Parasha Inspiration – Ki Teitzei

אֲשֶׁ֨ר קָֽרְךָ֜ בַּדֶּ֗רֶךְ וַיְזַנֵּ֤ב בְּךָ֙ כָּל־הַנֶּֽחֱשָׁלִ֣ים אַֽחֲרֶ֔יךָ וְאַתָּ֖ה עָיֵ֣ף וְיָגֵ֑עַ וְלֹ֥א יָרֵ֖א אֱלֹהִֽים :זָכ֕וֹר אֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂ֥ה לְךָ֖ עֲמָלֵ֑ק בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ בְּצֵֽאתְכֶ֥ם מִמִּצְרָֽיִם:

You shall remember what Amalek did to you on the way, when you went out of Egypt, how he happened upon you on the way and cut off all the stragglers at your rear, when you were faint and weary, and he did not fear God.

Deuteronomy 25:17-18

This week’s Torah portion contains 74 different mitzvot that Moshe Rabeinu recounts for the children of Israel. The portion concludes with the mitzvah: Remember Amalek.

This mitzvah is not only read as part of this week’s Torah portion, it is also read as the Maftir verse during Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat immediately before Purim. It is a cautionary reading; Haman was an Amalekite. We are to remember what some people, and some peoples, have done to us in our history.

At first glance, this can be quite confusing. Are we not to love our neighbor as ourselves? Should we not turn the other cheek? But closer examination indicates that these mitzvot do not present a machloket.

If our enemy asks for forgiveness, we are commanded to forgive. We are not commanded to ignore what our enemy has done, nor are we commanded to pretend that what our enemy has done never happened. Forgiveness does not mean that restitution need not be made. In fact, part of the process of asking forgiveness is making restitution. Even then, it is incumbent upon us to remember what our enemy has done, even when they are no longer our enemy.

If someone betrays us, and they make restitution and ask our forgiveness, we are commanded to forgive them. We are not commanded to trust them again. This distinction is vitally important to understand. Trust is something that we should give freely to Hashem and Mashiach. Trust between people is earned, and if broken, may or may not be repaired. Repairing trust is a difficult task. It can be done, but it takes time. The process of repairing trust is something that all of us have gone through and will go through on both sides of the equation. For instance, if your teenager gets into an accident because of not driving with sufficient caution, you should forgive them if they are contrite. However, this does not mean that you must immediately give them the keys to the car again. Trust must be re-established first.

Remember Amalek. This commandment also teaches us that in everything we do today, we must also keep history in mind. All human beings have the tendency to function as if history began on the day of their birth. We must strive to suppress this tendency, and to look at our potential actions today through the lens of historical perspective. One of the great Rishonim, Yehudah HaLevi, teaches us to acknowledge the existence of Hashem through understanding the impossibility of the history of the Jewish people without Hashem. As we see Hashem in our history, so we must understand our place in the history. To understand our place in history, we must learn the history. In order to learn the history we must remember. This includes remembering Amalek.

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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.