Thursday, August 27, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Ki Seitzei 5769

שבת טעם החיים פרשת כי תצא תשס"ט
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Ki Seitzei 5769

Go out with joy
This week’s parasha, Ki Seitzei, commences with the laws regarding the Jewish People going out to battle. Rashi writes that the battle referred to here is a discretionary battle, i.e. the Jewish People are not required to wage war against their enemies. Rather, the battle is one where the nation chooses to expand their territory. It is regarding this battle that the Torah instructs the Jew how to deal with the eishes yifas toar, the beautiful gentile woman who is captured in battle.
Leave depression with joy
The commentators cite a Medrash that offers a different interpretation of this battle. They write that this battle is referred to as a milchemes hayeitzer, a battle against the Evil Inclination. While we may all be familiar with this struggle, one must wonder why the Torah alludes to this battle by stating that one goes out to wage battle against the Evil Inclination. In fact, it would seem that the opposite is true. When one is outside his safe environment and is confronted by the temptation to sin, he should escape inside, similar to the statement of the Gemara (Sukkah 52b) that one who sees this “disgusting one,” i.e. the Evil Inclination, he should bring him into the study hall. What, then, is the meaning of the Medrash that states that one should go out to battle his Evil Inclination? Perhaps we can understand the parallel easier with a teaching from the Lev Simcha, the Gerrer Rebbe (14 Nissan 5658 – 7 Tammuz 5752). It is said (Yeshaya) ki vismicha seitzeiu, you will go out with joy. The Lev Simcha interprets this verse homiletically to mean that one can exit his state of depression and worries by being in a state with joy. Let us delve into this deceptively simple statement.
Going to a Tzaddik helps even more
What is the biggest obstacle that prevents a person from accomplishing feats in this world? Some may suggest that it is lack of discipline and focus, but in truth, there is even a larger component at play. The real barrier between us and our potential accomplishments is a lack of joy. We can illustrate the idea that a lack of joy effects one’s accomplishments with the following story. It is told of the Chassid whose neighbor once asked him about the necessity of his travels to the Rebbe. “Is it not enough”, asked the neighbor, “to pore over the Chassidic and mussar literature in your own home?” The Chassid responded, “when I sit in my house with a book and begin to study, the Evil Inclination eventually gets up and begins to dance on my table, and the Evil Inclination then kicks my book open to the chapter that discusses the inherent weakness of man and how one must exert himself to overcome the Evil Inclination. Upon reading this chapter, I instantly become forlorn, and I am overcome with uncertainty about my ability to best the Evil Inclination. When I travel to the Tzaddik, however, he knows exactly what I am lacking and what I need to repair my faults. He strengthens me and gives me the Tikkun, the rectification that my soul needs.”
During Elul we can come before HaShem with joy
In a similar vein, we can suggest that while one can certainly spend time philosophizing about what is preventing him from serving HaShem properly, he is stilled mired in the mud of his misdeeds and character faults. Yet, when one begins to serve HaShem with joy, he has already left behind his state of depression and now he can truly serve HaShem with joy. This task of serving HaShem with joy should be in our minds in the month of Elul, as we approach the High Holy Days, when we will stand before HaShem in judgment for the past years deeds. Although we must view the Day of Judgment with the utmost seriousness, we are also instructed to prepare for these awesome days with a certain sense of joy, as we are confident that HaShem will vindicate us in his judgment and bless us with a good year.
The Shabbos connection
Shabbos is a day of joy, as it is said (Bamidbar 10:10) uviyom simchaschem uvimoadeichem, on a day of your gladness, and on your festivals, and the Sifri (Ibid) writes that your day of joy refers to Shabbos. Furthermore, in the Shabbos prayers we recite the words yismichu vimalchuscha shomrei Shabbos vikorei oneg, they shall rejoice in Your kingship – those who observe the Shabbos and call it a delight. Given that Shabbos is a day of joy, we should make the most of this opportunity that HaShem has given us and we should delight in the Holy Shabbos.

