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September 06, 2012 - Image 27

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-09-06

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spirituality >> Torah por

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ENJOY WATER'

Parshat Ki Tavo: Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8;
Isaiah 60:1-60:22.

T

his week's biblical portion is
filled with crucial ritual and
social commandments, the
blessings and the curses that comprise
our third Covenant with the Lord, and a
concluding crescendo of promise that if
we keep God's commandments, we will
inherit our land and succeed in all of our
undertakings.
Ki Tavo opens, however,
in a rather unusual way.
Throughout the Torah, God
and Moses are the "speak-
ers:' as it were, whereas
the Israelites must hearken
and obey. Ki Tavo uniquely
begins with two speeches to
be made by the household-
ers themselves: The first is a
quintessential thanksgiving
— history recited by the indi-
vidual bringing his first fruits
to the Holy Temple; and
the second is a declaration made by the
householder, when he has discharged his
tithe obligations due to the Cohen-Levite
ministers as well as to the poor of Israel.
Let us begin with the second of these
speeches: "You shall declare before the
Lord your God: 'I have cleared out the
consecrated portion from the house [and
the fields] ... and I have given it to the
Levite, the stranger, the fatherless and the
widow in accordance with all Your com-
mandments ... and I have not forgotten"
Why does the householder conclude, "I
have not forgotten"? There is no parallel
to such a declaration associated with any
other group of commandments.
I believe that the words "I have not
forgotten" in this context carry a special
meaning. You will remember that the
previous biblical portion, Ki Tetze, con-
cludes with the command:
"Remember what Amalek did to
you on the road after you left Egypt; he
chanced upon you on the road, attacking
from behind all of the straggling, weaker
people lingering in the back ... he did not
fear God. Therefore, when the Lord your
God grants you secure rest from all your
enemies roundabout ... you shall blot out
the memory of Amalek from under the

heavens; do not forget:'
Amalek is the arch-enemy of Israel;
it is not to be seen as a specific nation.
Amalek is the prototype of any nation
in any generation and in any part of the
world who — for no reason and without
provocation — attacks the weakest and
most unprotected group. In particular, it
singles out the people of Israel as the tar-
get of its destructive plans.
Amalekism is the philosophy
and raison d'etre of Haman,
Hitler, Stalin and Ahmadinejad.
If the Earth is to be home for
free peoples created in the
image of God to live in security,
then Amalekism and all that it
stands for must be wiped off
the face of the Earth.
"Remember ... Do not
forget" is the biblical message
that concludes Ki Tetze. Ki
Tavo opens with the farmer
bringing his first fruits to the Temple and
giving a first-person account of Jewish
history: "My father was a fugitive, almost
destroyed, by the Aramean [his uncle,
Laban]. He went down to Egypt ...where
we were afflicted and given heavy labor
... The Lord took us out of Egypt and
brought us to this land, flowing with milk
and honey ..."
We recite and explicate these words
every Passover seder, the evening when we
celebrate our freedom. Although it is now
almost 4,000 years, we still recite it in the
first person, as it is biblically written.
Jewish ritual turns our history into
a contemporary, personal experience,
which cannot and dare not be forgotten.
Likewise, regarding the declaration
after giving the tithes to the priests and
the poor: The householder declares that
we are now living in Israel, we are shar-
ing with those who teach us morality
and we are sharing with those who are
weaker and poorer than us.
We remember Amalek — and
we remember that we must destroy
Amalekism. We have not forgotten! ❑

Shlomo Riskin is chancellor of Ohr Torah

Stone and chief rabbi of Efrat, Israel.

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September 6 • 2012

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