Ki Teitze – When am I Ready for the World?
The beginning of our Parsha is כי תצא למלחמה על אויביך, when you go out to battle your enemies.
When the Torah talks about someone going out to war, it writes it in singular. So let me ask you friends, how can one Jew go out and conquer the world?
Here comes the deepest. There are two struggles going on in our lifetime. One struggle is going on inside, deep down inside. This struggle is when I don’t even know if I want to be a Jew, I don’t know if I should keep Shabbos. I don’t know if I should be married to my wife or not. I already have grown up children, but I haven't decided yet if I should have had children. Some people are sitting in Israel and they still don’t know if they should have ever left America. These are all real inside struggles.
But then there another struggle, and this struggle takes places when my inside is already fixed. It’s mamesh clear to me in two million ways that I cannot move an inch away from the Torah... I just can’t, even if I wanted to. Let's say I met this beautiful girl and I decided that I'm going to take off of yiddishkeit for a week. So I told her 'do me a favor, come to the moshav at 9 o'clock this Friday night'. She comes in a limousine, and I promised her I would take her out to Tel Aviv, and we will have some Chinese food. Let me ask you, in all honesty. Can I walk out from the moshav on Friday night, step into a limousine and go with this girl to have Chinese food? It's not even a question of choice. I look at my feet and they don’t move… they simply don’t move. You know why? What's the first sign if you make a covenant with G-d? That there are certain things inside that I don’t have to struggle with anymore. I'm a yid.
Inside, inside I don’t have to struggle anymore. Sure, it's hard. You have to make decisions every minute. G-d is testing you every second of your life. So what I'm doing is only fixing the outside. It's clear to me, I cannot step into a limousine Friday night and go to a discotheque in Tel Aviv, I can’t. So where is this struggle? Open your hearts in the deepest way. I have choice when I am sitting by my Shabbos table. I can sit there and say bad things about other people, or I can mamesh keep Shabbos in the deepest depths.
I struggle when I know what Yomtov is, but I can get away with not keeping it on the deepest level.So you see what it is? A person who still has inside struggles - don’t you dare go out converting the world, you are not on the level yet. When the Torah is talking about כי תצא למלחמה, when you are going out to battle, we are talking about someone who inside is Baruch Hashem strong like a lion.
Do you know when one Jew is not able to go out and conquer the world? When this one Jew has not finished the struggle of the inside. Obviously if I am not so sure yet there is one G-d, if I'm not a hundred percent sure that Shabbos is really necessary - I cannot come to the world for G-d. I can learn Torah for two hundred years, but deep deep inside, if there is one little corner left where I doubt that every word of the Torah is really from heaven then I can’t really conquer anything.And here we are coming to the end of our Parsha, wiping out Amalek. Our holy rabbis teach us that Amalek is the numerical value of safeq, doubt. Amalek isn’t saying anything bad about G-d, but it is saying 'are you sure?'
You see what it is, the greatest evil is not that voice that tells me 'step into a car on Friday night and go to a discotheque'. Yeah, it's a cute little retail evil, but wholesale evil… wholesale evil doesn't tell you what to do. Wholesale evil just comes and says 'are you positive? You are a thinking person, you have a PHD in logic. Are you sure this Shabbos thing is for you?'
You see friends, our real struggles in life comes from this place where the inside isn’t fixed yet. It's when I still have my doubts deep inside. Let's say I have trouble keeping Shabbos. If I turn you onto Shabbos, what kind of a Shabbos am I turning you onto if every Friday night you are struggling to keep Shabbos? This is only when you received Shabbos from someone who is also a little bit Amalek, and is not sure about Shabbos himself.
THE TSHUVAH OF ELUL: OPENING GATES AND ENTERING
[A holy Torah teaching on the month of Ellul, from Rebbe Shlomo Carlebach ztz”l. I do not know when this teaching was delivered, but it is timeless. ]
Here is a story of the Lubliner: Reb Yankele was a multi multi multi millionaire. In Lublin every Shabbos there were thousands of chassidim. Reb Yankele paid all the bills of Lublin for many years. The Hasidim wanted to show their gratefulness to him so they said that they wanted him to have the privilege of sitting next to the Rebbe. So for years, he sat next to the Rebbe. Suddenly he went bankrupt. Everything that he owned was taken from him.
