1. Why are the wars of the house of David considered sanctified? Why are the wars of Joshua obligatory? What was the difference between these two sets of wars?
2. How does R. Judah understand the difference between a permitted/optional war and an obligatory war? What do you think of this difference?
3. Are there ever situations in which war is permitted? What about encouraged? Is there a such thing as a sanctified war today?
זָכוֹר אֵת אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לְךָ עֲמָלֵק בַּדֶּרֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶם מִמִּצְרָיִם: אֲשֶׁר קָרְךָ בַּדֶּרֶךְ וַיְזַנֵּב בְּךָ כָּל הַנֶּחֱשָׁלִים אַחֲרֶיךָ וְאַתָּה עָיֵף וְיָגֵעַ וְלֹא יָרֵא אֱלֹהִים: וְהָיָה בְּהָנִיחַ ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ לְךָ מִכָּל אֹיְבֶיךָ מִסָּבִיב בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ נַחֲלָה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ תִּמְחֶה אֶת זֵכֶר עֲמָלֵק מִתַּחַת הַשָּׁמָיִם לֹא תִּשְׁכָּח:
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, when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear. Therefore, when Adonai your God grants you safety from all your enemies around you, in the land that Adonai your God is giving you as a hereditary portion, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget! [JPS translation. Edited for gender neutrality]
1. What was Amalek's crime? Why are we commanded to remember what they did?
2. When are we commanded to remember what Amalek did? What does this teach us about the nature of trauma and memory?
1. What is the intention of this law? To what extent is it followed?
2. What does this text imply about the relationship of people and the environment?
3. What does this text imply in our broader considerations about war?
1. What type of strength does this text caution against? Why?
2. Are strength and power always a reflection of an inability to control one's anger? Are these traits ever positive?
3. How is this text a commentary on leadership? What about war?
1. What method of women's empowerment and heroism does Yael display?
2. Is Yael a feminist role model? Why?
3. Would this story play a different role in Jewish history if Yael were a man? What makes this story unique?
1. What does it mean to be "in the house of God"?
2. Is God's direct intervention necessary for nations to stop fighting? Is it possible for nations to engage with each other or do we just presume they will always be fighting?
3. What is the significance of weapons turning into plowshares and pruning hooks? What is the opposite of war?
1. Why should we always try to have peace between ourselves and others according to this text?
2. Why does God care how we treat others? What does this reflect about us?
3. Who are the people that we are least likely to greet today? How can we strive to be more like R. Johanan b. Zakkai?
1. What does it mean to judge someone favorably? What does this process entail?
2. Do you judge others favorably? Do we as a community judge others favorably? How would our society be different if we did?
1. In a time when one’s community is in trouble, why is one prohibited from engaging in the above actions?
2. What does this text teach us about the relationship of the individual to his or her community?
1. What is meant by this statement?
2. How are hands murderous? How can speech be as murderous as hands?
3. When was the last time you spoke out against injustice?