Education in the Wilderness
In this one Torah portion, the people have several formative experiences that will shape their understanding of their relationship with nature and with other nations.
The exodus from Egypt and the parting of the sea demonstrated to Israel for all time
Through the manna, they learn that survival requires trust in the Almighty along with a degree of disengagement from the anxiety of worrying about sustenance. The ruthless pursuit of security is not only futile, but can easily overtake life and leave no room for other aims and goals.
The manna also laid the foundation for the Sabbath, as it did not fall on the Sabbath, and people saw double provision on Friday. More than any other mitzvah, the Sabbath requires the unshakable conviction that
Their thirsting for water and questioning whether
Finally, after these experiences had taught the people about their relationship with nature and that independence from the forces of nature is possible only through subjugation to and trust in
Amalek was the first to attack this fledgling nation — families, women, children, described as “weak and weary,” without any obvious threat or provocation. However weak they may have appeared, the power of
There is only one indomitable threat to the glory-seeking sword — as long as one nation’s heart keeps beating and pays no homage to it, it will not rest. Amalek does not hate nations that are its equal in power and armament, but rather regards their military preparedness as a sign of respect for its sword. Amalek fights them but honors them, since they acknowledge its power and shares its principles.
Amalek reserves its scorn for those who dare view the sword as dispensable — and instead place their trust in spiritual and moral power. This is the one enemy of Amalek, and the war between the sword and spirit will rage for generations. Israel, here, is taught that winning this war is only through the staff of Moshe, not through the sword of soldiers. The hands of Moshe are termed emunah (17:12), for it is the devoted trust of the people, awakened by the uplifted hand, that prevails over Amalek.
This war only weakened Amalek — the struggle would continue until the final defeat at the end of days, when that trust in
- Sources: Commentary Shemot 15:25; 16:8, 28; 17:9-12