4: Excerpts from Exodus and Deuteronomy.

4: Excerpts from Exodus and Deuteronomy.

According to the Bible, the people of Israel were commanded to annihilate the tribe of Amalek, which attacked the Israelites during their Exodus from Egypt. Under the leadership of Saul, the people of Israel tried to wipe out the Amalekites.

The command to exterminate the tribe of Amalek is one of the most troubling ethical issues in the Bible, because it appears to give justification for indiscriminate killing of a tribe. Jewish scholars have interpreted the story in opposite ways. Martin Buber, for example, believed that Samuel must have misunderstood God, because Buber could not worship a God that demands total annihilation of a people, while Joseph Soloveitchik believed that Amalek was the epitome of evil, and that evil must be utterly destroyed. 

Suggested Activity: Have students read the Biblical excerpts and discuss the possible interepretations of the commandment to annihilate the Amalekites. Then have them consider the reference to Amalek in "The Fruit of the Land." Ask students how they see Ravikovitch’s use of the reference. Is it serious, humorous, or both? What does she make of the Biblical command? Who is Amalek in the context of her poem set in contemporary Israel? How does the line following the reference—"if you can track him down,"—change the reference itself?

For an extended activity, ask students to identify additional Biblical references in "The Fruit of the Land"—references that are not mentioned in this resource kit. Have them track down the Biblical text and write a footnote for the poem, explaining what the reference is, and how it is being used by Ravikovitch.

Sources: Exodus 17:8-16 and Deuteronomy 25:19, found at www.sefaria.org.