Ki Teitzei

A Student Publication of the Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Ki Teitzei           8 Elul 5763              September 6, 2003              Vol.13 No.1

In This Issue:

Rabbi Joel Grossman
Jerry M. Karp
Willie Roth
Jesse Dunietz
Rabbi Howard Jachter

by Rabbi Joel Grossman

In the Maftir of this week’s Parsha, the Torah presents the Mitzvah of remembering what Amalek did to us when we left Egypt and of wiping out any remnant of Amalek from this world.  Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, asks, how can this Mitzvah still apply today if we do not know who is from Amalek anymore since the Navi tells us that during the time of Sancherev all the nations were mixed up and we no longer know who is actually from which nation?  Furthermore, he asks, today, even if we would know that this person is from Amalek, we are still powerless to do anything since there would be terrible repercussions to Klal Yisrael for killing people just because they were from Amalek, so how can we fulfill this Mitzvah?  He offers two different answers in two of his Sefarim.  In the Bastion of Faith, he answers that we must destroy what Amalek represents.  Amalek is evil.  It represents the Yetzer Hara on this world.  Rav Moshe writes that today we fulfill this Mitzvah by destroying our personal Yetzer Hara, the evil which is within each of us.  In Darash Moshe, he explains it a little differently by saying that Amalek reminds us about how evil a human being can become, that because of hate they can go 400 miles out of their way to intercept a nation who will definitely defeat them.  For this reason, in the Neilah prayer of Yom Kippur, we ask Hashem to spare us from the sin of stealing, since we are human and can slip up and are not immune from committing any type of sin.

During the month of Elul, as we conclude the year and prepare for the next year, may we take this message of Amalek to heart and realize that we must do Teshuvah, a whole-hearted repentance, on all of our sins, both Bein Adam Lamakom as well as Bein Adam Lachavero, and realize that we need constant work on our spiritual side so that we do not emulate the ways of Amalek.  The Yerushalmi in Masechet Berachot writes, “If we go away from Torah for one day, then it will go away from us for two days.”  Let us constantly be connected to Torah so that the Torah and ourselves are inseparable.  Through the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah and the act of perfecting our character, may Hashem end this year of so much death and sadness in Israel and anti-Semitism around the world and begin the new year of 5764 on the upside with a sweet year filled with good news for all, and let us celebrate the ushering in of Melech Hamashiach this year along with peace in Israel and an end to anti-Semitism.


by Jerry M. Karp

Shiluach Hakan, mentioned in Parshat Ki Teitzei, and Kibud Av Vaem are the only Mitzvot for which the Torah explicitly mentions the reward for their performance.  The reward for Shiluach Hakan is described as “Limaan Yitav Lach Vihaarachta Yamim,” “in order that it will be good for you and that you will have a long life.” For Kibud Av Vaem, however, the Torah in Parshat Vaetchanan writes, “Limaan Yaarichun Yamecha U’Limaan Yitav Lach,” “so that you will have a long life and it will be good for you.”  Why is the order of the rewards for these two clearly linked Mitzvot different for each?

The Netziv gives an explanation for the change in the order of the rewards.  He believes that the reward of “you will have a long life” refers to one’s life in Olam Hazeh, and that the reward of “it will be good for you” refers to one’s experience in Olam Haba.  The Mitzvah of Kibud Av Vaem, he explains, is completely rational to us.  Therefore, its main reward should be in Olam Hazeh, the rational world.  However, the Mitzvah of Shiluach Hakan is a Chok, and we do not understand the reason for it, so its reward is in Olam Haba, which we also cannot comprehend.

The Netziv suggests an alternate explanation based on the Mishnah in Pirkei Avot.  R’ Yaakov says that an hour of the experience of Olam Haba is greater than all of Olam Hazeh, but an hour spent in learning and good deeds is better than all of Olam Haba.  At first glance, these statements are contradictory.  After all, which is greater: Olam Hazeh or Olam Haba?  The Netziv suggests that for a person who performs Mitzvot because he fears punishment and wants reward, Olam Haba is greater, since the reward in Olam Hazeh is incomparable to that of Olam Haba.  However, to a person who performs Mitzvot because he truly loves serving Hashem, Olam Hazeh is much greater, since one can only serve Hashem in Olam Hazeh. 

In this spirit, the Netziv suggests another reason for the wording of the rewards.  Indeed, Kibud Av Vaem is a rational Mitzvah, but the Torah adds in Vaetchanan the words “Kaasher Tzivcha Hashem Elokecha,” “as Hashem has commanded you.”  The Torah’s intent is that one should not do the Mitzvah because it is rational, but because it is a commandment from Hashem.  If a person can perform the Mitzvah at this level, it is because he truly loves the service of Hashem.  For this reason, the primary reward is in Olam Hazeh.  However, according to the Netziv, the incentive for the performance of a completely irrational Mitzvah is the reward for doing so.  As a result, the primary reward is in Olam Haba.

May all the Mitzvot that we perform be motivated by a sincere desire to serve Hashem.


Defining Amalek
by Willie Roth

Devarim 25:17 states, “Zachor Et Asher Asah Lecha Amalek Baderech Bitzeitchem Mimitzrayim,” “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way out from Egypt.”  Then in Pasuk 19 the Torah says, “…Timcheh Et Zecher Amalek Miachat Hashamayim Lo Tishkach” “Erase the rememberance of Amalek from beneath the Heavens, do not forget.”  These few pesukim are the source for the Mitzvah known as Zechirat Amalek, which has two integral parts: remembering Amalek and erasing Amalek.  However, the definition of this Mitzvah is not so clear. 

