Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #49: Ki Tetze (When you go out) D’varim (Deuteronomy) 21:10-25-19
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 54:1-10
B’rit Chadashah: Mark 12:18-27
This week’s parashah presents what should present a sobering thought to believers and unbelievers, especially considering the educational and social paradigm of contemporary society.
We are going to focus on the need to let go of hate for by doing so, we gain freedom. The first reality we must understand is that we cannot eliminate darkness (hate) with darkness. The smallest light will illuminate an entire room. I submit that one of the main reasons people refuse to confront any hate in their hearts is because there is always some level of pain involved. Once the hate is gone, wounds are opened and painful; wounds that must be dressed with the light of G-d’s Torah to heal properly.
There is a verse in Ki Tetsei that is easy to skim over, but difficult to internalize and act upon: Deut. 23:8 reads “Do not hate an Edomite, because he is your brother. Do not hate an Egyptian, because you were a stranger in his land.
When we consider what had happened to the Israelites in their recent past, the gravity of these statements and how absurd they must have seemed comes to light. The Egyptians of Moses’ day had enslaved the Israelites, “embittered their lives”, subjected them to a ruthless regime of hard labour and forced them to eat the bread of affliction. They had embarked on a program of attempted genocide, Pharaoh commanding his people to throw “every male [Israelite] child born, into the river” (Ex. 1:22). It would seem that after 40 years, the Israelites were expected to forgive and forget. But, how could G-d require this change of heart? The wilderness experience was the result of G-d rescuing them from Egypt in the first place. The reality was and is, that G-d does not want us to forget our past; that we are strangers ni a strange land. We are commanded to recite the Exodus story every year; to teach our children, grandchildren, and anyone who is interested. If we really want to preserve our freedom, we must never forget what it is like to lose it. I submit this is one of the major problems of American society today. We have never lost our freedom as a country. We do not know what it is like to be enslaved and persecuted as a society. If we talk to people who have come from enslavement, we will find an entirely different attitude regarding freedom. Without getting into a political argument, I submit this is one reason most Jews are Democrats. Democracy in its purest form implies tolerance, freedom, inclusion; less conservatism than the concept of a republican run government in its ideal form. But as we are experiencing, democracy leads to license; unbridled acceptance, tolerance of behaviors that are completely contradictory to G-d’s Torah, gluttony in many forms.
To be free, you have to let go of hate. Moshe was telling the people that along with physical freedom, we must let go of our past hurts and hate of those who caused them. Otherwise, there is no freedom. We may be taken out of Egypt, but the Egyptian mindset will remain in our hearts and minds; enslaving us no matter where we may be geographically. We must learn to cut the binding ropes of hate and hurt and move ahead without the chains of the past. How can we reach this goal? Study G-d’s Torah. Read the accounts of those who have been hurt, persecuted, unloved and see how they became victorious by following G-d’s instructions for living. Share your hurts with those who love you and are able to actively listen without judging you. Pray. Ask G-d to remove hate and hurt from your heart and make more room for light and love.
You cannot create a free society on the basis of hate. Resentment, rage, humiliation, a sense of injustice, the desire to restore honour by inflicting injury on your former persecutors – these are conditions of a profound lack of freedom. We have to live with the past, but we do not need to be consumed by it. Those who are held captive by anger against their former persecutors are captive still. Those who let their enemies define who they are, have not yet achieved liberty.
The Torah commands all true believes (Israelites in this context that includes anyone who believes in and follows the commands of G-d) to create a society that represent the antithesis of the Egyptian lifestyle. The Shmittah years provide a way for us to do just that. The entire structure of biblical law is rooted in the experience of slavery in Egypt, as if to say: you know in your heart what it feels like to be the victim of persecution, therefore do not persecute others.
Biblical ethics is based on repeated acts of role-reversal, using memory as a moral force. In Exodus and Deuteronomy, we are commanded to use memory not to preserve hate but to conquer it by recalling what it feels like to be its victim. “Remember” – not to live in the past but to prevent a repetition of the past.
