Ki Teitzei 5778 – Who Cares? So What? Get Out of Class. Keep the Faith

By: James Rosenberg

In this week’s Parsha, there are Seventy-four of the Torah’s 613 mitzvot.

These include the laws o the inheritance rights of the firstborn, burial and dignity of the dead, returning a lost object, sending away the mother bird before taking her young,

and more

Also recounted are the judicial procedures and penalties for adultery, for the rape or seduction of an unmarried girl, and for a husband who falsely accuses his wife of infidelity.  Included is the duty to pay a worker on time, and to allow anyone working for you, man or animal, to “eat on the job”; the proper treatment of a debtor, and the prohibition against charging interest on a loan.

JUST to name a few more…

 The last of the 74 mitzvot is the commandment to remember the deeds of the vilest of Israel’s enemies, the nation of Amalek… And, God said…

You shall remember what Amalek did to you on the way when you were coming out of Egypt.  Who is this nation of Amalek that deserves such harsh recognition?

Amalek encountered the Jewish people just after they escaped from the clutches of the Egyptians. The Torah tells us that “the people of Israel journeyed. . And, they camped in Rephidim. Moses named the place ‘Challenge and Strife,’ because of the strife of the people of Israel and their challenging of G‑d, saying, ‘is G‑d amongst us or not?’  Amalek attacked.

This is important! The Torah describes the explicit sequence: the Jewish people expressed their doubts, saying “Is G‑d amongst us?” And, the next thing that happened was – Amalek’s attack. Not only did their skepticism make them vulnerable to attack, but Amalek sensed their uncertainty, took advantage of the young nation, and did in fact, attack Israel.

Doubt is a funny thing. It is irrational, and yet it can penetrate almost any rational medium. Here was a nation that had experienced the greatest miracles of all time: the ten plagues, the splitting of the Red Sea and the manna. And yet they were not impervious to the plague of doubt.

This is the nature of doubt itself. It circumvents logic and proceeds to erode away beliefs. And, G‑d said, remember Amalek for all generations.

But doubt and apathy will look truth in the face and exclaim, “So what?”

G‑d tells us: Remember your enemy, Amalek.
Remember that apathy is an empty rival.
AND, there is a purpose here: it challenges the one in doubt to reaffirm and strengthen her or his faith in G‑d.

Let’s change the subject, and talk about YOU!

You know so much. That there is God, and that life has meaning and a purpose.
Or, that God gave his descendents the Torah at Sinai.
Or, you know how to read the aleph bet.
Or, you know a trick or two about marriage, playing mahjong, or Monopoly.
If you’d take a moment to consider, you would surely come to the conclusion that you know a good bit, and that you’ve accumulated a great amount of knowledge during your life.
On the other side of that coin, there are millions of people around the world who don’t know what you know.

They don’t have the humanitarian, Jewish, or ethical education that perhaps you’ve been privileged to experience. Ideas and ways of life that you might think are a given, have never reached hundreds of millions of people around the world.

You really have so much to share, with so many who know almost nothing. Yes, it’s true – there is life in a classroom, but you do not always need to be the student! Climb out of that knee-squeezing, student desk and walk up to the chalkboard, and teach the class a thing or two.  Show us what you’ve got!  Judaism was never an exclusive elitist group where only the learn’ed and the ordained have the right to teach and inspire; rather, in the words of one Chassidic master, “If the letter aleph is all that you know, then teach the aleph to someone who doesn’t know it!”

Simply: if you know something, teach it. The name of this week’s Torah reading is Ki Teitzei, “When you go out.” This teaches us that there is a time when we must go out and spread the message. Don’t be selfish with your knowledge. Practically speaking, you can always share what you know, with somebody who is not aware!

In closing, let’s talk about FAITH!

Believers know that our every waking moment is a gift from G‑d. They treasure the moments that He has planned for them, and express their gratitude with pride. Those with less faith take their moments as they come, and judge the quality of a day by the amount of pleasure they manage to wring out of it.  The Modeh Ani is the first prayer that a Jewish child is taught; and, taught to recite every morning.

“I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King,
for You have restored my soul within me;
Your faithfulness is great.”

We acknowledge our Creator and thank Him for the gift of a new day. By starting off the day full of humility and gratitude, we pledge to live up to G‑d’s vision for the world. But, I ask you: once you have gotten up, how much of the Modeh Ani do you take with you during the day? So you spent eight seconds admitting that you owe your life to G‑d. Did that really positively impact the rest of your day?

The Torah advises us to “fulfill the utterances of our lips;” to pay up our pledges to charity, and to live up to our vows. It’s a directive to listen and learn from the words said while praying. It is too easy to just go through the motions, letting the familiar words…rll off of the tongue and into oblivion.

The words we say must mean something. Prayer is not just dead time spent mindlessly repeating a repetitive refrain, but a unique opportunity to communicate with the divine.

When we train our children to say the Modeh Ani first thing after rising, it is in hoped that the feelings and emotions encapsulated in the prayer will permeate ALL the days of their life. G‑d demands that we fulfill our pledges and live up to our promises. Each morning we acknowledge our Creator as King, and thank Him for gifting us with our soul again. We approach the rest of the day with the enthusiasm and knowledge that we are following the route suggested in God’s guidebook.

We should fulfill the oaths we make to Him, and live by our promises, for now and forever.

Shabbat Shalom!