According to Rashi, the aspect of erasing Amalek can be defined as completely wiping out Amalek so that no one remembers that they existed. This is true to such an extent, that Rashi even says that a person cannot point to an animal and say that it once belonged to Amalek.

Even with Rashi’s explanation, the definition of this Mitzvah still seems perplexing.  How can we completely wipe out a nation, especially in today’s society?  If the Jewish people start killing a nation, the rest of the nations around the world will start killing Jews!  Also, how do we know who is a member of Amalek?

Rav Moshe Feinstein ,z”l, answers that the Mitzvah of Zechirat Amalek is to recognize that every single person has the ability to bad things.  Although, for example, a person will probably not steal something, he still has the ability inside of him to steal.  Amalek shows us that this potential that people have to do bad things because they are human just like we are, and if they can sin we also have the ability to sin.  Therefore, it is not enough, says Rav Moshe, to just work on oneself to do good things, but one must also set up barriers and shields to prevent him from doing bad things. Although a person may not being sinning right now, there still is the possibility that he may sin.  That is why on Yom Kippur, during Neilah, we say “Lima’an Nechdal May Oshek Yadeinu,” because it is ourselves that we must prevent from doing Aveirot.

In this month of Elul we must try and find that evil potential inside of us and disarm it and not let it take control of our lives.  Hopefully then we will be completely forgiven and will be able to concentrate on doing good things.


Bread, Water, and Beyond
Jesse Dunietz

“Lo Yavo Amoni Umoavi Bik’hal Hashem…Al D’var Asher Lo Kid’mu Etchem Balechem Uvamayim Baderech B’tzeit’chem Mimitzrayim, Va’asher Sachar Alecha Et Bilam Ben B’or…L’kallilekah.”  “The Amoni and Moavi shall not enter into the nation of Hashem…Because of the fact that they did not greet you with bread and water on the road when you were leaving Egypt, and that he hired Bilam, son of Beor… to curse you.”  The reasoning the Torah gives for this prohibition is very strange.  What exactly is so terrible about not offering food and water?  As Rabbi Yissocher Frand points out, our history is full of much more active and harmful oppression.  For example, though Esav and his descendents have troubled us for millennia, the very next paragraph in the Torah states specifically that descendents of Edom are to be allowed to join the nation.  In comparison to nations like these, the complaints against Moav and Amon seem trivial!  Why do we exclude them for such a relatively small shortcoming?  Additionally, if the first reason to exclude these nations is indeed a good one, why include the second?

One answer to the first question can be found in a careful reading of Rashi.  On the words “because of the fact,” Rashi comments, “Because of the idea that they planned about you, to cause you to sin.”  As the Kli Yakar points out, this is not the simple reading of the text.  He explains that Rashi is picking up on our first question, and saying that, in fact, the bread and water were not the main issue.  Rather, Amon and Moav took advantage of the fact that Bnei Yisrael were traveling – they were “Baderech,” “on the way,” which Rashi explains as expressing a state of turmoil.  Since they were so tired and hungry, if Amon and Moav refused to offer them normal bread and water, they hoped to convince Bnei Yisrael to accept food from idolatrous offerings, and the like.  As Rashi indicates, they used Bnei Yisrael’s weakness as a way to make them sin.

Though the Kli Yakar’s reading solves one question, it ignores the other.  It also seems to be a roundabout interpretation of the Torah’s actual words.  Rabbi Frand brings down a novel explanation from Rav Nisan Alpert, z”l, to solve all these problems:

The problem with Amon’s and Moav’s actions was not simply that they did not treat us nicely.  It was that they were willing to put their hatred of Bnei Yisrael before their own interests.  Bnei Yisrael had quite a reputation after Yetziat Mitzrayim.  As we see from elsewhere in the Torah and Tanach, they were still feared greatly even at this time, after forty years in the desert.  Logically speaking, Amon and Moav should have jumped at the chance to act peacefully towards a very threatening nation.  Yet when we asked to buy food and drink, their hatred was strong enough that they were still willing to refuse.

It is possible to defend Amon and Moav by saying that they simply did not want to be hypocrites, to put up a false front of peacefulness.  To combat this, the Torah adds that they hired Bilam.  Sichon had previously employed the very same Bilam to defeat these nations themselves!  Despite his history, they were willing to “shake hands with the devil” and strike a deal with him in order to fight Bnei Yisrael.

This is the reason why Amon and Moav are rejected.  Even when presented with the most sensible options, they never hesitated to express their hatred for us.  This attitude of total hatred is one that is simply unacceptable for the Jewish nation.

Halacha of the Week
Someone who is ill on Rosh Hashana and must Daven at home should not recite Mussaf until after three Halachic hours of the day have passed (Shulchan Aruch (O.C, 591:8).  See Mishna Brura (591:14) for an explanation of this rule.


Staff at time of publication:
Editors-in-Chief: Shuky Gross, Effie Richmond
Publication Editors: Jerry Karp, Sam Wiseman
Publication Managers: Orin Ben-Jacob, Danny Shulman
Publishing Manager: Ely Winkler
Business Manager: Andy Feuerstein Rudin
Staff: Etan Bluman, Ariel Caplan, Jesse Dunietz, Chanan Strassman, Moshe Zharnest
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Chaim Jachter
Webmaster: Willie Roth

Subscription information

Report an error

This publication contains Torah matter and should be treated accordingly.


Back Home