The Haftorah of Parshas Zachor,1 the Haftorah always read on the Shabbos before Purim, relates how, contrary to G‑d’s Will, King Shaul took pity on Agag, King of Amalek, and “the best of [Amalek’s] sheep and oxen.”2 G‑d, angered by Shaul’s conduct, rejected Shaul as king and the kingship was transferred to King David.

Our Sages note3 that when Shaul became king, he was as free of sin as a one-year-old. Understandably, his permitting Agag and “the best of the sheep and oxen” to live could not possibly be simply a stark and blatant form of Divine disobedience.

Shaul had a good reason for his behavior, which is why he felt justified in stating with regard to his conduct, “I have fulfilled G‑d’s words.”4 Shaul truly felt that not only had he not gone against G‑d’s Will, but quite the contrary, by acting the way he did, Shaul was convinced that he had actually succeeded in fulfilling G‑d’s Will.

Shaul was aware of the great spiritual significance of sacrificial offerings,5 that by taking a physical animal and sacrificing it to G‑d one transforms the murkiness and darkness of the physical into the gleam and luminosity of the spiritual. Moreover, the greater the former degree of darkness, the more enhanced is the augmentation of Divine illumination.

This is why Shaul posited that taking the sheep and oxen of Amalek — Amalek representing the source of all evil6 and the greatest possible degree of darkness — and offering these animals to G‑d, would result in the greatest possible increase in spiritual and Divine illumination.

Shaul erred, however, in following the dictates of his own logic. While his actions were extremely logical, Shaul was lacking in his acceptance of the heavenly yoke, for G‑d had specifically stated, “utterly destroy all they have.”7

Indeed, this was the Prophet Shmuel’s rejoinder: “To obey is better than a choice offering; to comply [is more important] than the fat of rams”8 : “Offering” and “fat” allude to a logical mode of spiritual service; one serves G‑d with his best, his “fattest,” soul powers — his powers of intellect and comprehension.

Truly, such a manner of service is demanded of a Jew, that he serve not only because he accepts the yoke of heaven, but also that he understand all he is capable of understanding, so that his best and superior faculties are devoted to G‑d.

Were a person only to serve G‑d out of compulsion, without understanding why he is following G‑d’s commands and without enjoying his actions, then his service would only involve his lower faculties of speech and deed, etc. He would not, however, be giving of his “fat” — his higher soul powers and faculties of intellect and emotion — to G‑d.

Nonetheless, “obedience” and “compliance” — kabbalas ol, acceptance of the Divine yoke — is better than “offerings” and “fat,” i.e., service deriving solely from one’s own comprehension and feelings. When one serves but with one’s own logic or emotions, one may well err, as did Shaul.

Even if one does not err and manages to correctly surmise the Divine Will, nevertheless, since that individual is serving G‑d only with his intellect, the person remains a distinct entity unto himself — he lacks the total self-nullification and self-effacement to G‑d that only derives from kabbalas ol.

Although it is indeed necessary — as explained above — to serve G‑d with one’s intellect as well, still, even this intellectual service should be a consequence of the person’s acceptance of the Divine yoke. That is to say, the person serves G‑d with his mind and intelligence not because it is pleasant and enjoyable to do so, but simply because it is G‑d’s supernal will that man serve Him not only with kabbalas ol, but with intellect as well.

The Zohar states9 that kabbalas ol is the gateway to all matters of holiness; without kabbalas ol one cannot be a receptacle for G‑dliness and all manner of evil can result.

This is why Shaul’s permitting Agag to live for a short while — following his own logic rather than obeying G‑d’s Will with kabbalas ol — resulted in the birth of the wicked Haman, who sought to destroy Judaism and the Jewishpeople, heaven forfend.

In contradistinction to Shaul’s behavior, the behavior of the Jewishpeople at the time of Haman’s decree — acting with complete mesirus nefesh, total self-sacrifice that transcended the bounds of logic — succeeded in bringing about their salvation and resulted in the miracle of Purim.

Herein lies the specific connection between the details of the Haftorah of Parshas Zachor and Purim: Shaul sinned in his dearth of kabbalas ol, something that can eventually lead to strengthening the unholy forces of Amalek and the birth of a Haman.

Through kabbalas ol and mesirus nefesh, hearkening to the exhortation of the Prophet Shmuel, that “To obey is better than a choice offering, to comply [is more important] than the fat of rams,” the unholy forces of Amalek were vanquished, and “For the Jews there was light and joy, gladness and honor.”10 May G‑d help that “so let it be for us.”11

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, pp. 913-915.