Ki Tetze begins by introducing the rules for going off to war (21:10). And it concludes the way it began–as the Israelites (and ultimately all generations of Jews) are commanded to remember how Amalek, a nomadic group living in the Sinai region, waged a surprise war on the Israelites as they marched peacefully through the desert.
We are instructed in Deuteronomy 25:17-19: “Remember what Amalek did to you as you came forth out of Egypt. Undeterred by fear of God, he surprised you on the march when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear. Therefore, when the Lord your God grants you safety from all your enemies around you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!”
Sadly, this mindset of war and enemies in the Torah has remained an indelible part of our identity as Jews throughout history and is something our brothers and sisters living in Israel confront in some fashion on a daily basis. In this day and age, the worldwide threats of terror are also constantly in the news.
Still, until the day when the prophet Isaiah’s call for peace will truly come to fruition, the Torah must persist in reminding us of the responsibilities our brothers and sisters must fulfill in preparing for war. With that unfortunate reality in mind, I pray that as the Days of Awe will descend upon us in just three weeks, we reach out to the Almighty with increased prayers for peace and security for all of God’s children, as we are reminded at this season that the Almighty is the Source of our light and our protection, our guard and our shield.
Even in the depths of sadness and calamity, may we never lose sight of the possibility for a safer, more peaceful era in our own lifetime as we continue to work toward a new reality of partnership in the Middle East and for our beloved Eretz Yisrael. Am Yisrael Chai!
Susan, Atara, Micah and Elan join me in wishing you a Shabbat Shalom from our home to yours!
-Rabbi Joseph Krakoff