Slavery needs “narrative closure”. To acquire freedom, a slave must be able to leave without feelings of antagonism to his former master. He must not depart laden with a sense of grievance or anger, humiliation or slight. Were he to do so, he would have been released but not liberated. Physically free, mentally he would still be a slave. The insistence on parting gifts represents the Bible’s psychological insight into the lingering injury of servitude. There must be an act of generosity on the part of the master if the slave is to leave without ill-will. Slavery in any form leaves a scar on the soul that must be healed.
When G-d told Moshe to tell the Israelites to take parting gifts from the Egyptians, it is as if He were saying: Yes, the Egyptians enslaved you, but that is about to become the past. Precisely because I want you to remember the past, it is essential that you do so without hate or desire for revenge. What you are to recall is the pain of being a slave, not the anger you feel towards your slave-masters. There must be an act of symbolic closure. There is no way of restoring the dead to life, or of recovering the lost years of liberty denied. But neither can a people deny the past, deleting it from the database of memory. If they try to do so it will eventually come back. Therefore, the former slave-owner must give the former slave a gift, acknowledging him as a free human being who has contributed, albeit without choice, to his welfare. This is not a squaring of accounts. It is, rather, a minimal form of restitution, of what today is called “restorative justice”.
Hatred and liberty cannot coexist. A free people do not hate its former enemies; if it does, it is not yet ready for freedom. To create a non-persecuting society out of people who have been persecuted, we must severe the chains of hate and hurt. We must convert the dark energy into constructive energy that can be used as a testimony for G-d. This does not mean we are to accept the behaviors of peoples and nations who live anti-Torah lives. We are to remain a separate people in the world and not of the world.
Freedom involves the abandonment of hate, because hate is the abdication of freedom. It is the projection of our conflicts onto an external force whom we can then blame, but only at the cost of denying responsibility. That was Moshe’s message to those who were about to enter the promised land: that a free society can be built only by people who accept the responsibility of freedom.
The Parsha ends with the exhortation to remember Amalek’s heinous deed of attacking the Israelites in the desert, and to commit to wiping out this evil nation. The Torah stresses that Amalek ‘happened upon’ the people. The Amalekites were and are a people who view the world and its events without any regard for a Higher Power. This may be equated with secular humanism of today with one exception. The non- Israelites worshipped false gods, but they believed in the idea of a power guiding a nation. Accordingly, they believed in the ‘G-d of the Jews’ and paid heed to His protection of the Israelites. In contrast, Amalek, similar to the secular humanist, believes in no force, therefore they attributed all of the wondrous events of the Exodus to chance. Accordingly, they could ignore all the signs and attack Israel without fear of any Divine retribution. Consequently, they remained totally cold and unmoved by all the events of the Exodus, just as secular humanists attribute everything happening in our world today as events occurring under no influence of a deity. Their brazen disregard for the great miracles that took place also served to weaken the fear of the other nations by placing an element of doubt as to whether these events were merely the result of chance.
We have seen that the root of Amalek’s evil was the belief in the randomness of events and the accompanying total rejection of a Higher Being. This caused them to react ‘coldly’ to everything that they witnessed, and even to cause other nations to ‘cool down’ their fear of the Israelites (all true believers defined by Yahshua in John Chapter 14 and the Sevenfold Witness in the book of Revelation. This attitude is something that is unique to Amalek amongst all the nations, and in a certain sense, poses more of a danger to Torah observance than the idolatrous beliefs of the other nations. It causes true believers to lose their sense of wonder about the miracles that surround them, and to even subconsciously attribute them to chance. Moreover, it prevents a person from learning from events around him, making him immune to the lessons that G-d sends him. This is the quintessential example of secular humanism being taught in our schools today and it should cause serious concern among parents and teachers who profess to be true believers in the G-d of Israel.
After they are defeated by the Israelites at Rephadim, God promises unending judgement on Amalek in Exodus 17:
14 Then the L-rd said to Moshe,” Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Y’hoshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” 1: And Moshe built an altar and called the name of it, The L-rd Is My Banner, 16 saying ‘A hand upon the throne of the L-rd! The L-rd will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”
The reason for the judgement and the form of the judgement are given in slightly more detail in Deuteronomy 25:
17“Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, 18how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God. 19Therefore when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget.
