile the Sanctuary, and below in order to defile Isracl. This we deduce from the expression, how he met thee by the way (Deut. XXV, 18), where the term qar'kha is meant to suggest the kindred term in the passage, If there be among you any man that is not clean by reason of that which chanceth him (miqre) by night (Ibid. XXIII, 11). By using the term qar'kha, the text as much as says: He has arrayed against thee that evil serpent from above that he may defile thee on all sides; and were it not that Moses from above, and Joshua from below, put forth all their strength, Israel would not have prevailed against him. It is for this reason that the Holy One, blessed be He, cherished His enmity against him throughout all generations, inasmuch as he planned to uproot the sign of the covenant from its place.
Our verse continues: And Saul said to the Kenite. The Kenite, as we know, was Jethro. Now, how came the descendants of Jethro to have their abode alongside of Amalek? Was not Jericho their home? But the explanation is found in the verse: And the children of the Kenite, Moses father-in-law, went up out of the city of palm-trees (i.e. Jericho) with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah (Judges I, 16); that is to say, when they left Jericho, they moved on as far as the border of Amalek, where they settled and remained until the time of King Saul, when, as we read, the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites (I Sam. xv, 6). They had to depart because, when the time comes to punish the guilty, the pious and just who are among them are first made responsible for their sins. This has already been made clear elsewhere. Similarly, if it had not been for the riff-raff that became associated with Israel, the Israelites would not have incurred punishment for the sin of the golden calf. For, observe that first it is written here, of every man whose heart makes him willing ye shall take my offering (Ex. xxv, 2); to wit, of the whole body of the people, including the mixed multitude, as the Holy One, blessed be He, desired to have in the work of the Tabernacle the co-operation of all sections of the people, both the brain category and the shell category: all were charged with the performance of the work. Subsequently, however, the sections separated, each betaking itself to its own affinity, and so the mixed multitude made the golden calf and led astray numbers who afterwards died, and thus brought upon Israel death and slaughter. The Holy One, blessed be He, then said: Henceforward the work of the Tabernacle shall be performed from the side of Israel only. Straightway Moses assembled all the congregation of the children of Israel... Take ye from among you an offering unto the Lord (Ibid. xxxv, 1-5). From among you emphatically, but not from every man whose heart maketh him willing, as in the previous injunction. Furthermore, as no place of assembly is mentioned, the words, And Moses assembled, etc., signify that, as the mixed multitude were mingled among the Israelites, Moses found it necessary to assemble the latter on one side so as to segregate them from the former.