Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Ki Tetze
To dedicate this lesson

Eliminating Amalek


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Elul 12 5782
This week’s Sedra of Ki Tetze contains no less than 41 Mitzvot – the most recorded in any one parsha in all the Torah. These Mitzvot cover a vast spectrum of issues:

Some involve family issues, such as dealing with a rebellious child; inheritance laws; forbidden, restricted or permissible marriages; divorce; and adultery.

Other Mitzvot are concerned about our interaction with fellow Jews or non-Jews: Guarding a lost article until the owner retrieves it; making sure our home is safe when guests visit; taking special care of the most fragile members of society, such as the orphan or widow; not charging interest to fellow Jews (though normally interest would be perfectly acceptable); paying workers in a timely fashion; & several agricultural laws that serve to provide sustenance for the indigent of the community.

And then there are the Mitzvot that are strictly between ourselves and Hashem: the wearing of tzitzit, for example; fulfilling the vows we make to Hashem to perform a good deed or give charity advance our truth; and maintaining honesty in what we say & what we do

All this makes perfect sense to me. On a comprehensive level, Hashem wants us to be well-rounded & "complete." In every sphere of life, whether we’re alone, with friends or family, or involved in a community, we have to conduct ourselves as living representations (or "shadows") of G-d.

But I’m puzzled by the very last Mitzva in the Sedra:

"Remember what Amalek did to you when you were leaving Egypt. He ambushed you on the way, striking the weakest among you when you were faint & exhausted. He did not fear G-d. And so, when Hashem will give you rest from your surrounding enemies in Israel, you shall wipe out their very memory; do not forget!"

How does this Mitzva fit in with the other commandments in the Parsha? Why wasn’t it given back in Parshat B’Shalach, when we first encounter Amalek & they attack us, as noted here? Wouldn’t that make more sense?

Two thoughts: First, the battle vs. Amalek encompasses the 3 elements we noted earlier: They attacked us personally (& so the pasuk says "L’cha" & not "LaChem"); they preyed on the most vulnerable, & they did not fear Hashem. Moreover: It seems that, alas, we shall always have enemies (thus even "when we have peace with our neighbors," there is war!). But if we keep the Mitzvot aforementioned, if we personally act in a holy fashion, help others, & build a strong community, then we’ll surely overcome all the Amaleks of history until Redemption.
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