Of the many malevolent characters recorded in the Bible, Amalek, the grandson of Esau, stands out as the archetypal enemy of our people. He is the father of the nation that waged war against the Jewish people upon their miraculous emergence from Egyptian bondage.

Throughout our long history, Amalek had many anti-Semitic heirs. One of these was Haman, in the Purim miracle, who sought to annihilate every Jew.

What are the origins of this character?

“Timna was a concubine to Elifaz, son of Esau, and she bore Amalek to Elifaz.” (Genesis 36:12)

Some verses later, we are told about Timna’s brother, Lotan. “These are the chiefs who came of the Horites: the chief Lotan, the chief Shobal, etc.” (Genesis 36:29)

Timna was the product of a royal family, but her brother held the position of one of the Horite chiefs.

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 99b) fills in missing details. Timna sought to convert to Judaism and came to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but they refused to accept her. Timna produced Amalek because they rejected her.

Timna became a concubine to Elifaz, insisting that “it is better to be a maidservant to this nation than to be a princess in any other nation.”

Being from the seed of Abraham and Sarah was extremely prestigious. Timna knew the great honor given to them and was willing to sacrifice her personal dignity to be a part of this prominent people, even if her connection would be a servile one.

I’ve always been puzzled by this story.

Timna’s actions seem righteous and altruistic. Why would this result in a child who represents the very paradigm of evil?

Our patriarchs and matriarchs selflessly reached out to humanity teaching G‑d’s path of truth. Abraham was the ultimate seeker of converts. If our patriarchs rejected Timna, they must have perceived that her motives were insincere.

It seems that Timna was not searching for G‑d, but personal aggrandizement. Had she truly wanted to join a nation serving G‑d, she would not have “settled” with the family of Esau, whose path was the antithesis of Abrahamitic teachings. Instead, she desired to be part of a powerful, but not necessarily G‑dly or spiritual, people.

Timna was willing to sacrifice her personal status, but only for greater, more fulfilling gratification. Her actions were not about G‑d, but entirely about herself. Our perceptive patriarchs realized this and rejected her.

In the era of Redemption, evil will be eradicated and all humankind will be rectified. Only one nation—Amalek—will not be a part of this vision.

“Their hand is on G‑d’s throne.” (Exodus 17:16)

Amalek represents an attitude that is beyond repair because it is the opposite of G‑dliness. It is entirely egocentric, even while dressed up as an act of devotion to G‑d. These are the seeds that can grow into the most extreme acts of evil fathomable.

Because the greatest distortion of goodness is an act of malevolence adorned in the religious garb of purity—an act of selfishness acted out in the noble name of G‑d.