Friday, September 13, 2019

Parshas Ki Seitzei Messages 5779

בּ"ה
Parshas Ki Seitzei

Parshas Ki Seitzei falls out in the middle of the month of Elul.  And the very name of the parsha, connects beautifully to this time:  ‘Ki Seitzei’ literally means ‘If (alt. when) you will go out’.  Elul, too, is a time to ‘go out’ from our evil ways.  It is a time to rid ourselves of bad. And there is even another hint to this in the name of the parsha:  The Hebrew words ‘כּי תצא’ have the Gematria (numerical value) of 521.  This is the same Gematria as the word ‘אכּשׁר’ which means ‘I will Kasher’.  This parsha serves as a reminder for us that we must ‘go out’ from our evil ways, and Kasher ourselves.  May Hashem help everyone to do this -- not just in Elul, but at all times, Amein.  
(Tal U’Matar)
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When you go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem your G-d will put him into your hands. . . (Devarim 21:10)
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In a different take on these words, the Chofetz Chaim zt”l explains that the biggest and most dangerous enemy to a person is the yetzer hara, and we always need to wage war with it.  And if we will but ‘go out to war against our enemy’, then we will be helped from Heaven, and the next part of the verse, ‘and Hashem your G-d will put him in your hand’, will be fulfilled for us.
(Chofetz Chaim al HaTorah)1
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1 See also Ksav Sofer al HaTorah here.

