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    Ways & wars – Ki Tetzei

    This week’s reading contains much of the Jewish ethic of warfare, as does last week’s.

    It tells us how to wage a war if there is no other way to handle a threat. It also gives a name to an enemy: Amalek.

    There was a real Amalek who, according to the Torah, “met you on the road and attacked you from the rear, attacking those who were weak, when you were famished and weary – and he did not fear God” (Deut. 25:17-19).

    The description of Amalek links lack of religion with lack of ethics. Amalek “did not fear God”: therefore he attacked from behind, targeted the weak and weary, and embarked on a fight without provocation.

    Had Amalek really believed in God he would have been restrained by Divinely-given ethics which begin and end with honouring others.

    In the view of Rav Soloveitchik, Amalek was not only a real person but a symbol. Any group which acts like Amalek is an Amalek.

    Christianity’s theory, probably never actually put into practice, is that when an Amalek strikes you on the cheek you let him strike the other cheek too.

    Judaism, as Ahad HaAm explains in a classical essay on Jewish and Christian ethics, is more practical and realistic. It says, remember what the first Amalek did to you; and wipe out every trace of Amalek, any Amalek.

    Amalekism shames God and brings disgrace to the name of man.

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