Parshat בשלח Shmos 17: 9 – The Nations of the World

Exodus 17:9 – And Moshe said to Yehoshua, select for us men and go out and fight against Amalek tomorrow; I will stand on the top of the hill with the Staff of God in my hand.

Mechilta: Moshe did not say “select for me” but rather “select for us”. From here we see that a student is as dear to a teacher as himself.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #5:

In Pirkei Avot (2:10) the phraseology is:” the honor of your friend should be as precious to you as your own”. Others have the text saying “the honor of your student should be as precious to you as your own”. From the Mechilta quoted above, it seems to be that the appropriate text in Pirkei Avot is: “the honor of your student”. Besides, it also says in Pirkei Avot (4:12) “the honor of your friend should be as precious to you as the honor of your teacher.” And also in the Mechilta here it separately and specifically addresses the issue of the “honor” of your friend. Additionally, please reference the Tosfot Yom Tov there and note that he, apparently, had not seen this Mechilta.

Note that the reason why Moshe assigned the task of fighting against Amalek to Yehoshua is mentioned is Pesikta Rabati and in the Midrash Raba here as follows: Why did Moshe assign this task to Yehoshua? Moshe said to him, “Your ancestor (Yosef) said “I fear God” (in parshat MiKetz). About Amalek on the other hand it is written (in parshat Ki Tetzei) “he does not fear God”. Let the descendent of the one who said “I fear God” fight against the descendent of the one who said “he doesn’t fear God”.

This aggada needs explaining. Do we not already know that Yosef feared God from other places besides where he makes the statement about himself? Are weren’t his brothers, who did not make this statement about themselves, also people who feared God? In what way exactly was Yosef’s level of fear of God higher than his brothers, [if any]?

Another amazing point about this midrash is that it is attributing Amalek’s principle sin to the fact that he was not a tribe that feared God!? Where do we find the phrase “feared God” as a description of other  non-Jews? In particular, we do find this phrase used for exceptional, special people such as Abraham (“Now I know that you fear God”) and Ovadiyahu (Kings I, Chapter 11) and Job (Chapter 1).

Therefore, it appears appropriate to conclude that this is exactly what the Mechilta is coming to teach; that non-Jews should also be people who fear God. It is incumbent upon them also and if they do not they are also liable for punishment. The proof of this is exactly from the story of Yosef when he says to his brother “I fear God”. Yosef says this while he was pretending to be an Egyptian. If it were not true that non-Jews also fear God, how could Yosef have said such a thing without giving away that he was of the tribe of Israel?

What we learn from Yosef’s saying this about himself is that it is expected that non-Jews also be people who fear God. Also we see that Amalek is liable for punishment since he says of himself that he does not fear God.

So from here we can conclude that it is perfectly appropriate for the descendent of one who said “I fear God” to be the one who fights against Amalek. It was exactly because without Yosef’s having said this, I would not have known a source for this principle that the nations of the world are [equally] liable and responsible for fulfilling the commandment to fear God.

DBS Note: I think the Torah Temimah chose this Mechilta because it points out that Jews and non-Jews are both obligated to fear God and equally capable in this regard. This viewpoint is not commonly expressed. Also, notice that the Mechilta that was selected really has nothing to do with explaining the posuk. Again, the Torah Temimah is going out of his way to teach us something from Jewish tradition vis-a-vis non-Jews that is not commonly taught.

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