Published Date: August 31, 2020
This week’s music https://youtu.be/IzXHpOsPUqg
I clearly remember the day that Rabbi Menachem Fruman, of blessed memory, returned from his meeting in Turkey with Prime Minister Erdogan following the Marmara incident of 2010. The meeting took place on a Friday. Rabbi Fruman returned to Tekoa for Shabbat. On Shabbat morning when we recited the prayer for protection of our holy soldiers, as we got to the words, “may Hashem protect you from all of your enemies, Rav Fruman banged on the table and called out.” Yes! We are not “stam” saying this phrase. Indeed we do have enemies. I sat opposite one of them yesterday. ” At which he began to delineate a long list of our enemies.
It’s easy to identify the enemy when it upsets or threatens my lfe in an open way. This can also be true of life situations. My boss is threatening me, he/she becomes the enemy; I am, God forbid, arguing with my wife. She becomes the enemy. However, when life seems fine, I am comfortable, I have a great job, a peaceful home, satisfaction from my children, I can become complacent . The awareness that I have enemies is the furthest thing from my mind.
The opening of this week’s Torah portion would refute that theory of life. In last week’s portion of “Shoftim,” we are commanded to set up judges and police ourselves . The Torah surprisingly commands us in the singular form of “l’cha,” as opposed to the plural “lachem.” The message is clear. It is up to each of us as individuals to judge and control ourselves and our own behavior. Similarly in this week’s portion of “Ki Tetze,” the “sidra” begins, ”Ki tetze la’milchamah al oivecha…,” when you, proactively, go out to war against your (again in the singular form) enemy (Devarim 21.10).
Who is my singular enemy? It sounds very personal. It can’t be a nation that the Torah is referring to. Yes, my personal enemy is my “yetzer hara,” my evil inclination. He/She is on call 24/7 looking for ways to make me stumble on my quest to fulfill my soul’s purpose in this world. This enemy is located in the last place I usually look for an enemy. This enemy #1 lies within me. That is to say that I cannot ignore my inner reality just because things are so honky dory on the outside. What goes on at the outside is only there to bring me to a closer assessment of what is really going on inside. Yet, we often allow our external situations to distract us from the real truth of our lives.
So when it comes to that enemy, I can’t wait around politely until I am attacked. I need to be proactive and be on the lookout all of the time. I need to be protected and be one step ahead of that looming enemy. In 1967, when Eretz Yisrael and all of its inhabitants were surrounded on four sides by enemies gearing up to attack us, we wisely did not wait for them to pull the trigger, but rather were proactive and began the fight on our terms.
This is what I need to do with our “yetzer hara.” Be on the attack and don’t allow him to have the upper hand. ”Ki tetze lamilchama,” when you go out to battle. Don’t wait for the war to come to you! Be proactive and be offensive in your own defense. This is my preventative medicine against the disease of spiritual pollution.
Thus, I need to know myself, be strong and use my God given strengths to continue going up my personal spiritual path every day. I need to be ready, as The Slonimer Rebbe brings down in the name of Reb Elimelech Melizinsk, that I need to go against my nature. My nature, my every day patterns are who I and everyone on the outside recognize as me. Too often, that nature is exactly what stands in the way of me getting to know who I really am and why I was sent here. I need to constantly be on the lookout and know what is it that brings me closer to God and what “chas v’shalom,” pushes me further away.
May we be blessed to fulfill the words in the book of Job, “…behold the awe of Hashem is “chachma,” wisdom, and to turn away from evil is “binah,” inner understanding” (Job 28.28). This is our chance to turn inward, for each of us to attain deep inner understanding and accomplish a clear sense as to what our role is and what we were each sent here to do. This could well be the greatest wakeup call of our pandemic experience. May we be blessed to respond in a deep, honest and personal way.