The Parsha concludes with the biblical obligation to remember “what Amalek did to you on the road, on your way out of Egypt”.
Amalek is the nation that attacked the Jewish people on their way out of Egypt. Not only did they attack the Jewish people at a vulnerable period, they attacked the back of the convoy – the young, women, elderly, and sick – which was unprotected. For this heinous act the nation of Amalek is the sworn enemy of the Jewish people for all eternity.
The sages ask why the deed of Amalek is so great as to warrant the hatred of the Jewish people for all time. The Chasidic tradition offers the following analogy:
What is the incident of Amalek comparable to? To a boiling tub of water no creature was able to enter. Along came one evil-doer and jumped into it. Although he was burned, he cooled it for the others.
The world had just witnessed the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt including the miracles that allowed a nation of slaves to defeat the strongest nation in the world. Upon exiting Egypt, the Jewish people were feared by the world. There was a universal acceptance of the validity of Jewish morality and the Jewish G-d. Despite the universal acceptance of the ‘rightness’ of the Jewish ethical code, Amalek chose to attack the Jewish people. Therefore, “when Amalek came and challenged them, he cooled the awe of the nations of the world for them”. The danger of Amalek’s actions is promoting indifference to the truth and to morality. By ignoring the right thing to do, Amalek gave license to the world to follow in its footsteps. For this reason Amalek is the sworn enemy of the Jewish people who believe in living by ethical standards.
Lessons to be learned:
It is important to value even the smallest good deed that we perform. This is not to say that we should selfishly praise our own actions however, to value each good deed that we do will inspire ourselves to constantly work to do the right thing. Modesty is not denying the greatness of a great act; it is the understanding that though a single act may be great, there is so much more that can be accomplished.
May we merit being inspired to do good for the sake of doing the right thing and may we merit to find modesty in our character to strive for the opportunity to do even more good in this world.
Shabbat shalom. All the best.
August 12, 2007 Parsha Re’eh: Moses continues addressing the Jewish people just before he passes away. He explains that the Israelites can be the recipients of either blessings or curses – blessings if they obey the commandments and curses if they do not.
Moses directs the Jewish people to destroy idolatry in all of its forms and informs them that the future sight of the Temple will be identified in the near future. Also discussed in this portion are: tithes, false prophets, the wayward city, tattoos, kosher, shmita, and the festivals. One of the most discussed ideas in this week’s Parsha is the idea of free choice.
The Parsha opens with the words, “See, I set before you today blessing and curse – blessing if you heed the commandments of the L-rd and curses if you do not heed the commandments of the L-rd”. The commentators understand this to be G-d’s explanation of free choice to mankind. In this sentence G-d identifies both right and wrong as well as blessing and curse. However, is the fear of blessing and curse enough to motivate people to do what is right? No. The Slonomer Rebbe considers this to be one of the most basic and important principles in the Torah and in the world.
Later in the Parsha, Moses explains that the reason for doing certain practices is because “Banim Atem”, “you are Children of G-d”. Rabbi Meir says that despite whatever actions or wrongdoings one commits he or she remains a child of G-d. According to the Slonomer Rebbe, this should be the greatest motivation to do what is right.
He explains that if G-d is a king and we are his children then human beings are all princes. The Slonomer Rebbe says – as a prince one should feel inspired act suitably to that position. As a child of the living G-d one should feel inspired to live a life realizes its potential and capacity for good. (I do not know whose idea this is): It is interesting that in life we are more concerned about doing the right thing in front of others (or not doing the wrong thing in front of others) than we are of doing the right thing.
As Jewish people who believe that doing what is right is our obligation as Jews, as human beings, as children of G-d, we should not limit our good deeds to those which have an audience.
In Judaism the highest form of Tz’daka, charity, (after teaching someone to be independent) is to give anonymously and to an unknown person/destination. It is here that one cannot give only to receive praise, or to praise oneself for giving because the location and effect of the deed is unknown. We should all merit too do what is right for the sale of doing the right thing and we should be inspired by our amazing capacity for good and by those who haveinspired us through their actions and character to act in ways fitting of good people. Shabbat Shalom. All the best.
August 6, 2007 Parsha Summary: Moses continues his closing address to the Children of Israel, promising them that if they will fulfill the commandments they will prosper in the Land that they are about to conquer and settle in keeping with G-d's promise to their forefathers. Moses in his address also recounts the sins and mistakes of the Jewish people thought-out history. I think Rashi offers the following insight: When Moses reflects on the past mistakes of the Jewish people he discusses the event when Abraham and Lot enter into Israel for the first time. Because G-d had promised Israel to them and there were no settlers at the time, Abraham turned to Lot and asked him if he wanted to settle the North or South part of the land. To this Lot replied the East side - referring to the East side of the Jordan River and outside the promised land of Israel. Lot asked for this plot of land because he could see the green of the land, which he knew was fertile, whereas Israel was desert and barren. The question Rashi asks is - what was Lot's mistake? Why did he not listen to G-d's promise, that the Land of Israel would be a Land of Milk and Honey (fertile and fruitful)? He answers - it was because Lot had only known of what he could see and from what he had experienced. Where he was from (the East side of the Jordan river) it always rained leading to fertile land. However, he had not seen it rain in Israel and therefore could not believe that it too would be fertile. (Israel turns out to be extremely fertile for Abraham who settles within its borders) The Jewish perception is that, at that time there were no people in Israel - so what need was there for rain if there was no one there who needed it. Such is the case in life. We are often limited by our perception and experience (like Lot) - lack of exposure means a dis-connect between what we know to be true or believe to be true and what we see in front of us. For example, we are unable to relate to those who starve because we ourselves do not starve (K"EH).
However, once we are confronted with a reality, we often laugh at ourselves for ever doubting it. May those we have lost find comfort in the place to which they have gone, may we merit to accept that those we have lost have found peace in a different place though we can no longer see them. All the best. Mike Katchen
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