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Parshas Ki Seitzei

The Neighborhood

By Rabbi Raymond Beyda

The attack of the nation of Amalek took place within a few days of the Exodus from Egypt and the Crossing of the Sea. One would think that no one would have the nerve to ambush a nation who so clearly was G-d's favorite and the beneficiary of His Divine Providence. The Midrash compares Amalek to a man who jumped into a boiling bathtub that all others were afraid to enter for fear of being scalded by the hot water. After he climbed out of the tub - although he was burned - others saw the waters as "cooled off" and also attempted to harm the Jews.

The question is obvious. If this rebellious soul suffered the burns that the onlookers feared why did the spectators become more confident and brazen? Shouldn't the defeat of Amalek have discouraged the other nations?

Sifte Hakhamim explain a deep psychological principle. Actions that are morally offensive are subconsciously removed from the realm of possibility. This inner alarm system protects an individual from spiritually harmful acts. When one sees another break the fence the psychological barrier is broken. The bath - although still boiling -- cooled off in the onlookers perspective.

When our people left Egypt and Crossed the Sea "The nations heard and trembled"[Shemot 15:14]. No country would dare attack the seemingly invincible Jews. Amalek disregarded the warning signs and paid the price of military defeat. The damage, however, was done. The unthinkable was now possible.

We live in a society where the unthinkable is now commonplace. The news is filled with acts of immorality, vulgarity and shameless behavior that our Holy Torah classifies as abominations.Unfortunately we are unwilling onlookers and cannot escape the effects of all that we see and hear. The images and sounds that bombard us daily are breaking the fences that protect us from perversion and sin. Living in a bad "neighborhood" affects all the residents good and bad alike.

In these days of Elul we have an opportunity for soul searching and the rebuilding of our moral barriers so that our holy souls can remain clean and pure -safe from the contamination of contemporary society. A study of our books of ethics and an audit of our personal morality books will help us survive this technological onslaught and bring us to sucessful judgment on Rosh Hashannah. May we all be successful in our efforts to return to the service of Hashem

Shabbat Shalom

Raymond J Beyda

Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Raymond Beyda and



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