Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The common translation of the opening words of this week’s parsha, Ki Seitzei, is: “When you go out to war against your enemy.” Actually the text reads “al oyvechaupon your enemy.

The Torah is saying that when Israel goes out to war, they will be over and above their enemy. The reason why Bnei Yisrael will be superior and victorious over their enemy is answered in the continuation of the text. “And Hashem will deliver him in your hand.”

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This first verse of the parsha is a powerful instruction to the nation that when they go out to war they must go with confidence and total trust in Hashem that He will make them superior to and victorious over their enemies.

 

Rabbi Yossi Groner

 

The reason for the reassurance from the Torah is because when applying conventional wisdom, it does not make sense that Klal Yisrael, a minority amongst the nations of the world, could be victorious against the majority of nations who wish to destroy her.

The Torah is introducing a phenomenal concept – that quality prevails over quantity. Yisrael is small only when measured quantitatively, yet she is a super majority when measured qualitatively. We are an Am Kadosh, a holy people, chosen to be His people. History has shown that when Bnei Yisrael’s armies were more in sync with their Divine mission from Hashem they were victorious.

Torah is eternal and thus its lessons are relevant to us. In addition to the Torah addressing the people of Israel collectively, there is a direct lesson for each individual Jewish person in the opening words of the parsha.

The term “war” in regards to an individual refers to the battle against the yetzer hara – the evil inclination. This war, fighting off one’s temptations and conquering ones inclinations, can be much more challenging than a conventional war. The Mishna in Avot (Perek 4) considers a person who wins this battle to be a gibor – someone with unusual strength.

Sometimes the yetzer hara appears with passion, the fire of desire rages and can consume the person in a negative way. Other times it appears more passively, bringing with it a sense of apathy to anything holy. In each case one must mobilize all of his inner divine resources and wage war upon it. The Torah promises us that if we give it all we got, we will be victorious in this battle as well.

The Torah instructs us not to be overwhelmed by this challenge, even though the battle is quite tough and we feel as if we are in the minority – since most people have no problem going with the flow. The reason we are told not to fear this battle is the same reason why Bnei Yisrael is not to fear its national wars. Quality prevails over quantity. Our neshama is pure and in a constant state of connection to Hashem. That constitutes a super power that can withstand any physical temptation or challenge. Furthermore, the neshama has the ability to conquer and change the yetzer hara from negative to positive.

As the opening words of our parsha tell us, we will be superior and victorious over our enemy, the yetzer within us, because Hashem delivers him in our hands.

All Jews are responsible for each other. We therefore cannot be satisfied with winning the battle only in our own internal war. This is why the Lubavitcher Rebbe ob”m set out at the beginning of his leadership to send shluchim to all corners of the world to revive the holy neshama in every Jew.

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Rabbi Yossi Groner is the spiritual leader of Congregation Ohr HaTorah in Charlotte, North Carolina. He and his wife Mariashi have been living there since July of 1980. They founded the Jewish Day School of Charlotte (now Charlotte Jewish Day School) and The Jewish Preschool on Sardis. They have ten children, (nine of whom were born in Charlotte) and 17 grandchildren.