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:
eb 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?
KI TEITZEI- OVERCOMING THE YETZER HARA:
When is self-judgment idolatrous?
11) בעל הטורים – פרשת כי תצא, פרק כה "כל הנחשלים אחריך". בגימטריא זה היה שבטו של דן.
Amalek attacked the stragglers who were at the back of the camp. Rashi says that these were the people who had been expelled from the 'clouds of glory' that protected the camp of B'nai Yisrael- the Children of Israel. The 'Psikta' teaches that these were people of the tribe of Dan and they were expelled because of idolatry.
But we need to understand this. Dan was an important tribe in Israel, they were the leaders of the tribes of Asher and Naftali. "Degel Machaneh Dan" – they were one of the four flagship tribes. This means that they carried a message that was important for all of Israel. How then are we to understand that they were idolatrous and why were they expelled by the 'clouds of glory'? And if they were idolatrous, why did they occupy an important role of leadership?
It is explained in שיח שרפי קודש that Dan was, as the name suggests, self judgmental. They were so much aware of their shortcomings and they judged themselves harshly. They believed that they were not worthy enough to be inside the 'clouds of glory' and therefore they did not wish to enter into the 'clouds of glory'. Now, it is true and important to be honest with oneself; to know that we are but on a low level of holiness, maybe even barely so. However if self-judgment goes so far as to prevent you from entering into holiness, if you say 'I'm not holy enough to do this mitzvah' or 'I'm not holy enough to study Torah' and consequently you don't try to learn or do the mitzvot - such self-judgment is idolatrous.
G-d commands us to enter into the 'clouds of glory' – into the world Shabbat, the world of Torah and good deeds. Yes we do need to examine ourselves honestly at all times; we always need to try and improve. But we do not have the right to decide that we are not holy enough to do a mitzvah or to think that we are not holy enough to study Torah. We must enter into the holy 'clouds of glory' simply because that is what Hashem wants us to do. To think that you are not good enough to do, or at least try to do what Hashem commanded us to do, is idolatrous. If you think that way then the 'clouds of glory' do expel you.
See how the beginning of our parsha is directly linked with its end. The parsha begins with going to battle against our evil inclination, and ends with the command to wipe out Amalek. Thinking I'm not good enough or worthy enough to engage in this battle to get away from evil and do and be good; thinking that only holy people can do this, leaves us unprotected because it is idolatrous to think that way.
We need to know ourselves honestly; we need to know what we need to fix, and we must never believe that we are not good enough to even try (even if we have already tried hundreds of times without much success)!
Hashem says keep on going further, so long as you keep on trying, you can be assured that you will succeed. As it says:
י כִּי-תֵצֵא לַמִּלְחָמָה, עַל-אֹיְבֶיךָ; וּנְתָנוֹ ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּיָדֶךָ--וְשָׁבִיתָ שִׁבְיוֹ.
21:10 When you will go forth to battle against your enemies, [this includes, your 'evil inclination'] Hashem your G-d will deliver them into your hands, and will take them captive.
OVERCOMING DOUBT AND DESPAIR
Our parsha begins as follows:
"Ki teitzei la-milchamah, al oyvecha, u-netano Hashem Elokecha b-yadecha, v'shaveetah shivyoh." If/when you go to war against your enemies, and Hashem your G-d will put them in your hand and you will capture his captives.
The Chassidic commentators explain that the wars with "your enemies", mentionned in this verse, also refer to our struggles with our Evil Inclination, the Yetzer Hara, and here the Torah promises, "Hashem your G-d will put ‘him’ in your hand and you will capture his captives." His captives are our holy sparks that were taken by the spiritually negative forces and they feed off them. When we are in kedusha- connected with Hashem’s kedusha, the holy sparks are aroused and wish to return their sanctity.
The Pshischer Rebbe says that in the Talmud [Kiddushin 30b] we find that the Rabbis taught: If it were not for Hashem's help, we would not be able to overcome our evil inclination. Thus our responsibility is to be strong and to do battle with our evil inclination, and to have faith in Hashem's promise that He will help us and will deliver the enemy into our hands.
