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From Amalek to Yitro

01/21/2022 11:22:08 AM


Rabbi Benjamin Samuels

This morning, the Ruderman Family Foundation released a report on their recent panel study and survey, which found that 94% of American Jews feel that there is antisemitism in the United States, with over 50% of respondents personally having experienced antisemtism either directly or through family and friends over the past five years. Unfortunately, this should not come as a surprise to us. “Bekhol dor va-dor - in every generation,” teaches the Haggadah, “they arise to eradicate us…” Or as recounted at the very end of last week’s parasha (Ex 17:16): “Hashem will war with Amalek from generation to generation.” Last week’s horrific event at Cong. Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, while synagogues across the country were laining parshat Amalek is but the most recent reminder that Jew-hatred is still a pernicious challenge with which we must contend. Were we to get stuck at the end of last week’s Torah reading, indeed we might think that from the Jewish vantage we can sum up the world: it's them versus us. 

However, the Torah transitions from parshat Amalek to parshat Yitro. Radak (Shoftim 1:16) explains that it would appear that the narrative of the Torah is presented out of order. Yitro only arrived at the encampment of the Children of Israel after Matan Torah. If so, why then place the story of Yitro here? Radak answers that the Torah doesn’t want us to get stuck in “Them vs. Us” thinking. There are Amaleks and there are Yitros. We need to recognize that Israel has real enemies - sonei Yisrael, and we have a duty to defend our safety, security, and destiny. But we also need to know that there are also ohavei Yisrael - lovers of Israel, that we have partners among the nations with whom we aim to build the good society, and for whom we aspire to be an or laGoyim, a light unto the nations - just as in our parasha Yitro is a light of wisdom and justice for the Children of Israel.

Shabbat Shalom, Rav Benjie

Thu, September 21 2023 6 Tishrei 5784