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When you go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem your G-d will put them [lit. him] into your hand, and you will capture its captives.  And you will see in the captured, a woman of beautiful appearance, and you will desire her, and you may take her to yourself as a wife. (Devarim 21:10-11)
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HaRav Yechezkel Abramsky zt”l, while serving as Rav of London, among his many jobs also gave a shiur (lecture) for those who were far from Judaism and wanted to learn more.  During one of their shiurim, they came across a Gemara (Kiddushin 21b) that has to do with this Parsha:  A soldier, who, during war, spots a pretty-looking lady, even though she is a goy and is forbidden for a Jewish man, the Torah permits him to marry her because Hashem knows that this soldier is going to take her anyways, so let it be permitted instead of forbidden. “לא דברה תורה אלא כנגד יצר הרע.  אם אין הקב״ה מתירה, ישאנה באיסור.”
One of the participants of the shiur asked the Rav: “If so, we can say the same about other forbidden things in the Torah!  We all have a yetzer hara.  For some, it’s about eating non-Kosher food.  For others, it’s violating the Shabbos. So if we are going to transgress anyways, we can learn from this Gemara that in each case, the Torah will allow it because one is anyways going to do it?!”
Rav Abramsky gave a brilliant answer: “Just the opposite is true!” he exclaimed. “We all know that the same Hashem Who created us was the One Who created the Torah.  He knows us better than we know ourselves! Hashem says: בראתי יצר הרע, בראתי תורה תבלין -- “I have created the yetzer hara, and I created the Torah as the “spice” against it.” (Ibid. 30b).  If the Torah specifices, in this special case, permission to listen to our yetzer hara, it’s because Hashem knows that only with this is the yetzer hara too strong to overpower.  But with all other issurim (forbidden things), it is obviously possible to overpower it and therefore the prohibition stays valid for all of us!”
(At Home With Torah)
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In a different vein, Rebbe Meir of Premishlan zt”l suggests another possible explanation:  The way of the yetzer hara is to try to entice people to go against anything that is considered a mitzvah.  It is always trying to get us to do what the Torah said not to.
Now, if the Torah had forbidden this soldier to marry the “woman of beautiful appearance”, then his yetzer hara would have enticed him strongly to take her.  But since the Torah didn’t forbid him from doing so, the yetzer hara won’t entice him to so strongly.  And this is the meaning of what Chazal say (cited above), that “the Torah only spoke against the yetzer hara.”
(Brought in Maayanah shel Torah)
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If a man will have a wayward and rebellious son. . .’ (Devarim 21:18)
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Thus begins the section of the Torah dealing with a ben sorer u’moreh -- wayward and rebellious son.  See verses 18-21.
According to at least one opinion in the Gemara (Sanhedrin 71a), though, a case of a ben sorer u’moreh never occurred in history.  But if it never happened, what lesson is HaKadosh Baruch Hu trying to teach us by putting it in the Torah? (See the Gemara there).
I believe that we may suggest that Hashem is teaching us that all of us might very well have a ‘Ben Sorer U’Moreh’ side to us.  This rebellious son, as we see from the Torah and the Gemara, just wants to do what he wants.  He is not serving Hashem; he is serving himself, as it were!  
It is not even good to have this side in our head or heart -- even if we do not let it come out, as we shouldn’t.  As the Torah tells us to do with the rebellious son, we need to kill that side of us. Get rid of it! It has no business being part of us.  
What is a good piece of advice to do so, though?  The Torah tells us: ‘And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, and he shall die; and you shall remove the evil from your midst (וּבערתּ הרע מקּרבּך)’ (Devarim 21:21).   
The term ‘וּבערתּ הרע מקּרבּך’ is used only sometimes in the Torah.  It can literally mean ‘And you shall remove the evil from your midst’.  But there is another possible translation:  The root word ‘וּבערתּ’, can also mean to burn.  Thus, the Torah teaches us beautifully that we must burn away the evil from our midst -- with a roaring aish kodesh!  We must burn the evil out from our midst!  We must light within ourselves a passionate love for Hashem, and a burning desire to serve Him.
(Tal U’Matar)
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You shall not see the ox of your brother or his lamb straying and hide yourself from them -- you shall surely return them to your brother. (Devarim 22:1)
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The Gemara (Bava Metzia 27a), finds it difficult to explain what we learn from the seemingly extra word שׂיוֹ, his lamb, of this verse.
Says the Maharsha zt”l (commentary to Makkos 24a):  This lamb alludes to Klal Yisroel, as we are referred to as a ‘scattered lamb’ (Yirmiyahu 50:17).  We are the “lost lamb”, and Hashem Yisbarach is our Owner.  We ask that He seek us out and bring us forth from being lost -- from Galus.  As the passuk says, Tehillim 119:176, ‘I have strayed like a lost lamb; seek out Your servant, for I have not forgotten Your Mitzvos.’
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You shall surely raise it up with him’ (Devarim 22:4)
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One is obligated to help load the burden back onto the animal (if it fell off).  However, explains the Sifri, if the owner of the animal goes and says to the person that basically, since there is a Mitzvah upon him to help, then he should go ahead and do so, and they themselves do not aid in the job, then the person is exempt from helping reload the animal.
Says the Chofetz Chaim zt”l:  So it is with a person; if we sanctify ourselves below, here on earth, then we are sanctified from Above, i.e. aided in the process.  If a person asks Hashem at the end of Shemoneh Esrei Guard my tongue from evil, and my lips from speaking deceit’, and they themselves try to be careful not to do those things, then from Heaven they will be helped.  But if a person just flings this behind their back, as it were, and doesn’t do anything to actually try to keep away from speaking such things; how can they petition the above Tefillah from Hashem?!
And similarly, says the Chofetz Chaim, we ask in our Tefillah, ‘And enlighten our eyes in Your Torah’:  But if we do not, immediately after Davening, go and learn, then our Tefillah is not accepted!  
This is like someone who asks their fellow to lend them a certain sum, and the lender agrees to do so, but he asks that the person come to his house, and there he would give him the loan.  Now if the borrower is lax in going, he certainly cannot be upset at the lender for not lending to him!  
So too is the matter in our case; a person petitions HaKadosh Baruch Hu to enlighten their eyes in His Torah, and Hashem answers, “Good is the thing that you requested; return to the table and take a Gemara or a Mishnayos [or any sefer] in your hand, and I will enlighten your eyes.”
(Chofetz Chaim al HaTorah)
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‘‘If a birds nest happens before you on the way, in any tree or on the ground, [with] young birds or eggs, and the mother is crouching on the young birds or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the “children”.  You shall surely send off the mother. . . (Devarim 22:6-7)
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HaRav Zelig Pliskin shlit”a brings from the Gemara (Chullin 141a), which states that I might think this only applies if one needs the mother bird for personal use.  But if one needs it for a mitzvah, I might think that one has a right to take it.  Therefore the Torah repeats the term which denotes sending (in the Hebrew) to teach us that even if you need it for a mitzvah, you must send away the mother bird.
Rav Pliskin quotes that his Rebbe, HaRav Chaim Mordechai Katz zt”l, the late Rosh Yeshiva of Telz, used to say on this that someone might think that if he needs the bird for a mitzvah, he need not be concerned with feelings of compassion.  That is the lesson here: Even when you are engaged in fulfilling a mitzvah, you must be sensitive to the pain and suffering of others. 
(Growth Through Torah)
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Remember what Amalek did to you. . . (Devarim 25:17)
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Right before this verse, we were commanded regarding keeping honest weights and measures.  Rashi zt”l brings from Midrash Tanchuma that this teaches us that if we are dishonest in weights and measures, then we should be worried about provocation of the enemy.  However, notes HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, back in Parshas Beshalach, Rashi brought from the Midrash that Amalek attacked because we recalcitrantly asked “Is Hashem in our midst or no?” There, then, appear to be two different reasons given for such an attack.  

