Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Ki Teitzei

I spend a lot of time reading, studying, and discussing religion with folks. It is, most certainly, a hazard of my job. A long time ago, I learned that one should never argue or debate religion. The constructs of religions are so incredibly diverse that we struggle to understand the breadth of “religiosity” within our own traditions; arguing about someone else’s is off the table. That said, there have been moments that I could not resist “pushing the envelope” or secretly chuckling when someone else had.


A former congregant shared the story about Evangelicals who, wanting him to meet Christ, assured him that all Jews (without exception) went straight to hell. He gave them a most controversial response. He said that, given that Jesus was Jewish, that is exactly where the two would meet. I remember the Orthodox Rabbi who told me that I was a bad Jew (and should be excommunicated) because I made people think and not blindly accept his Rabbi’s teachings. Of course, every religion has folks who cannot see past their religious myopia, and you know I refuse to believe that the God we all believe in loves only the ones we love and hates the ones who disagree with us … all of us.


Each of our faith traditions provides us opportunities to have sacred and unique relationships with the very same source of religion in all different ways. The idea that binds us is simple; we exist for the purpose of bringing perfect peace into the world. I struggle over all the people who use their version of God as an excuse to destroy someone else.


Certainly, for the western world religions, we root in the same traditions and Biblical paradigms. Jewish Bible, Christian Bible, or Quran: each begins with the same stories and holds as sacred the same values of love and respect. Each of our traditions reminds us to care for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger at all cost. Each compels us to care for the earth. Some version of Psalm 24, “the Earth is God’s and all that is on it” reminds us that we are stewards (not owners) of the resources that this Earth provides. Even those who reject all religion understand and accept that we have these obligations to each other and the Earth.


This week’s Torah portion provides us with a profound lesson on what happens when we violate this sacred obligation. “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were weak and lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When Adonai your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!” (Deuteronomy 25:17-19)


Those who abuse the weakest amongst us violate our sacred trust. Torah obligates us to blot them from history (hence the Orthodox Rabbi’s response). The fact is that if we were supposed to blot them out, we would not have included them in the book – we would have forgotten them, having never heard of them. The Rabbis teach us that we have to remember to blot out the attitude that dismisses the value of the weak amongst us. Amalek fails to confront Israel face on; it destroys it from its weakest pieces. Thusly, Torah obligates us to make sure that there are no weak amongst us by bolstering and supporting everyone.


I say this to people who go to the Church, Synagogue, and the Mosque and pray for wellbeing; for peace and security who do not understand the basic tenet that one source of creation made us all. Anything else roots in our insecurity and ego. That said, how can someone who prays, ignore or demean those amongst us who struggle in poverty, illness, aged infirmity, or other disability? How can we create government-backed political agendas around who matters and who does not? We must root out Amalek – by caring a whole lot more for each other than we currently seem willing to do. Hate does not drive out hate. Only love can do that. Thanks, Dr. King. Shabbat Shalom.