"Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey... how he... cut down all your stragglers in your rear" Deuteronomy 25:17-18
The outstanding Women's Commentary on the Torah rightly stresses Judaism's moral stance in caring for "the stranger, the fatherless and the widow" (Deuteronomy 24:19). Professor Judith Plaskow emphasises Judaism's sensitivity to those in the margins of society so that the weak and the hungry are protected.
Amalek certainly was perfidy par excellence when he attacked the weak and powerless of the Children of Israel. They were the stragglers marching to the Promised Land and were vulnerable in their position in the rear. But, we must surely ask, if we are so sensitive in caring for the vulnerable, what were the vulnerable doing in the rear in the first place? Why were they not placed in the front, right up there with Moses and Aaron? The Levites could have protected them.
Instead they were left to straggle, desperately trying to keep up and they were picked off one by one by the Amalekites. So, too, in our own day must we ask what position in Jewish society do we assign to the modern frail: the widows, the orphans and the aged? They are the vulnerable of the modern age, victims of the no less rapacious modern Amalekites: recession and inflation.
The "widow's mite" is just not enough to see our widows living in dignified old age. Ask Jewish Care and the answer will be freely given: the Jewish poor are a reality of the modern age.
The stranger, the orphan and the widow are still trying to keep up just to survive. We dare not march on, oblivious of their cries for help.
Rabbi Brian Fox