The Amalekites were never friends of Israel. In Numbers, they violently opposed Israel’s entrance into Canaan. In Judges, they are mentioned several times as Israel’s tormentors. If there was a positive quality to their lives, it was consistency. They were never anything but cruel and cowardly people, were always at odds with Israel, and were never shown mercy from G-d. If in your reading of the Bible the Amalekites show up, you now may already know that they will abuse some innocent, helpless victim and that, in the end, G-d will destroy them.
Balaam mentioned Amalek as “first of the nations”, adding that “his latter end shall be that he perish forever” (Num.24:20). “First of the nations” refers to the fact that the Amalekites were the first of the nations to oppose Israel after their exodus from Egypt. Balaam’s dreadful prophecy of the Amalekites’ gloomy end echoes God’s promise that He would “put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven” (Ex.17:16).
Another element which colors every story in which Amalekites are involved is that by the end of the account, the Amalekites involved are either dead or in a ruinous condition. The faithfulness of G-d to His promise in Exodus to fight against Amalek throughout all generations is witnessed by every generation of Israelites, even to the latest book, Esther.
The secret of understanding a primary message of the book of Esther is to know that an “Agagite” is an Amalekite. When this is understood, Mordecai’s refusal to bow the knee to Haman the Agagite appears in a brighter light. His unwillingness to bow does not indicate in Mordecai a stubborn, proud spirit; rather, it is an indication of Mordecai’s faithfulness to G-d’s attitude toward Amalekites. Mordecai would not bow to an Amalekite because of his faith in God. And it is possible as well that, Haman being an Amalekite, Mordecai might even have feared G-d’s wrath upon himself if he had bowed to him. It is evidence of Mordecai’s great faith in G-d’s word that he would risk his life by refusing to bow before an Amalekite, even if the Amalekite had become a man of great political power. Mordecai trusted the power of G-d’s curse to be of greater effect than Haman’s favor in the eyes of the Persian king. The story of Esther instructs us about the faithfulness of G-d, because it is the very latest book written in the Old Testament, while G-d promised to war with Amalek in one of the earliest books, Exodus. Thus, from near the beginning of Old Testament history to the very end, we see and will continue to see G-d fulfilling His promises to Israel
According to the Book of Genesis and 1 Chronicles, Amalek was the son of Eliphaz and the concubine Timna. Timna was a Horite and sister of Lotan. Amalek appears in the genealogy of Esau (Gen. 36:12; 1 Chr. 1:36) who was the chief of an Edomite tribe (Gen. 36:16). Amalek is described as the “chief of Amalek” in Genesis 36:16, in which it is surmised that he ruled a clan or territory named after him. In the chant of Balaam at Numbers, 24:20, Amalek was called the ‘first of the nations’, attesting to high antiquity. This information provides us a way to transition to the B’rit Chadashah to see how G-d will fulfill His promise to completely destroy Amalek.
The complete destruction of Amalek/Esau/Edom is also foretold by some of the Prophets such as Isaiah 34:1-17; Jeremiah 49:7-22; Obadiah, and Malachi 1:1-4. Please read these to enhance your understanding of this teaching. The point is that Amalek lives today and is a growing threat to G-d’s people. This is anti-Semitism and antinomianism.
In Genesis 25:29, Esau came in from the field “weary.” Some versions render it “faint.” Esau came home in this condition and did his thinking and reasoning in this weakened state. Instead of reasoning with his head, he let his stomach decide.
His flesh was doing all the “thinking,” as we see in his response to Jacob’s opening offer: “And Esau said, ‘Behold I am going to die; and what good is this birthright to me?'” (verse 32). Was he really so famished that he was going to die? Would he have said this had he been more involved with his inheritance and working with it?
If he had taken just a moment to think about his inheritance and what was involved, he would never have made such a rash decision. This could not have been the only food in the camp of a very wealthy man like Isaac; it was merely the first food he came to. Esau, the favorite of his father, could easily have gone to his father and told him what Jacob had tried to do and received food to satisfy his hunger. But he did not want to wait—he wanted immediate gratification of his fleshly desires. He thought he had to have it right away.