Shabbos Stories
Rebuking for HaShem’s honor
Shlomo Katz writes: One year on Shabbos Shuvah, Reb Elchonon Wasserman z”l (Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Ohel Torah in Baranovitch, Poland; killed in the Holocaust) went to shul to hear the derashah that was scheduled to be delivered by the town’s rabbi. However, a messenger arrived, saying that the rabbi was ill and would not be speaking.
Immediately, the assembled congregates turned to Rav Wasserman and asked him to speak. He refused repeatedly, but the congregation would not take "no" for an answer.
So Rav Wasserman ascended the pulpit and began his remarks as follows: The Torah reports that Moshe Rabbeinu was the humblest of all men. How then did he call upon the awesome heavens and earth (in the above verse) to bear witness to his words?
Rav Wasserman answered his own question: The key is found two verses later, where we read, “When I call out the Name of HaShem, ascribe greatness to our G-d.” I am not speaking for my own honor, nor are these my own thoughts, Moshe Rabbeinu was proclaiming. The words of rebuke that I (Moshe) will speak are the words of the Torah, and they are spoken for G- d’s honor.
You, too, may wonder - Rav Wasserman concluded his introduction - who I am to rebuke you. Know, therefore, that everything that I will say will be the words of the Torah and will be spoken for G-d’s honor alone. (Otzrosaihem Shel Tzaddikim p.621)
One can change any time
“For they are a generation of reversals . . .” (Devarim 32:20)
Reb Yisroel Alter z”l (the Gerrer Rebbe; died 1977) would not permit the shteibels / small prayer and study houses of his followers to expel any member, even if he seemed to behave in a manner unbecoming of a chassid and member of the community. The Rebbe explained that so long as the individual continued coming to the shteibel, that alone was reason to hope that he would someday mend his ways.
As support for his position, Rav Alter quoted the interpretation of our verse offered by R' Zusia z”l of Annipol (late 18th century chassidic rebbe): “They are a generation of reversals” - the Jewish People of our time are wont to change their nature suddenly and unpredictably. Thus, someone who was, one day, headed in the wrong spiritual direction may unpredictably change course at any time. (Otzrosaihem Shel Tzaddikim p.622)
Love for a son, love for a father
Rabbi Frand writes: I recently heard the following true story: A father had a son who (as is all too often the case) was having problems during his teenage years. The son was not acting as he should and he gave his father much grief. In hope of putting the son on the right path, the father sent him to Eretz Yisroel with the hope that somehow in the Holy Land, the boy would straighten out. In Israel, the son visited a psychologist who had some success with the lad. The father visited the son that year and decided to go speak to the psychologist himself to hear firsthand how his son was doing. The psychologist explained to the father that the problem he was having with his son could be traced back to unresolved issues that he (the father) was having with his own father.
The person heard what the psychologist said and understood it. But when he came back to America, he really did not act upon it. Several months later, however, a friend of the boy’s father lost his own father and was sitting shiva. The father went to visit his friend who was mourner the loss. The mourner made the following comment: “I lost the person in the world who loved me the most. No one loved me like my father.”
When the father with the problem son heard this comment, it stuck with him. He deeply wished that he could make a statement like that about his own father. He wished that he could feel he had a father who loved him. He decided that the next time the Israeli psychologist came to America, he would make an appointment to see him together with his own father so that the two of them could try to work out their issues. And so it was. The psychologist came to America. The father went to his own father – a European Jew, a holocaust survivor – and said “I want to go with you to a psychologist.” He explained, “Our relationship has suffered for years. Maybe we can do something to improve it.”
Much to his surprise, the father agreed and thus the “grandfather” and the “father” went to the psychologist and had a session. At that session, when the “grandfather” began telling over his life story – the events that happened before, during, and after the holocaust -- how he was instrumental in saving members of his own family from death and so on –- the “father” suddenly had an amazing epiphany. He turned to his father and said. “I never knew this about you! You are a hero! I never knew this. The only thing I knew about you was that I was afraid of you.”
The “grandfather” turned to his son and said, “I love you more than anything else in the world.” Those words that the son (now a middle aged man) was longing to hear his whole life, he now heard from his own father. This “father” then had an even greater epiphany and an even greater awakening: “If my father who is flesh and blood loves me that much, then how much more so does the Ribono shel Olam [Master of the Universe] love me!” This awakening changed the person's entire relationship not only with his own father, but with his Father in Heaven. [Reprinted with permission from]

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
Parashas Ki Seitzei 5769
I will be giving a class in Navi on Shabbos afternoon at Beis Haknesses HaGra 14561 Lincoln in Oak Park, an hour before Mincha
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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