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Rabbi's Words

Rabbi Eric Cytryn
Is Iran Today’s Amalek?  Shabbat Ki-tetze 5775 - August 28, 2015
Shabbat Shalom. 

On Purim - remember Purim, 
Back in late winter, 
Costumes, noisemakers, skits, 
Frivolity and lots of children? 

Purim is about Amalek -
Our age old enemy,
Our eternal foe, 
Who seeks to destroy us in every generation. 
Amalek is about a biblical expression 
Of our human genocidal tendency -
Certainly, in light of our post-biblical religious expression,
A genocidal tendency that is sanctified as a commandment 
That later generations must, in some way, cancel out
Since enacting it is too awful to imagine. 

Certainly today, 
In light of the Armenian Genocide, 
The Holocaust and other horrific examples
Of what we’ve begun to call, 
Euphemistically, which should be to our Jewish horror,
“ethnic cleansing” - 
Certainly today 
The idea that we would wipe out 
Men, women and children of an enemy
As “the right - or Divinely commanded point of view” -
Is abhorrent and something we must reject absolutely. 
That being said - 
What do we do when enemies arise 
Enemies who are exemplary
In their tenacity, and their expressed hatred of us?
And, enemies who put their actions behind their words?
This is the topic of my sermon because
In our Parsha today we read the commandment, 
“Remember what Amalek did to you, 
On your way out of Egypt - 
How he surprised you
When you were famished and weary
And murdered all the stragglers.
Therefore, when God grants you safety in your land
You shall blot out the memory of Amalek 
From under heaven...

Get it? 
Got it. 

So, we could unpack these three verses of Torah
And try and read between the lines
And find a path around the commandment
Of “blotting out the memory of Amalek
Which our tradition has consistently interpreted
As “wipe them out - Herem -
Man, woman and child.” 
Even as our tradition has found ways around 
Encouraging Jews from fulfilling the letter of this law!

The best example of this is Purim itself!

The Purim commandments 
Of giving Tzedakah and feeding the community
That Esther and Mordechai enact 24 hundred years ago
And which our sages celebrate in an entire tractate of Talmud 
Called “Megilah” -
Those are commandments which, logic and literalism -
Which is a euphamism for “fundamentalism” 
Replace “kill them all!”

Just remember, nourishment and charity
Trump murder and mayhem - and genocide - 
In our tradition’s expansive Rabbinic Religion. 

But back to “who exactly is Amalek?”
The Passover Hagada states it clearly - 
In every generation 
Someone rises up against us to destroy us.

2000 years of Jewish tradition associate that group
With Amalek - 
In other words, 
Amalek isn’t a genetic enemy, 
Amalek is an enemy who transforms himself or herself
And in each generation, 
Or certainly in most generations for the past 2000 years,
Some evil group has arisen to destroy us. 

I would assert that today Iran is that group.

Not only do the Iranians intellectually deny the Holocaust
And call for Israel’s destruction - 
And, by the way, America’s destruction, as well --

They not only talk the talk, 
But they walk the walk. 

Iran, with their bank assets frozen 
And their people suffering 
Supports “Islamic Jihad” 
On the West Bank, 
Which is a strong terrorist threat to Israel 
And to the Palestinian Authority;

Iran, with her bank assets frozen 
And her people suffering 
Has resupplied Hezbollah in Lebanon 
With an estimated 100,000 missiles
Capable of striking throughout Israel -
And they have armed Hezbollah to the teeth,
And trained them as soldiers 
And helped them build a tunnel system 
Throughout southern Lebanon - 
Iran is Hezbollah’s chief sponsor. 

Iran, with their bank assets frozen
And their people suffering 
Has supplied Hamas in Gaza
With some thousands of new missiles,
Smuggled in arms, trained their combatants
And helped them steal enough concrete
To insure that none of the estimated 18,000 homes 
Destroyed last summer have been rebuilt
But the tunnel system has been replaced 
And refortified. 
Iran, with their bank assets frozen
And their people suffering
Has been the support for Bashir Al Assad in Syria,
Has continued to arm the Syrian Army and Airforce
And has supported Hezbollah fighters 
Who are fighting the rebels in Syria’s Civil War -
Iran has taken over much of Iraq - 
Iran has a foothold in Libya,
And Iran is supporting the Huti terrorists in Yemen, 
Against the American backed Saudi Army. 

Iran is a global sponsor of terrorism, 
Certainly guilty of masterminding the Buenos Aires JCC bombing 
Of 1994 where 95 died and thousands were traumatized; 
They were guilty of the Israeli Embassy bombing in 1992
Where 21 died 
And they were guilty of the 2012 Burgas Bus Bombing 
Which killed 6 -
Along with many other terrorist, murderous acts.