There was a rich man who said to him, "Everything that you have belongs to me. The seat that you have, next to the rebbe, that too belongs to me." But Reb Yankele said, "But I didn't buy that seat. It was given to me out of friendship."
Well this rich man gave him trouble. Every Shabbos & Yom Tov he was in shul an hour before daavening began and he sat in Reb Yankele's seat and Reb Yankele couldn't drive him out. One great Simchas Torah, everyone runs to kiss the Torah and RebYankele also runs to kiss the Torah. When he returns to his place, there is the rich man is sitting in his seat. People start arguing. Some say the rich man is right. Others say Reb Yankele is right. A fistfight breaks out.
The holy Lubliner walks around with his Torah, comes over and says, "What's going on? Fighting in the holy beis medrash?" Everyone stands frozen wherever they are. Reb Yankele says, "Holy Rebbe, you remember once I was rich, I gave so much tzedakkah. Now I have nothing left except for the seat next to you." How can the rich man take it away?"
The Holy Lubliner thinks for a while and says, "Wait. Let me ask the Heavenly Court which of you is right." He closes his eyes and then says, "Reb Yankele, in the name of the Heavenly Court, it is your seat, but not because you gave so much money for Shabbos. It is your seat because when you said you lost everything, that you only have one thing left, there was not one person in shul who did not do tshuvah. You touched them all so deeply. Everyone in this shul is already inscribed in the Book of Life, because you caused them to go through the gates of tshuvah. Therefore, the Heavenly Court gives you this seat."
G-d opens so many gates for us. Dovid haMelech says: Zeh ha-sha'ar lHashem... ("This is G-ds gate. Tzadikim will enter through") What is the difference between a wicked man and a tzaddik. A tzaddik, when he sees an open gate he goes in. A wicked man doesn't. Look at relationships between people. Between husband and wife, parents and children. One of them opens the gate for the other.
How many people get divorced because they didn’t open the gate? How many children are angry with parents because whenever they opened the gate the parents were too busy with something else? On the universal level, there were times when Israel could have made peace with the entire world. There were moments when we could have brought Mashiach. We didn't take care of [them] it, we missed the chance. Every time I do a mitzvah every time I do something good, G-d opens the gates for me to do another mitzvah.
Why don't I go in? I never do. The Tanach writes that wicked people are always walking around, always circling, never going in. On the first Shabbos of Elul we always read Shoftim. "Appoint judges and officers in all your gates." What is Elul all about? Doing good. G-d is opening all of the gates.
I want you to know that the tshuvah of Elul is not tshuvah for sins. That is for the ten days between Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur. In Elul the important thing is, I am doing tshuvah for all the gates that were open to me and that I didn't enter.
Let me say something very deep. Can you image what kind of gate G-d opened to us on Mt Sinai? The deepest gate in the world. The gate was so wide open, the Gemara says, that there was no longer any death in the world. We could have gone straight into Eretz Yisrael. We could have fixed the entire world. But instead what did we do? We made the Golden Calf. We said to G-d, we are not interested in Your gates.
Gevald! How could we do that? How could we do that to G-d? So Moshe had to go again to Mt Sinai to re-open all the gates. In former good days, every city was closed with gates. When they were opened, they blew the shofar. In Elul we blow the shofar to let the world know, to let ourselves know, G-d is opening all the gates, G-d is re-opening all the gates. And we are saying "Appoint judges and officers in all your gates which G-d gave you." Like Yankele, you didn't deserve them. You lost them. But, G-d is telling us, I shall give them back to you.
"I want you to know that the tshuvah of Elul is not tshuvah for sins. That is for the ten days between Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur. In Elul the important thing is, I am doing tshuvah for all the gates that were open to me and that I didn't enter."Reb Shlomo Carlebach zt"l
Consider. On Rosh Hashanah Hashem is opening all the gates for us. If I don’t do the tshuvah of Elul beforehand, the tshuvah over all the gates that were open to me until now, but I didn’t enter, how will I be ready to, how will I have the courage to enter into the gates of the New Year?