Parashat Ki Teitzei – Erev Shabbat 28 August 2020
Week of 23-29 August 2020
Torah portion: Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19 Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1-10
Theme: When you go out
The final two mitzvot in Ki Teitzei seem to contradict each other: to remember and to blot out;“Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey out of Egypt,” “how he attacked you on the way, when you were faint and weary, and struck down all who lagged behind you; and he did not fear G-d. Therefore when the LORD your G-d has given you rest from all your enemies on every hand, in the land that the LORD your G-d is giving you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!” (25:17–19).
The surrounding nations, who had heard of the mighty feats performed by the G-D of the Israelites and of the deliverance of His chosen people from Egypt, were in awe of Him.
“he did not fear G -d” – explains why Amalek is more despised than any other nation. Amalek, in an attempt to diminish the reputation of the all-powerful G-D of the Israelites, in the eyes of the surrounding nations and the Israelites themselves, attacked them at the rear. He set upon the most vulnerable; the stragglers who were faint and weary and could not keep up (R. Soloveitchik). Amalek represents those who, because they are in a position of power or authority, cruelly abuse those whom they deem inferior or who cannot defend themselves. According to Maimonides the acts are to be recalled to evoke an abhorrence of what he did.
The ‘remembering’ is to perform as a guard of how not to be, by making each person aware of acts that G-D has condemned; behaviours that will separate them from G-D; and of how their very thoughts may lead to subtle expressions of the superiority of the self and disdain of others.
We recall how Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. Miriam, because she was highly regarded by the Israelites, was in a position to relegate Zipporah to an inferior position within the community because she was dark-skinned (Num 12:1).
Miriam thought she was challenging Moses’ authority as leader when she declared to Aaron: “has G-D not spoken through us as well” whereas she was actually challenging G-D who had designated Moses as leader perhaps because of his humility. G-D asked her: “Why did you not fear to speak against my servant Moses?” (Num 12:2) God’s punishment to Miriam was tzaraat for seven days (Num 12:10).
Once the Israelites are established in their G-D-given land and at rest from all their enemies they are to blot out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. If they hearken well and observe G-D’s covenant with them, they will be that most beloved treasure of all peoples, that kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exod 12:5-6). They will acknowledge G-D’s presence within each person and the community as a whole and thus be that light to other nations that they were called to be. Then, no longer will the traits of Amalek be tolerated by a just and compassionate society.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1.How do those who victimize others compare with those who see but turn their backs? 2. What characteristics does a just society need to insist upon from their leaders and others in positions of authority?
Bibliography: The Chumash: The Stone Edition; Plaut: The Torah – A Modern Commentary; Teachings of Lubavitcher Rebbe: Amalek-Nemesis of G-dliness, Lord Jonathon Sacks; Two Types of Hate.
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Gwen-Ellen Dankewich, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna: 2008