Rebecca Luire

D’var Torah: Rebecca Lurie (Ki Titzei)

Throughout parashat Ki Tetzei, this week’s Torah portion, the final laws of the Torah are given to the Jewish people. These final laws address matters regarding individuals, their families and their neighbors. After reviewing all of these laws in detail, the parasha abruptly transitions and commands us to “Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey….Do not forget!” Two questions arise for me: Why is Amalek mentioned after a litany of laws? Why does it say both, “Remember” and then “Do not forget”?

As we think about the laws that are explained in this parasha, they all center around communal norms and what it means to live in an ethical community. For example, one law states that if a slave comes to you for refuge from his master, you must not send him back to his master. Rather, he must live with you and you must protect him. Amalek represents a people without communal norms. Amalek are identified as a recurrent enemy of the Israelites, fighting by attacking from the rear when their enemies were in a state of weakness. Including this mention of Amalek at the end of all of the communal norms ensures that we understand the ramifications of what happens when we, as a people, live a life without ethical morals.

In addition to the contrast of Amalek to an ethical society, this parasha places a heightened importance to remembering Amalek by saying “Remember” and “Do not Forget.” These two phrases are mentioned together another time in the Torah, at the end of parashat Vayeishev. After Joseph accurately interprets the dream of the chief cupbearer, Joseph asked him to “remember me” and to mention him to Pharaoh so he can be freed. The final line of the parasha states “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember him. He forgot him.” Rashi’s interpretation of this repetition is that “remember” means immediately or at this time; “do not forget” means in the future, in a sustained way. Applied to this week’s parasha, we should remember what Amalek did today and always.

As we embark on the school year ahead, which is off to a wonderful start, may we, as a community, work diligently every day to create an ethical community and to understand what could happen if we stray, personally or as a community. As the school year continues, we must work hard throughout the year to ensure we are living up to the expectations set for us by God in order to be our best selves for the sake of our community.

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