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Parshat Ki Teitzei (5764)

This week's section begins with war, ends with war and contains many commandments of war: Not to fear the enemy, to appoint a special 'Cohen' (priest) for the soldiers, to offer the enemy surrender before making battle, and more.

In fact, its title "Ki Taitzai" means "When you go out to war.

This seems to be very relevant today when Israel is surrounded by enemies that are bent on her destruction. But it doesn’t seem to make sense. Why is war necessary? Why can't we just rely on G-d to calm down our enemies or to fight our battles? Even more, this sentence is written in the singular, it seems to imply that each of us must go out to war. What type of war is it referring to?

To answer this, here is a story. [Shmuot v'Siporim book #3 Pg 189] .

Two young men once were standing in line to meet the fourth Rebbe of Chabad (Rabbi Shmuel 1834-1882) for 'Yechidut'.

Yechidut means being 'alone' with the Rebbe but it also refers to the highest level and essence of the Jewish soul called 'Yechida' which is activated at such private meetings. This is because a Rebbe and ONLY a Rebbe has the ability to awaken in a Jew the unique REASON and meaning of his/her being.

The first to enter was an accomplished Talmudic scholar. He had been preparing himself for this moment for months and when the door opened and he entered the Rebbe's room he felt as a clay vessel being returned to the kiln for reformation.

The room was silent. He closed the door behind him and handed the Rebbe a paper upon which he wrote several personal questions and waited. His heart was trembling and he thought he was about to cry.

The Rebbe spoke quietly:

"From now on when you pray never rely on your memory, rather read every word from the prayer book."

He waited for more but the Rebbe had finished....that was it! He couldn't believe it! He had been preparing for months; contemplating, fasting and learning - for this?!

"But Rebbe". he stammered, trying to conceal his disappointment and frustration. "When I pray, I close my eyes and concentrate on the deep meaning of the words!"

The Rebbe looked at him sternly and replied:

"What do you concentrate on? On ‘Praises to the floor board?!!"

He backed out of the Rebbe's room confused and embarrassed. He went to a corner of the Shul (Synagogue) outside of the Rebbe’s office and sat down. Certainly there must be a hidden message here. But what could it be? 'Praises to the floor board, Praises to the floor board.' He repeated to himself. Perhaps it was referring to a mystical level of creation; to a secret to which only he was now privy! Maybe the Rebbe was opening a door to the unknown!

He asked several of the elder Chassidim for help but even they had no idea what it meant.

He paced back and forth in the long room. Then suddenly, in a flash, it came to him!

A few days ago in this very room he was beginning the Morning Prayer (which begins with several Psalms of David) when he noticed that one of the floorboards was unusually long; it reached from one end of the Shul to the other. He decided, just for the fun of it, to begin one of the longer Psalms at the beginning of the board and finish at the other end.

How the Rebbe knew of his foolish stunt he had no idea but the 'deep'

message was clear: He was guilty of one of the worst Chassidic ‘crimes’; fooling himself! He really had believed that he was superior to others.

Meanwhile the second Chassid entered. He was a much simpler fellow. He too handed the Rebbe his paper, the Rebbe read it, looked up and said quietly.

"In your every free moment learn the books of the Torah (Pentatuch, Prophets, Psalms etc) with the simple Yiddish translation of the words."

He humbly left the Rebbe's room, happy that he had been in Yechidut and that the Rebbe had given him directions. But he didn't exactly see how this was connected to the essence of his Jewish soul.

A year passed. His wife (of this second Chassid) gave birth to a baby boy, he got a job as a wagon driver and, faithful to the Rebbe's orders, every free minute between journeys he could be seen reading some book of the Torah with the simple translation. Often he would be away from home for days, and often he had to bear the worst types of cold weather and road conditions but he never missed an opportunity to open his book and read.

One cold Russian winter day he returned home after a long journey of Sseveral hard days. He was happy to be in his warm house again. He removed his heavy fur coat and threw it in the corner and sat down to the meal his smiling wife prepared for his return.

They spoke for some time and eventually he asked about the baby. "Thank G-d!" answered his wife. "Come, have a look!"

She stood up and walked to the corner where he had thrown his coat. The coat was covering the child's bed, it was so heavy she almost could not lift it. Her husband lifted it up and when she saw what had happened she let out a blood curdling scream. The child was not breathing!!!! The heavy coat had suffocated him - he'd been under that coat for at least a half hour!!

They tried moving the child, slapping his back, rubbing him with alcohol but he was not responding in any way!!

In a mad fury she grabbed her coat and dashed from the house! A doctor.. A DOCTOR!!! Maybe, against all hope, there was hope.

But it took longer than she thought. The doctor was taking a nap. It took him a few minutes to wake up and put on his shoes. As they were running back she explained to him what had happened and by the time they reached her house over fifteen precious minutes had passed.

It was obvious to the doctor that if it was as she said, all was lost. But when they opened the door there was the child standing on her husband's lap, smiling and laughing!! It was a miracle!!!

The woman began screaming hysterically with joy. She grabbed the child and hugged and kissed him tens of times.

"Are you sure that he was unconscious?" the doctor asked her incredulously as he checked the child and declared him to be perfectly healthy. Then, turning to her husband he asked "Did he really stop breathing?"

"Yes, sure. Who knows how long he stopped. maybe a half hour! No sign of life!! Nothing!!"

"So how...What happened?" The doctor asked. "You mean he just...Woke up? Maybe you were mistaken? Maybe..."

"No no!" the father continued. "The Lubavitcher Rebbe once told me to learn the entire written Torah with the simple meaning. Well, just the other day I finished the story of how the Prophet Elisha enlivened a dead boy by laying on him and blowing in his mouth (Kings 2:4:34) so I just did the same thing. (The boy in that story had been dead for at least a day before Elisha miraculously revived him. But our hero understood in the 'simple' sense; that he could do it also.)


This is the message of war: There are many problems and difficulties in life and we must solve them on our own. In fact this is why G-d created man (Gen. 1;28) to "Fill the earth and CONQUER it".

But if we want to do it properly we need the help of a Tzadik (a complete Jew).. As in our stories.

In fact the GOAL of Judaism and the Jewish people is to solve ALL the problems in the world and defeat ALL negative forces ...even sickness and suffering. And that will be the job of Moshiach.

This is why the Rambam (Laws of Kings 11:4) writes that one of the main jobs of the Moshiach besides strengthening the Torah and Jewish identity is to "Fight the Battles of G-d."

In other words, Moshiach will direct the Jews (just as Rebbe Shumel did in our story) indeed, each and every one, to conquer themselves, (as with the first Chassid), and the world...even death (as did the second).

And that is the meaning of war today.

Today we have the direction and instructions of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, (see the last chapter of Moshiach essay www.ohrtmimim.org/torah) to win all the battles of life within us and outside of us and put meaning, blessing and joy into each detail of creation.

And it doesn’t demand much; we are standing on thousands of years of Jewish self-sacrifice. It can be that just one more good deed, word or even thought can tilt the scales.

WISHING all our readers a K'siva v'Chasima Tova!!! May you all be written and inscribed in the book of life for a happy healthy and prosperous NEW YEAR with MOSHIACH NOW!!!

Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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