3 years ago our own State Dept. Declared Iran a “Terrorist State”
And condemned all these behaviors. 

No other country is doing what Iran is doing in the world
To destroy Israel and undermine American interests 
Throughout the world. 

OK - they hate us, 
They hate Americans, Israelis, Jews, 
And, it is safe to say, all freedom loving people, 
Europeans, Arabs, Christians, all around the world. 

All this hatred, all this violence, all this plotting and planning
And training to destroy us
And, at the same time, 
Iran is a country where human right’s violations are innumerable 
And horrific. 

Our United State’s State Department Human Rights Report of 2014
Mentioned the following,
And although I’m not quoting the report directly 
All these abuses are listed in the report more or less as I mention them:  
In Iran, 
The most significant human rights problems were severe restrictions on civil liberties, including the freedoms of assembly, speech, religion, and press; 
limitations on the citizens’ ability to change the government peacefully through free and fair elections; 
and disregard for the physical integrity of persons, whom authorities arbitrarily and unlawfully detained, tortured, or killed.

Other reported human rights problems included: 
cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, 
including judicially sanctioned amputation and flogging; 
politically motivated violence and repression; 
harsh and life-threatening conditions in detention 
and prison facilities, 
with instances of deaths in custody; 
arbitrary arrest and lengthy pretrial detention, 
sometimes incommunicado; 
continued impunity of the security forces; 
denial of fair public trial, 
sometimes resulting in executions without due process; 
the lack of an independent judiciary; 
political prisoners and detainees; 
ineffective implementation of civil judicial procedures
 and remedies; 
arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, 
and correspondence; 
severe restrictions on freedoms of speech (including via the internet) and press; 
harassment and arrest of journalists; 
censorship and media content restrictions; 
severe restrictions on academic freedom; 
severe restrictions on the freedoms of assembly and association; some restrictions on freedom of movement; 
official corruption and lack of government transparency; constraints on investigations by international 
and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) 
into alleged violations of human rights; l
egal and societal discrimination and violence against women, 
ethnic and religious minorities, 
and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons 
based on perceived sexual orientation and gender identity; incitement to anti-Semitism; 
trafficking in persons; 
and severe restrictions on the exercise of labor rights.

The government took few steps to investigate, prosecute, punish, or otherwise hold accountable officials, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government, who committed abuses. Impunity remained pervasive throughout all levels of the government and security forces.

The Iranians are the winners of the “Today’s Amalek” title. 

I believe I have just given you 
Many substantial reasons
Why the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, 
As it currently is written, 
With no expectation of Iran to change their behavior 
Outside of the areas of nuclear power
And nuclear weapons
Is worthy of rejection by our House of Representatives 
and our Senate. 

42 years ago the Jewish community went to the mat
With the Nixon White House - and then the Ford White House - 
And supported the Jackson Vanik Emendment 
Which made the former USSR - 
And other non-freedom loving countries - 
Take human rights into account 
Before we would agree to trade with them. 

Jackson Vanik 
Was intended to affect U.S. trade relations with countries with non-market economies (originally, countries of the Communist bloc) that restrict freedom of emigration and other human rights.

Why wasn’t there a like-minded idea posed by secretary Kerry
to force the Iranians to uphold basic human rights?

Or a more far reaching idea that
The US Treasury would monitor the 150 Billion Dollars 
Which will be freed up by the JCPA
And insure that none of those billions 
Is forwarded to terrorist organizations?

Or an equally creative idea
That Iran had 5 years to accept Israel’s right to exist 
And open up diplomatic relations with her -
And with America, because we still don’t have an embassy there - 
And after those 5 years all, or some of the 150 billion 
Would be freed-up to for Iran to use 
For peaceful, domestic purposes? 

We have an obligation to do what have done many times
In the past - 
As a Jewish Community 
We stood up to President Nixon and President Ford 
And supported Jackson - Vanik
And now we must support a rejection 
Of the proposed JCPA
In favor of a renegotiated 
Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action
To bring Iran into the family of peace loving nations
Or to continue her existence on the periphery 
Of the nations of the world. 

If the sanctions are to be lifted 
The Iranian Mullahs, 
Their supreme religious leaders 
And all their elected leaders
Must understand that for America
And all freedom loving nations
Human rights is an absolutely non-negotiable priority
And that anti-semitism and state sponsored terrorism 
Are unacceptable behaviors if we’re going to do business

Please, call and email Senator Casey
And share with him your support 
For his opposition of the JCPA. 
And share this information with your friends. 

And call and email Senator Toomey 
And thank him for his commitment 
To vote against the JCPA. 

Shabbat Shalom.   

Tuesday, May 28 2024, 20 Iyyar 5784