How to …. With light and joy
Chassidut emphasizes that the best way to fight the Yetzer Hara is with light and joy, for 'a little light dispels much darkness'! Reb Nachman and all the Chassidic Rebbes warned their disciples to never give in to despair or sadness, for these lead to depression, which is the ultimate weapon of the Yetzer Hara.
How to …. With faith and self-confidence
In the following excerpt from Reb Shlomo's teachings we learn about the dangers of 'doubt'. When going to war, when going to battle with the Yetzer Hara, we must have self-confidence and complete trust in Hashem that He will indeed help us and that we will be victorious.
In the last portion of our parsha, we are commanded to alwaysRemember and never forget what Amalek did to us; we are instructed to completely wipe out all traces of Amalek - the archenemy of the Jewish people. To wipe out Amalek from within, is to wipe out all traces of doubt. [It is significant and revealing that the 'gimattria', the numerical value of 'Amalek' ע+מ+ל+ק = 240, which equals the numerical value of 'safek' ס+פ+ק = 240. ספק means doubt.
Reb Shlomo speaking:
"Obviously I cannot conquer the world for G-d, because I'm not so sure yet if there is one G-d. I'm not 100% sure that Shabbos is really necessary. I can learn Torah for 200 years but deep, deep, deep inside, inside there is one little corner left, in which I doubt if the Torah, really – [if] every word is from heaven.
And remember what our holy Rabbis tell us, Amalek is numerically, "safek" (doubt). Amalek doesn't say anything bad about G-d. He just says, "Are you sure?" You know the greatest evil is not that voice that tells me, "Step in a limousine Friday night and go to a discotheque. That's a cute little retail evil. We're talking about wholesale evil.
Wholesale evil doesn't tell me anything [about] what to do. Wholesale evil just comes and says, are you positive? You are a thinking person, right? You have a PhD in logic. Aren't you overdoing it? You are too
serious about it. [That's] Amalek!
If the inside isn't fixed yet, if I have my doubts deep inside, then you know what it is, I have trouble keeping Shabbos. And then [if/when] I turn you onto Shabbos... What kind of Shabbos am I turning you onto? That, every Friday night you have to struggle to keep Shabbos? [If that's the case, it is] because you received Shabbos from somebody who's also a little Amalek, he's not sure if it's Shabbos, right?
And you know how you conquer Eretz Israel, how do you conquer the world? When it's clear to you that the world is really longing... The world is longing for the deepest, deepest depths. But again, let it be clear to you, if you're full of doubts, you won't get it.
You know why the miraglim [the spies] didn't see it? Because inside... If you remember, because sadly enough, because we made the Golden Calf, [and here I want to share something with you], you know what Amalek did to us? I'll tell you what Amalek did to us. Because... Let me ask you the deepest question in the world. Why didn't the whole world come to Mount Sinai? G-d invited the whole world to come! Do you know why? Because we met Amalek on the way to Mount Sinai, and if you remember, Amalek cooled off the whole world.
And you know what Amalek did to us? Because there was one little 'billionthell' of a shade of a doubt left – so the whole world didn't come.
And because the whole world didn't come, we made the Golden Calf.
Because, if the whole world would have come, we wouldn't have made the Golden Calf. And because the whole world didn't come, we didn't go into Eretz Yisrael. ---------
And I just want you to know one thing. You know my beautiful friends, where is anger coming from? You know where anger is coming from? [from being] (when I am) torn apart with doubt.When my inside is clear, nothing really bothers me.Everybody knows that Esav [the progenitor of Amalek] is the master of anger. Esav is the master of Amalek."
Building A New Home
In this week's parsha we learn the mitzvah of MA-AKEH- as it says: "Ki tivneh bayit chadash, v'aseetah ma'akeh l'gagecha, v'lo tasim damim b'veitechah, ki yipol hanofeil mimenu."
When you build a new home, you are to make a fence for your roof; and do not place blood [liability] in your home for someone who should fall- may fall from it.
