Adrian A. Durlester

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Random Musings Before Shabbat Beshalakh 5765

Gd's War

Do you believe in Gd? Have your ever doubted Gd? Have your ever doubted Gd's existence? Have you ever asked yourself "Why should I believe in Gd?"

I suspect that being plagued with these kinds of thoughts and doubts are common to even the most pious among us. Life and the universe are chock full of things that can and do challenge our faith.

Both for myself, and also in my role as a Jewish educator, I am always seeking out thoughtful and useful responses to the kinds of questions noted above. All too often, even when I answer such questions with reasonable responses, I still have this gut feeling that I am only using clichés, offering pabulum. Sometimes I wonder if it might be better if I did not respond at all-though I am never truly able to convince myself that this is the wisest choice. Leave a student's "why should I believe in Gd?" question without a response, even if it is just a clever finessing of the situation, or a simple "I don't know do you?" and perhaps you leave them with the idea that their question is not worth answering.

Sometimes my answer (to myself or others) can be as simple as "because Gd is." Sometimes it can be a much more complex formula. They run the gamut.

So I was pleased and surprised when I studied parashat Beshalakh and came to it's end and read these words: Milkhama L'Adnai ba-Amalek midor dor. As translated by the JPS committee of scholars: The Lrd will be at war with Amalek throughout the ages." (Ex. 17:16)

Now there's a reason to believe in Gd, I thought.

Some rabbis teach us that Amalek represents evil without cause, as opposed to evil brought on by thoughts of revenge, hatred, anger, etc. At first I thought "how can there be such evil?" Even the most barbarous of villains seemed to claim a purpose behind their actions. And in our contemporary culture, we seem prone to explaining evil as resulting from some trauma or underlying cause or event in someone's life. Those who are abused often abuse others. Some chemical imbalance may be at the root of someone's anti-social behavior. Though I've never read any, I am sure there are plenty of analyses of why Mr. Shickelgruber turned into Mr. Hitler.

Yet I am sure that there truly is unexplainable, unjustifiable evil in this world. And the problem is, I believe we are helpless to do anything about it. Oh, we band together and fight great wars to wipe out this kind of unrepentant, purposeless evil, and we seem to have success. Somehow, though, that kind of evil eventually resurfaces yet again. Our own history as a people is clear evidence of this.

It is our role, our obligation, to be Gd's partner. That Gd will be at war with Amalek throughout the ages is a clue that we are going to have to partner with Gd for all time in this war against Amalek. We cannot do it alone. We cannot completely wipe out the evil from our midst on our own. We need Gd's help, and Gd needs our help.

Yessiree, that's a great reason to believe.

Everywhere we see senseless hatred or violence, we find Amalek. When nations war for reasons that are unclear, we see Amalek. when people kill for no reason, we see Amalek. Perhaps even in the childish innocence of a young buy squishing a bug, or frying ants with a magnifying glass, we see Amalek. Perhaps there is a little Amalek in all of us, waiting for its chance to express itself. Perhaps it is our faith that enables us to keep the Amalek within in check. And surely it can also help us keep the Amalek without, with Gd's help, in check, too.

May we all strive to be Gd's partner in this unceasing war with Amalek.

Shabbat Shalom,


©2005 by Adrian A. Durlester

Some Previous Musings on the same parasha

Bo 5764-Keretz Ani
Bo 5763 -Good Loser
Bo 5761-Cover of Darkness
Bo 5762-Teach Your Children Well

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