But explains Rav Moshe zt”l, the “two” reasons, are really one:  When we sinned by “asking” if Hashem was in our midst, we were, in effect, denying His Presence.  And, after we received the Torah, if someone would be dishonest in their weights and measures, it was also tantamount to denying Hashem.  How? Because we must believe that Hashem truly sets a person’s livelihood, and how much money they will have.  And if this person really believed this truth, and trusted in Hashem, they never would fall to this kind of theft, trying to gain profit through ill means.  
Therefore, as measure for measure punishment for both -- or either -- of those sins, Amalek, who denies Hashem, would come wage war on us.
(Darash Moshe)
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Remember what Amalek did to you on the way, when you were going out from Egypt.  That he happened upon you on the way, and he struck all the weak ones in you at your rear, and you were weary and exhausted, and he didn’t fear G-d. (Devarim 25:17-18)
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Asks the Brisker Rav, HaRav Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik zt”l; what was the huge sin of Amalek, more so than any other nation that waged war with us?  The verse says that Amalek didn’t fear Hashem -- in what exact way, and how was this the reason its sin was so terrible?

The Brisker Rav explains, based on the section in the Gemara (Bava Kamma 79b) which speaks of the difference between a gazlan and a ganav:  There, the Gemara relates that Rabbi Yochanam ben Zakkai’s students asked him why the Torah deals more strictly with a ganav, someone who steals secretly, and the like, than a gazlan, someone who steals out in the open, where people can see him.  Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai replied allegorically that it is because the gazlan equates the honor of the servant with the honor of the Master, and the ganav does not equate the honor of the servant with the honor of the Master.  Meaning, that the gazlan doesn’t fear people, and he also doesn’t fear Hashem -- his theft is not about calculation, Rav Yitzchok Zev explains, rather, he jumps and does what he sees fit, without fearing either people or Hashem.  But the ganav, however, clearly is afraid of people -- that is why he steals in secret or hiding.  And yet, even after thinking and contemplating about how he can do this bad thing without people seeing him, he didn’t come also to fear Hashem!
Now we understand the wickedness of Amalek better:  Other nations, elucidates the Brisker Rav, when they attacked us, they came like a gazlan -- straight at us with an attack.  Amalek, however, made its calculations.  It came upon Klal Yisroel like a ganav.  As the passuk says, we were weary and tired.  Amalek y”ms searched and found a time when we -- mere people -- were weaker, and decided on that time to try to attack us, thus exhibiting fear of people.  And even with all those calculations, they did not think about Hashem, and did not fear Him.  
(Chiddushei Rabbeinu HaGriz Soloveitchik al HaTorah)
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|~Maasim Tovim~|  Rochel Auerbach was tending to her small Jerusalem apartment, when she became concerned about the persistent crying of a baby nearby.  She could not understand why the child was not being tended to. The crying had gone on for the better part of an hour now, and seemed close by.  Finally, she stepped outside to investigate, and was taken aback as she nearly stumbled over the baby on her doorstep!

It was like something out of a storybook; an abandoned baby boy with no note, no instructions.  Rochel immediately called her husband, and after speaking to their Rav, the young couple notified the authorities.  The baby was certainly a Jew, as their neighborhood was entirely Jewish.  They agreed to care for him for a few days until the parents would return.  