The mitzvah of Ma'akeh, requires us to make provisions for the safety of all who may enter our homes, wherever there is potential danger: on the rooftop, around swimming pools, icy walkways etc.. I cannot escape from my responsibility by saying, "enter at your own risk."
"When you are building a new house..." In the Chassidic commentaries this represents reaching a higher level in 'avodat Hashem', serving Hashem. Since other people may want to benefit from this home of spiritual ascent, as they rightfully should, it is the responsibility of the owner to ensure that their personal ascent, will not cause others to fall. As with the physical home, the spiritual home must be offer protection at its very heights, as well as at all it’s access points.
We may not build a spiritual home which is inaccessible to others, nor should we assume that this is possible. Any worthy spiritual journey must be worthy and accessible to others, according the Torah. When we stand before Hashem, we may not/cannot possibly ignore our friends and neighbors. A Jew has to care about all his fellow people, both physically and spiritually.
To build a 'new home', especially a new spiritual home, you have to build it with joy. If you are putting joy into your home, it will really be a home. In a home filled with joy, we are opening gates for each other, we are breathe life; we can hear the sound of truth, the sounds of real life within.
To rise higher and higher: The holy Noam Elimelech teaches that whenever you attain a new and higher level in your service of Hashem, - 'gagecha' – your spiritual rooftop is now higher than it ever was before.
At this new height, you might become a bit haughty. But in order to receive more and deeper Torah from Hashem, you have to be humble - as we learn from Moshe Rabbeinu who merited to be the one to receive the Torah from Hashem, because he was the most humble person of all.
Now visualize this. The rooftop represents the height of your spiritual level. As long as it does not have a fence, it is not safe to walk about there; nor can you 'receive' any more holiness in that place because whatever you place there is likely to fall off. There, on your spiritual rooftop, lurks the danger of haughtiness, and it could cause you to fall. However, by putting a fence around it, the rooftop now becomes the floor of the next higher level; now you can walk about safely, since the fence is higher than the rooftop. The rooftop with a fence around has the shape of a vessel, within which you can 'receive' more. This vessel is the attribute of humility. Thus the Rebbe Reb Elimelech zy"a, teaches us, that whenever you attain new spiritual heights, make a fence around the rooftop - make it a place of humility to enable you to receive more and deeper Torah from Hashem.
Olam Ha-tikkun: The World of Fixing
This week's parsha has many many mitzvot, some of which are quite difficult for us to understand from our contemporary perspectives. In general much of the parsha is dealing with situations where things went wrong, for one reason or another, and there is a need for fixing, for "tikkun."
We are living in the world of "tikkun" ... we are here to fix. As important as it is to fix and repair, it is invaluable to know how to avoid causing damage in the first place.
Guarding our Speech
In Chap 23:24 the torah teaches: Motza sfatecha tishmor, v'aseetah ka'asher nadartah l'Hashem Elokecha, nedavah asher deebartah b'feecha.
That which you uttered, you shall/must keep and you shall do as you vowed to Hashem Your G-d, [including] the generous gifts which you said with your mouth.
Yaffeh Means Beautiful! Beautiful speech and presence.
Eleven years ago, I heard this beautiful teaching on the word YAFFEH, at Chad's “Chosson's tisch”. A few minutes before we accompanied the chosson to the 'badekken' Rabbi Spero invited the assembled to give blessings to the chosson and kallah. Rav Kahaneh said as follows: The word YAFFEH which means beautiful, is written 'yud' 'pei' 'hei'. The letter 'yud' represents Hashem as it is the first letter of Hashem's name. The letterפ 'pei' and ה 'hei' make the words פה "peh"- meaning mouth and alsoפה"poh"- meaning here. Thus Ya-ffeh – יפה beautiful, is derived from -'yud'peh, the mouth that speaks with awareness of Hashem's presence; also 'yud'-poh, Hashem is present here. It is the awareness of Hashem's presence in a spoken word, and in space, that creates and defines beauty. Yafeh!
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 hav