Ki Teitzei

Torah Fax

Friday, September 5, 2003 - 8 Elul, 5763

Torah Reading:  Ki Teitzei (Deuteronomy 21:10 - 25:19)
Candle Lighting Time: 7:04 PM
Shabbat Ends: 8:03 PM

Chutzpah’s Last Stand

At the end of this week's Torah portion, the Torah commands us to never forget what the evil nation of Amalek did to us after we were liberated from Egypt.

Amalek was a descendent of Esau, Jacob's brother. Though born into the illustrious family of Abraham and Isaac, he became a very evil person, and his descendants, who formed the nation bearing his name, became one of the foremost sources of hatred and malice toward the Jews. When the Jews left Egypt, Amalek wasted no time in attacking the Jews, seeking to destroy us.

Our sages point out that Amalek was not merely a hateful nation - there were many nations that hated the Jews. Amalek's hatred ran much deeper than that. Immediately after the Exodus, no nation wanted to attack the Jewish people. After witnessing the great miracles G‑d did for the Jews in Egypt, everyone was terrified of the Jewish people and would never have so much as entertained a thought about attacking Israel.

Only Amalek was brazen enough to launch an attack. Amalek's hatred for the Jews was so diabolical that nothing could deter them from attacking the Jews - not even the prospect of suffering an ignoble defeat.

Today, though the physical nation of Amalek is unrecognizable, the spiritual heirs of Amalek are all to visable in the modern world. We have sadly been witness to too many nations who are blinded by unmitigated hatred towards the Jewish people and who want to see nothing less than their total annihilation (G‑d forbid). It is this form of evil that the Torah commands us to always remember and be aware of. Recognizing this evil is the first step to eradicating it once and for all.

But there is another dimension to Amalek that we must be aware of - a less obvious trait that can find its way into our hearts. To blatantly attack the Jews after the Exodus, when the rest of the nations of the world trembled from the very mention of the name Israel, takes an extreme measure of unmitigated gall, chutzpah.

In our lives, we sometimes refrain from doing something that might not be considered good because of a wonderful gift G‑d gave us - shame. Shame is a useful tool that reminds us of the long reaching effects of our actions and makes the short-term benefits seem less enticing. But a person who is undaunted by the consequences of his actions - a person with chutzpah - has a problem. Shame does not act as a barrier to stop him from committing an unholy act. Such a person has one mechanism less at his disposal in his fight against evil.

Our Talmudic sages tell us that in the generation prior to Moshiach's arrival, chutzpah will increase dramatically. This sadly seems to be a prevalent trait today. We find people, especially the younger generation, becoming involved in all sorts of detrimental things and no measure of rational discourse can dissuade them. As a matter of fact, if the argument against doing something unwise comes from an older person, his or her words are immediately rejected as unacceptable because - in a true spirit of chutzpah - there is nothing an older person can tell a younger one. The younger one knows better. It seems that on the eve of redemption, when evil will be vanquished, the unique form of evil represented by Amalek is having a resurgence, a "last stand" of sorts.
In the chassidic spirit, the way to combat something evil is to utilize that very force in a positive way. In our case, the way to eradicate the spirit of Amalek is to use "holy chutzpah." For example: we have only recently begun to realize how many Jews remained dedicated to Torah under the regime of the former Soviet Union. Until a few years ago, the entire culture behind the iron curtain mocked Jews who tried to do Mitzvahs and tried every way to stop them. The Soviet Jews were not educated; they did not have sophisticated ways to respond and show the validity of and necessity for Jewish values. Their response was one of chutzpah: "I don't care what you say. Your opinions have no value to me. I will do what I want regardless of the government's pressure!"

Such chutzpah can come in handy in our society as well. There are those that might mock a person who wants to do a Mitzvah or keep Shabbat for example. They are not interested in an intellectual discussion about the greatness of Shabbat. Such people merely want to taunt. These taunts can vary in form from the heckling of classmates in the school yard to the condescending comments of co-workers in the office. The response must be the same - one of healthy chutzpa where we make a steadfast resolve to grow in Judaism without talking or dealing with people who have nothing positive to say.

But alas, we can take solace in the fact that the great amount of chutzpah that abounds in society - and the large amount of holy chutzpah we must use to negate those that mock - is, as we mentioned before, a sign that Moshiach is just around the corner. At that time, Amalek and all that he stands for will be gone forever.

Moshiach Matters

In every generation, the redemption has the potential to materialize through the true Tzadik (righteous individual) of that time. The Tzadik is the Moses of the generation and therefore the Moshiach through whom all of the energy and life force for the entire generation flows. The biggest hindrance to his revealing himself is the lack of Shalom which the evil inclination brings between people. If we would replace our negative feelings for one another with peace, Moshiach will surely be revealed immediately. (Rabbi Nosson of Breslov)

Moshiach - It's a Jewish issue. For more info, visit

© 2001- 2005 Chabad of the West Side