Perhaps the mother had been overwhelmed.  However, instead of neglecting the small baby, she had decided to give him over to a warm, caring mother.  Whatever the reason for his abandonment, the child was now in their safekeeping. As time passed and no one came to claim the baby, the Auerbachs were faced with a major decision:  Give the baby away or raise him as their own. Giving the child away meant that there was no guarantee he would be raised in a religious home. With religious families so large, the State could argue that the child would be better off being cared for by a smaller family that was well to do, and probably not of religious persuasion.  So Rochel and her husband circumvented the official route, and after “pulling some strings,” adopted the young baby as their own. He was named Dovid. Although Dovid was a good baby, when he was in elementary school he became troublesome.

Upon learning that he had been abandoned as an infant, Dovid became more and more insecure and developed a strong need for attention.  He began pulling silly pranks and was often reprimanded by the principal. Dovid remained defiant, and his parents became more and more concerned.  Finally, in high school, he was offered an ultimatum -- either toe the line during the entire Elul zman -- or find another yeshiva.  Dovid’s behavior actually was a bit better during that Elul, but unfortunately, the improvement was not sufficient.  Therefore, the yeshiva administration asked him to leave.  They wished him well and suggested other yeshivos that catered to a boy with Dovid’s needs.
Surprisingly, Dovid excelled in his new yeshiva.  He used every spare moment to learn, and within a few months became one of the most diligent young men in the yeshiva.  He went from there to a prestigious yeshiva gedolah and outshone most of his peers there, as well.  When the time came to look for a shidduch, a wonderful girl from a respected family was suggested.  Neither Dovid’s family nor the girl’s could afford to help them financially; but since the couple was willing to make do with the minimum, the match was made.
The young couple married and moved away from Yerushalayim, to an area where there was more affordable housing.  After a few months, they decided it was most sensible to purchase an apartment rather than to pay rent, but to do so they would need a sizable down payment.  Dovid approached his Rebbe and stated that he was going to America for a few days, to raise $20,000 for a down payment on an apartment.  The Rebbe was surprised that Dovid was planning to raise so much money in just a few days.  He assumed that he knew someone in America who would help him out. Dovid replied that he actually did not know anyone in particular, but would still be gone for just a few days.
When Dovid returned within the week, his Rebbe approached him with the assumption that the venture had failed.  Dovid looked up and smiled, “Well, actually, I raised the entire $20,000.  One man gave me $5,000 and a number of other kind people each gave a thousand.” With a shocked look on his face, the Rebbe asked, “Okay, tell me how you did it.  What’s the secret to your success?”
Dovid smiled as he prepared to reveal the secret. “Rebbe, do you remember when I told you about the Elul zman when I began to turn around?” His Rebbe nodded, hanging onto every word.  Dovid continued, “The day I turned my life around was the day I first concentrated as I said the words of Li’Dovid Hashem Ori Vi’Yishi, the chapter of Tehillim (27) that is recited daily during the month of Elul (until Shemini Atzeres).  And as I spoke the words, ‘ki avi v’imi azavuni va’Hashem yaasfeini -- though my father and mother have abandoned me, the Al-mighty has gathered me in,’ a thought hit me like a thunderbolt:  This verse is referring to me.  My original father and mother abandoned me and Hashem gathered me in.  It was then that I realized -- I’m being taken care of, after all!”
Revealing his secret had meant reliving some painful moments from his past, and it left Dovid feeling drained.  Knowing that one has been rejected by his own parents is something no child should ever have to deal with. But Hashem had taken care of Dovid, and had given him kind and loving adoptive parents.  And perhaps most importantly, ‘va’Hashem yaasfeini’ -- the loving and caring Father Who will never forsake him had gathered him in.
Dovid looked at his Rebbe and concluded, “Rebbe, I want you to know that since that month of Elul, I say the chapter of Li’Dovid, whether it is Elul or Cheshvan or Shevat or Av.  And ever since then, I have been blessed. Whenever I need something, Hashem is there to provide it for me.  And Rebbe -- that is my secret.”
(A Touch of Purity)
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Gut and meaningful Shabbos to all!