Amalek—A Mort Laitner Short Story

“Amalek” by Mort Laitner

On Rosh Hashanah, I stood in the temple, faced the Torahs and stared at the rabbi.

This old learned man bar mitzvahed my three sons using the Torahs that I faced.

He had retired from one temple and he now held a part-time job at a newly-formed congregation.

I recalled when thick black hair rested atop his head and a black beard covered his jowls.

Now white fuzz fully eclipsed those once dark regions.

Now he wore wire-rimmed glasses and he appeared to see life through clear thin lenses.

Eye glasses that pinched the sides of his nose, but allowed him to keep reading torah.

Now on Rosh Hashanah, my rabbi covered his body in a white kittel and his head in a white kippa.

A body he kept fit by exercising in the “J” four days a week,

For his life extension, he had a plan of action.

But gravity took a toll on his body, compressing his spine so as to shave off an inch of his five-foot-six-inch frame.

As I continued to stand, my back prayed for the Torahs to be placed back into the ark, so I would be allowed to sit.

Now my eyes darted off the rabbi and focused at temple’s two torahs.

These hand-written parchment scrolls were covered in laws and white cloth. They contained instructions on a Jewish way of life.

Written on each of these scrolls were 613 commandments.

Who knew so many commandments?

Not this High Holiday Jew.

Not this lobster and bacon eating Jew.

How many of these commandments did I know?

How many of these commandments did I obey?

How many did the rabbi obey?

Assignment: Read the 613.

Now I pictured another rabbi.

A Charlottesville rabbi running out the back door of his temple, clutching a torah, as screaming Nazis brandishing lit torches marched past his temple’s front door.

I pictured the Virginia rabbi’s fight-or-flight response to this existential threat.

I pictured the acute stress running across the rabbi’s pale face.

I pictured his darting dilated pupils reflecting yellow flames of victimhood.

I pictured his tight bleeding lips as he tasted fear for the first time.

I pictured Kristallnacht and wondered how many rabbis were murdered running down German streets holding Torahs as their kippa and tallit fell on the blood soaked cobblestones.

I pictured the Nazis confiscating all guns and weapons possessed by German and Austrian Jews on week before The Night of Broken Glass.

I pictured disarmed Jews rendered defenseless unable to protect their Torahs, their temples, their families.

I wondered why the Charlottesville rabbi failed to take any precautions when he knew Nazis would march in front of his temple?

No contingency fund for protecting the temple from torch-bearing Nazis?

Where were his congregants who had been trained by Israeli IDF snipers?

Where in the temple was his locked box cache of military hardware stored?

The rabbi remembered buying black and white IDF PARATROOPERS t-shirts emblazoned with wings, a parachute and a Magen David. 

He gave them as gifts to the graduates of Hebrew High but now thought the t-shirt should have been accompanied with an Uzi.

I thought:

Had he not studied the Holocaust in rabbinical school?

Had he not been taught that we are the people of the Old Testament.

What drugs did they take in college that allowed them to forget the past.

Had he not read about the number of temples  which were burnt to the ground with their congregants locked inside. 

Did he not know the Nazis outlawed Jews from possessing weapons?

Had he not studied the 613 laws?

All he was prepared to do was run out the back door cradling the Torah to his chest.

Some plan!

I wanted to raise my hand in temple and ask my rabbi:

“If screaming, torch-bearing Nazis were out front, would you run out the back door holding a torah?”

“Rabbi, during your High Holiday speech you never addressed this question. Why?”

“Rabbi, do you have a Nazi-attacking-temple plan of action or a torah-removal-emergency written procedure for such an event?”

I wanted to raise my hand and say:

Calling the local police is not a plan.

Hiring one armed security guard is not a plan.

Buying an El Al plane ticket to Ben Gurion is not a plan.

Buying Torah destruction coverage is not a plan.

“Rabbi have you ever even thought about what you would do?”

“Rabbi, what do the Torah’s 613 commandments instruct you to do on handling Nazis carrying burning torches in front of a synagogue?

So Rabbi, I have studied the 613 rules and here is what I learned:

That those engaged in warfare shall not fear their enemies nor be panic-stricken by them during battle. Deut. 3:22, 7:21 20:3

Panic-stricken means running out the back door.

Always to remember what Amalek did. (Deut. 25:17)

The Nazis are yesterday’s and today’s Amaleks.

That the evil done to us by Amalek shall not be forgotten. (Deut. 25:19)

Never again!

To destroy the seed of Amalek. (Deut. 25:19)

And so it is written in our Torah and so it is conveniently ignored.

So on this Rosh Hashanah, I stood in the temple, faced the Torahs and wanted to ask at the rabbi:

And how do you decide which of the 613 commandments to follow, since all were supposedly given by G-d to Moses?

What is your plan?


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What the readers are saying:

Please remove me from your email list. 

I do not want any further communication from you. —Rabbi Menachem
Great write Mort and very thought provoking!
It is scary as hell Mort and very realistic! We can hope for
“Nevermore” but can we prevent events and hatred
that have plagued our people throughout our existence
That is one of many questions!???????—Toby
What a story/truth! Thx for sharing Mort. —Eva



Nice tale, thanks, Counselor—Avi

Well done!!—Cari

Excellent.— Barbara

Congratulations. You deserve it.—Gina



September 22, 2017

4 thoughts on “Amalek—A Mort Laitner Short Story

  1. Toby Kaufman

    It is scary as hell Mort and very realistic! We can hope for
    “Nevermore” but can we prevent events and hatred
    that have plagued our people throughout our existence
    That is one of many questions!???????


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