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Parshat Ki Teitzei (5771)
This week's portion begins with the words;
'When you go out to war on your enemies'.
From the days Abraham, some 4,000 years ago, the Jews have had enemies. And the worst of them was (and still is) a nation called Amalek whom we are commanded to destroy (at the end of our portion 25:14-19).
Whereas the other nations and religions that battle us want either our property or our souls and will quit when they get or realize they can't get what they want, Amalek will never stop. His war is against G-d and the connection that all Jews have to G-d. Therefore as long as G-d exists his battle will continue.
Therefore we must identify and destroy 'Amalek' immediately! It is our only hope! But there is a catch.
ONLY the Moshiach can identify who and where this 'Amalek is'.
And that is exactly what the Rebbes of Chabad did; they not only identified and located him, they even gave us the weapon to eliminate him! They told us that Amalek is…
....inside each of us!!! And the weapon is 'Jewish' awareness of G_d (Lekuti Torah 35:3 – 36:2)
To understand this here is a story. (Bait M'ushar by Zev Riterman pg. 67)
It was a cold gloomy December night. The Baal Shem Tov, the holy master of Jewish awareness, wasn't his normal good natured self, something was bothering him; perhaps an evil decree threatening the Jewish people.
His pupils tried to cheer him up; asked him to explain deep kabalistic concepts sang joyous Chassidic songs, even told a few Chassidic stories. But nothing worked.
Then the door opened and in walked a simple fellow known to all as'Reb Dovid'. He brushed off the snow from his coat and was headed toward the stove to warm up when the Baal Shem Tov broke into a joyous smile, called his name and asked him to pull up a chair and sit near him. It was obvious that his entrance elevated the Baal Shem's mood drastically and as soon as he took his seat the Besh't (short for Baal Shem Tov) entered him into a warm, animated conversation.
This amazed the other pupils, all of whom were giants in Torah and Kaballah as well as truly pure 'Tzadikim' - the likes of which could not be found in the world. How could this simple fellow succeed where they failed? And why did the Besh't spend so much time with him when he would have been flattered just to receive a handshake.
The Besh't realized their consternation, sent Reb Dovid out on some simple errand and when he left explained what had happened.
"This Reb Dovid is as simple and as poor as they come. But he also has a great love of G-d and is constantly trying to find better ways to serve Him. At the beginning of last year he thought and thought and, being that he had neither the time to do more good deeds, the intelligence to learn more Torah or the means to give more charity, he decided that he would upgrade his 'Esrog' (an often very expensive, citrus fruit grown in warm climates that G-d commanded Jews to join with three other types of vegetation on the holiday of Succos (tabernacles) and shake (Lev. 32:40)).
He decided to buy the most expensive one he could find, and would be his way to serve G-d with all his heart, soul and might. (Deut. 6:4)
"He kept his plans to himself and quietly took on extra errands and jobs, slept and ate less, saved penny after penny until, at the end of the year he had a large enough sum to make his dream come true.
"He told his wife he was going away for a few days, traveled many miles until he found a big city where there was a market place and searched around until he found someone who was selling expensive esrogs. Sure enough, he found the special one he was looking for!
"It cost him almost all the money that he had, but it was worth it! The esrog was beautiful; bright gold like the sun and shaped like a precious holy scepter with a beautiful point at the top.
"Returning home was also very difficult. The roads were blocked for some reason and with no choice he had to take a long treacherous detour that forced him to cross over rivers, trek through massive forests and even scale what seemed like mountains. But a week later he arrived home, exhausted, disheveled, limping and wounded but ecstatically happy; now he could serve his Creator in the best way possible.
"He entered the shack he called his house with a song on his lips and was greeted by his smiling wife who concluded that her husband's delay was in order to bring money, and his joy was because he succeeded. But our Reb Dovid wasn't aware of any of this; he thought that she was partners in his joy.
"He said a ringing hello, gave her the few cents that remained in his pocket, a bit more than usual, took the box containing the esrog put it on the table, opened it and sighed with divine satisfaction. He was in heaven.
"But his wife was not. When she realized that there would be no money and that her husband was sighing about, she got angry. She snatched the esrog from the box, turned its point downward and, in one swift awful instant, brought it smashing down on the tabletop thus disqualifying it for the commandment (Aruch Chaim 648:7)!
"His priceless esrog was worth less than an old potato. He lost everything!!
"But Reb Dovid, realizing that an entire year of backbreaking work, effort and time were destroyed said:
"'She's right. Looks like I didn't deserve such a fine esrog!'
"He calmly took one of the vessels from his house to the local pawnbroker, got a loan, went to the synagogue and paid for the right to stand in line to use the third-class community esrog for a minute each day of the holiday as he did every year."
When the Baal Shem Tov finished the story he concluded with a smile. "That is why I'm so happy. You should know that since Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac there has never been such a test of human character! In this simple Jew's merit all evil decrees can be averted."
This ends our story. There is no doubt that what the Besh't said is correct but at first glance it is totally not understood.
Between Abraham and Reb Dovid almost 4,000 years passed, in which time millions of Jews, unfortunately, were tested by G-d in the most unspeakable ways. They were subjected to the horrors and tortures of Crusades, Inquisitions, blood libels, expulions after expulsions, pogroms, holocausts and more, and often forfeited their lives rather than their Judaism.
How could Reb Dovid's test be greater than these??
The answer is that Reb Dovid's test was not if he got angry or considered divorce. Rather it was his reaction in that FIRST INSTANT when his wife destroyed his esrog.
In the other tests, when the Jews were tortured, expelled and persecuted they had at least one second to make the right decision and stand firm. But in Reb Dovid's case he was taken TOTALLY by surprise and nevertheless NATURALLY and immediately concluded that G-d didn't want him to have the esrog. To get to such a state requires constant preparation - a constant war against Amalek.
The Amalek within each of us is our NATURAL and immediate feeling (and total certainty) that we exist.
Nothing is more natural…. and false. The truth is that only G-d exists and He alone creates us, gives us our talents, life and even free will. But the Amalek within us denies this.
This was the test of Abraham; would he automatically FEEL that everything is the Creator's or not. But he had to work constantly to achieve this truth.
And so do we. True, G-d is also creating this Amalek constantly with the rest of creation. But the reason He is doing so is in order that we can awaken the essence of our souls and constantly remember, not forget and totally destroy the Amalek (three separate commandments) within us.
This can be done by learning the teachings of the Chabad Rebbe's (see your local Chabad House for details) and it is the best preparation for the total redemption.
Then one more good deed, word or even thought can totally destroy Amalek by bringing …..
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