• August 28th, 2022
  • Elul 1st, 5782


When You Go To War

Presented By
Torah Contributor

Waging an Internal War

This week's portion, Ki Teitzei, begins "If you go out to wage war upon your enemies..." and then continues with a description of miscellaneous laws which govern civil and domestic life. These laws comprise 74 of the 613 mitzvot (moral deeds) described in the Torah, the most found within any single Torah reading. It is important to recognize that we are always "waging war" within ourselves to use our free will to chose between doing good deeds and sharing with others, versus acting selfishly for our own benefit. Kabbalists describe a three column system comprised of mercy (right column energy), judgment (left column energy) and balance or free will (central column energy). Choosing right over left - the desire to receive in order to share, as opposed to the desire to receive for ourselves alone, connects us to the Light and draws the energy of mercy and blessing into our lives. Awareness of the on going battle between mercy and judgment - being proactive versus reactive, allows us to more easily transcend the adversary of ego and selfish behavior though exercising our free will.

Constructing Guardrails

The third reading in the portion begins "When you build a new house, you must make a guardrail for your roof". Although this has a practical meaning whereby a guardrail could be used as a way to prevent you or a workman from getting injured - there is a deeper spiritual lesson. The roof is the highest part of any structure, and alludes to the ego. In order to prevent us from becoming inflated with an elevated impression of ourselves, we are directed to make a guardrail, to keep our ego in check. The "guardrail" prevents us from using our ego and sense of importance to become selfish as opposed to sharing with others.

Forbidden Mixtures

Ki Teitzei continues with a discussion of forbidden mixtures. The reading describes the prohibition against mixing various seeds, mixing animals and wearing shatnez (a mixture of wool and linen). We learn here the lesson of separation. Everything has a distinct energy and internal DNA. The same way that meat and dairy products are kept separate in a kosher home, so are other things with different energies. This concept can be extended to people as well and it is important to recognize that not all people connect or are meant to be together.

Modesty and the Consciousness of Sex

The portion states that "No Jewish girl or Jewish man shall be promiscuous". While this makes sense at the literal level to prevent against disease, unwanted pregnancy and the degradation of personal reputation, there is a deeper Kabbalistic explanation as well. The Zohar states that sex is considered 1/60th of the Light of the Creator. Accordingly, intimacy should not be taken lightly. Instead of acting promiscuously and having unbridled sex for personal pleasure, we should act with modesty and engage in sexual acts with the proper consciousness of sharing and revealing Light in the world.

Importance of Keeping a Vow

Ki Teiztei describes the importance of fulfilling a pledge and specifically states "Be careful to carry out what is uttered by your lips". When we make a vow to do something, our words have energy and create an opening for that which we pledged - setting in motion a process for the pledge to take place. When we do not fulfill the vow or pledge, we have created an opening into which negativity can enter and, G-d forbid, create problems in our lives. A vow can take the form of making a meeting with a colleague for dinner, committing to call a friend or making a pledge to give money. The importance of keeping a vow is so important that on Erev Rosh Hashanah, there is a process by which we can cancel our unfulfilled vows from the prior year by reading an Annulment of Vows in the presence of a minyan- a quorum of 10 men.

Remembering Amalek - Certainty Over Doubt

On a spiritual level, Amalek is a code word for "doubt" and shares the same numerical value (240) as the word "safek" which means doubt in Hebrew. When we have any form of doubt in our lives, we are disconnected from the Light and the power of certainty - preventing us from achieving our potential. In the portion G-d says "Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were going out of Egypt; how he met you on the way, attacked you from the rear, all that were enfeebled in the rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear G-d." This is exactly how doubt enters our lives - when we are on our path, from behind and when we are weak or have lost our connection to certainty. By always remembering Amalek, we can hopefully overcome it and connect to the power of certainty. The need to overcome doubt is so important, that this same section is also read on Shabbat Zachor - the Shabbat immediately preceding Purim and it is the only portion of the Torah that all men, woman and children are required to hear. Through this reading in Ki Teitzei, we can connect to the consciousness of certainty, helping to remember to stamp out and overcome Amalek and doubt in our lives forever. Only by maintaining certainty in our lives can we achieve our highest potential and access the power of miracles. This energy of certainty further helps us to achieve Teshuvah, eliminating potential judgments and returning us to a clean state on Rosh Hashanah at the beginning of next month.