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Parshas Ki Seytzey - Do Not Be Scared; Be Prepared                    12 Elul 5781

08/20/2021 11:44:24 AM


When addressing an audience, whether it is in person or on paper, it is best to tell stories and anecdotes that are relevant and important to the entire crowd. There are times when a speaker or writer presents commentary which is limited  to either men or women, resulting in those not in attendance or not reading a specific sefer not being totally informed.  In time and through resulting discussions, however, the ideas presented will ultimately be conveyed to all.  I write this by way of introduction to the context of what is seen only by men within an Orthodox setting. My intention here is to inform the women of something that happens on the bimah during the reading of the Torah.

When someone is called to the Torah, he is shown the specific place where the Torah reading will begin. This specific act is done so that when reciting the Birchas HaTorah, (the blessings on the Torah), the person will know precisely which section his blessings are being conferred upon. Technically speaking, a person saying the Brachos could have in mind his blessings on the entire Torah rather than on a specific section.   Usually, a person wants to say the blessing on the section that either he is reading himself or that the Baal Korei reads on his behalf. Most times there is no issue for the reader to show the correct place where the next reading begins. Nevertheless, there are two places (of which I am aware} in the Torah that an almost identical sentence is found quite close to that where he will currently begin. If the person receiving the Aliyah is shown the wrong place and predicates his Bracha on that area, it may very well be a blessing in vain. The ramifications of a blessing in vain in it of itself are severe and most probably another bracha would be required.  

The first is in Bamidbar 4:23, Parshas Nasso which begins נשא את ראש בני גרשון   and the end of the previous Parsha Bamidbar in 4:1 which begins the same way: נשא את ראש בני קהת If one is not careful it can easily be mixed up. The second location is the beginning of this week’s Parshas Ki Seytzei. In Devarim 21:10 the Parsha begins: "כי תצא למלחמה על איביך ונתנו ה' אלוקיך בידך ושבית שביו"  “When you wage war against your enemies, God will give you victory over them so that you will take captives.” In the previous Parshas Shoftim the Torah close to  Devarim 20:1 states   "כי תצא למלחמה על איביך, וראית סוס ורכב עם רב ממך, לא תירא מהם כי ה' אלוקיך עמך המעלך מארץ מצרים" :“When you go to battle against your enemies, and see horses, war chariots, and an army larger than yours, do not be afraid of them, since God your Lord, Who brought you out of Egypt, is with you.”

In both cases there is what is termed as “Smichus HaParshios” - a closeness or connection between the sections. In the former case, in both instances a census is being taken of the tribe of Levi. In the latter, not only are they both speaking about going out to battle, but there lies a greater message in addition to a similarity of words.  I heard a beautiful explanation taken from the first battle in Shoftim from a Rabbi Doniel Langer in Tom’s River. He asked, ”How is it possible when you see horses, chariots, and an army larger than yours, not to be afraid? It would be a natural instinct to be afraid.” He went on to explain, based upon Rabbeinu Yonah in Shaarei Teshuva, that if one looks at the end of the verse, it says ‘since Hashem took you out of Egypt’. If we pay attention to this, we realize that we got out of Egypt against all odds because of Hashem. As a result, we should apply the same principle here: when there is a large army we should not be afraid because Hashem will deliver us. Rabbeinu Yonah emphasizes the need to make the connection that if we look to Hashem there is no reason to be afraid. In truth, the words “do not be afraid” are really a hint, reminding us that if we recall Hashem taking us out of Mitzrayim, He will take us out of this precarious situation too.

I would like to take it one step further and connect the first time the Torah mentions “…when you go out to war” in last week’s parshas Shoftim to the opening verse in this week’s Parshas Ki Seytzey. If we are successful in following the words of Rabbeinu Yonah and remember it is all due to  Hashem that our battles are won. When we are in battle and are not afraid of the enemy because we remember Hashem is the One who took our forefathers out of Egypt (despite all odds against us) then our enemies will be delivered into our hands. The beginning of this week’s Parsha is the fulfillment and also the conclusion from the previous week. When we go out against the larger army and are not afraid, then Hashem will deliver us. But if we do not remember Hashem and His capacity to deliver us as He delivered us from Egypt, then we should be afraid.

The battle which the Torah describes here is not limited to the simple pshat or understanding of a physical war in which the Jewish people engaged. Rather, the Torah can be viewed through each individual’s battle that he or she faces every day. We go through life facing adversity and challenges that are our internal struggles and battles. The inner strength one has is fueled by a feeling of support, which is Hashem. Faith is a powerful tool if we truly believe in it. If we only give it lip service, then the strength will not be there for us during our times of need. Moreover, if we are successful in applying our faith in Hashem, always bearing in mind and heart that He took us out of Egypt, then we won’t be afraid. Once we are no longer afraid, internally synthesizing that  it is Hashem who gives us the strength to overcome fear, then Hashem will deliver our enemies into our hands. The last words of the passuk “…so that you will take captives” describes the capture and defeat of the Yetzer Hora.  when we have overcome this challenge,  we own it;  we now can face any future similar situation.. Once we rise up against it the very first time and defeat that enemy, it no longer has the same power and influence over us. That is not to say the challenge and situation will never come up again, it surely will, but the next time we will be stronger because we’ve captured once before, and we can do so again. Hopefully by reading the Parsha we will absorb this lesson and apply it throughout these days of Elul and prepare for future battles in the coming year.                                                                                                                                                                                           

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Wed, January 19 2022 17 Shevat 5782