Ki Tetzei

I started doing some research about this week’s parasha, Ki Tetzei, and my eyes just glazed over.  Not that I find the text boring, quite the opposite.  It’s so jam-packed with laws and instructions that I struggle to find order and meaning. Almost each and every sentence presents food for thought.  I read that it’s the most mitzvah-heavy parasha in the entire five books, over 70 mitzvot, or commandments, out of the 613 said to be listed in the Torah.  It wasn’t until the very end of the parasha that my mind slowed down:

“Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt, how, undeterred by fear of God, he surprised you on the march, all the stragglers in your rear.  Therefore, when your God grants you safety from all your enemies around you, in the land that your God is giving you as a hereditary portion, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!   (Deut. 25:17-19)

Now, we normally read this section on the Shabbat before Purim, making the connection between Amalek and Haman.  But reading it in the weekly context, at this time of the year is to give it another layer of meaning.  We are about half-way through the month of Elul, only weeks away from Rosh Hashanah, when we spend our time focusing on forgiveness and renewed beginnings.  We are acutely conscious, day by day, the New Year is approaching. Some people observe a practice of  hearing the Shofar every day (except Shabbat) during the month of Elul, highlighting the daily move closer to the time when our self-reflection reaches a peak. Some like me sign up for free internet “reminders” like Jewels of Elul ( However we mark this month, we’re preparing for that time when, in traditional language, we stand together, aware that God will remember our personal sins and pray that God forgives them.

What strikes me so much about this passage is that its first word is “remember” and its last word is “forget”.  Read at this time of year, however, where do we find forgiveness?  Here we have text that says, at once, both to remember and forget the same thing.  Don’t forget to remember to blot out the enemy’s memory so he won’t be remembered?  How does that make sense?  Are we holding a grudge only to forget why?  Is forgiveness in the forgetting or the remembering?

I have a lot of trouble with being forgiving.  I may say I’ve forgiven someone, but in truth it’s never that simple.  I’ve found that forgiveness comes slowly; it’s not automatically given right after the apology.  Sometimes I don’t even get the “I’m sorry”, but I do want to forgive anyway.  Maybe that’s where the remembering comes in.  It’s not because I don’t want to move on, it’s because I keep remembering the hurt and pain.  I guess before we can fully forgive or be forgiven, we need to engage with the memory of what’s happened, and sometimes it takes time for that to dissipate.  Maybe that’s also why we start thinking about forgiveness a full month before Rosh Hashanah; to give ourselves and even God time to work on the process, and it’s not clear if the process begins with Forgiveness, Remembering or Forgetting.   This year, I’m still in the remembering stage.  We’ll see how close I get to forgiveness and forgetting in the next few weeks.

In any case, don’t forget to have a beautiful and peaceful Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom.

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1 Response to Ki Tetzei

  1. anitasilvert says:

    A friend sent me her thoughts about Ki Tetzei and included a new translation of Psalm 27, usually read during Elul. Here it is:

    Read a new translation of Psalm 27 by Pamela Greenberg from her forthcoming book, “The Book of Prayer Songs: A New Translation of the Book of Psalms.” It is the psalm most associated with the Jewish High Holidays.
    Psalm 27
    By David.
    You are my light and my hope,
    whom should I fear?
    You are the strength of my life,
    before whom should I tremble?
    When the wrongful approach to devour my flesh,
    my oppressors and enemies,
    it is they who stumble and fall.
    If an encampment pitches tents against me,
    my heart will not quiver.
    If a war rises up against me,
    in you I still trust:
    One thing I have asked from you,
    one thing I seek,
    to dwell in your house
    all the days of my life,
    to behold your beauty,
    to enter your innermost temple.
    You cover me with the tabernacle of your presence
    on days when hardship comes.
    You shield me in concealment of your tent.
    Upon a rock, you lift me high from harm.
    And now, God, raise my head above troubles that surround me.
    In your tent, I will make my songs into offerings,
    singing forth all my melodies to your name.
    Listen, God, to my voice when I call out.
    With compassion, answer my need.
    It is to you my heart calls,
    “Seek out my face,”
    because your face, God, is what I constantly search for.
    Don’t hide your eyes from me.
    Don’t push away your faithful in anger.
    You have always been my help.
    Don’t tear me out by the roots;
    don’t abandon me–
    for you are the one I count on for help.
    My father and mother may leave me,
    but you have gathered me in.
    Teach me, Source of Joy, your ways.
    and lead me down the level plain
    because of the dangers that surround me on every side.
    Don’t give me over to breath of my fears.
    For distortions have risen up in name of truth,
    they breathe out visions of destruction.
    If only I could believe that I would see God’s goodness
    in the land of the living…
    Keep up your hope in God.
    Strengthen your heart and sturdy it;
    Keep up your hope in God.

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