It is worthwhile to note that Esau sold his birthright when he came in from hunting and had his blessing stolen from him when he went out to hunt (Genesis 27:5).). He lost his entire inheritance while doing what he liked to do the most—being out in the wilderness hunting. While there is nothing wrong with hunting, there is a lesson in Esau’s single-minded pursuit of his physical desires. This is the core of Amalek /Edom/Esau’s personality and goals in life; to satisfy the animal drives within; to focus on anything other than the things of G-d; buying and selling on Shabbat; not taking time to study G-d’s Torah; believing that a focus on singing, dancing, and socializing at a religious institution without any valid biblical teaching is acceptable to G-d, etc. Hatred for those who testify to the validity of G-d’s Torah and the joy it can bring, and a focus on fleshly desires over G-d typify the majority of people in our world today. This is why it will not be difficult for the Adversary to usher in the One World Order. He has many followers and is gaining more by the day.
Nevertheless, believers (true Israelites) can take comfort in the prophecies previously mentioned. G-d will destroy Amalek, Esau/Edom when He returns (Rev. 18, 19:1-2;22:10-11;18-19).
Until then, let us not be still or remain quiet, for Zion’s sake until her righteousness shines out like the dawn and her salvation burns like a flaming torch (Isaiah 62:1).
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1-10
This haftarah is the fifth of seven “Haftarot of Consolation.” Forsaken Jerusalem is compared to a barren woman who grieves as she is bereft of children while watching other nations fawn over their broods, while she remains barren and empty. But G-d enjoins her to rejoice, for the time will soon come when the Jewish nation will return to the Land, be restored, and proliferate beyond her wildest dreams. Isaiah assures the people that G-d has not forsaken them, even though He has momentarily hidden His face from them. He will gather them from their exile with mercy and will not miss one kernel. The haftarah compares the final Redemption to the pact G-d made with Noach. Just as He promised Noach there would never be another flood to cover the entire earth, He (G-d) will never rekindle anger toward Israel. Is it not interesting that the matriarchs were barren before G-d intervened to bless their wombs? Not at all. The lesson to them and us is that G-d holds the key to life, creation, sustenance, and restoration; all of which applies to the nation/children of Israel (Ps. 113:9; Isaiah 54:1).
B’rit Chadashah: Mark 12:18-27
Then some Tz’dukim came to him (Yahshua). They are the ones who say there is no such thing as resurrection, so they put to him a sh’eilah: ‘Rabbi, Moshe wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and have children to preserve the man’s family line. There were seven brothers. The first one took a wife, and when he died, he left no children. Then the second one took her and died without leaving children, and the third likewise, and none of the seven left children. Last of all, the woman also died. In the Resurrection, whose wife will she be? For all seven had her as a wife.”
“Yahshua said to them, ‘Isn’t this the reason that you go astray? Because you are ignorant of both the Tanakh and of the power of G-d? For when people rise from the dead, neither men nor women marry- they are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, haven’t you read in the book of Moshe, in the passage about the bush, has G-d said to him, ‘I am the G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Isaac, and the G-d of Jacob?’ He is G-d not of the dead, but of the living! You are going far astray!”
This passage reminds us that no longer will marriage, gender, or ethnicity be an issue in the Resurrection. This applies to us regardless of whether we are resurrected to heaven or for hell. Our souls are a form of energy above and beyond the physical world and understanding of it. The focus of the saved will be to serve YHVH/Yahshua; the focus of the damned will be eternal torment.
Similar to the woman taken captive by the Israelite, we have a choice for now; remain in our pagan world with all the rituals and traditions or remove our superficial covering and examine our inner selves in isolation from all that is familiar to us, including our past religious teaching if it is inconsistent with G-d’s Torah. The woman had 30 days to consider her life and mourn for her family, separating herself from her reality. The man had 30 days to observe the woman as an appropriate mate. We have no idea how long we have to t’shuva (repent and turn) to the G-d of the living and allow him to prepare us as an acceptable bride for His Son. Let us take advantage of every day and submit ourselves for a total makeover to the Father of the Groom who can make us new and cloth us with the clean, white linen garments of repentance in preparation for the great wedding (Rev. 19:8).
Rabbi Tamah Davis