17 Aug KI SEITZEI
The parashah begins, “When you go out to war against your enemies, Hashem your G-d will deliver them into your hands…”. This passuk, like all pesukim of the Torah, can be translated literally (pshat) or figuratively (drash). Rashi writes, “b’milchamat harshut haktov midbar. So according to its simple translation (pshat) the passuk is teaching us the laws pertaining to the wars that occur outside of Eretz Yisrael. Figuratively, the passuk is discussing the greatest war of all, the war against the yetzer hara. The Torah says, when you go out to war against the yetzer hara, Hashem will give him over into your hands…” The Rebbe Reb Bunim of Peshischa zy’a said that in our generation, the drash becomes the pshat. Because the Torah is eternal, and today we aren’t waging Milchemet mitzvah. Therefore, in our generation, the simple reading of the passuk is to teach us about our war with the yetzer hara. The Torah promises, v’natno hashem elokecha b’yadecha, if you will battle with the yetzer hara, you will succeed. The passuk concludes, “you will capture the captives.” Rebbe Ahron of Belz zy’a explains that people often feel that they’ve been captured by the yetzer hara. When we ask them why they act in the way they do, they answer that they know that their deeds are improper, however the yetzer hara overcomes them. The passuk teaches that if one will wage war against the yetzer hara, you will free yourself from captivity, and you can escape from the yetzer hara’s clutches.
How do we escape from captivity? One answer is to take on kabbalos (resolutions) for the upcoming year. Choose some good deeds that you want to do, and keep it the entire upcoming year. This kabalah will become your saneigar (lawyer) in judgment, and it will totally change you. Regardless of what the kabbalah is – whether it is large or small – it has the potential to free us from the grip of the yetzer hara, and to set us on the path of teshuvah. Before Rosh Hashanah, Reb Eliyah Lopian zt’l once asked Reb Aryeh Leib Chasman zt’l, “What should I accept upon myself for the upcoming year? Which kabbalah should I make?” Reb Leib Chasman replied, “I want you to decide. Think it over and decide which kabbalah you want to take on. But make sure it is something you can keep.” After some time, Reb Elyah Lopian returned and told Reb Leib Chasman what he chose. “Are you certain that you can keep this?” “I’m certain,” Reb Elyah Lopian replied.
“Can you keep it an entire year?” “I can,” Reb Elyah Lopian confirmed. “Then I want you to do only half of it.” This is because a kabbalah doesn’t necessarily need to be something extremely hard to do. It can be relatively small.
The main thing is that we should stick to it without fail, throughout the year. A small nail on the wall can hold up a large picture. Similarly, every tiny kabbalah accomplishes much more than we can imagine. We will look back, and see how much we gained from each small, good kabbalah we took on. Reb Zundel Kroizer zt’l (one of the scholars of Yerushalayim, who was niftar a couple of years ago) said that a kabbalah could even be to study one minute more of Torah.
Someone came to Reb Zundel and said, “A miracle recently happened to me, and I want to make a new kabbalah, to express my gratitude. Which kabbalah do you recommend I take on? “ Reb Zundel Kroiser advised him to add just one minute of Torah. “If you generally learn from 9:00 to 10:00, learn until 10:01. Add one minute to each learning session you have.”2 Because one minute of Torah may appear insignificant to us, but nothing is small in Hashem’s eyes. Tzaddikim called this kabalah, “A new garment for the new soul for the new year.” Before his death, someone from Uzbekistan asked his son to bury him in the local cemetery, “and when you have the opportunity, bring my bones to Eretz Yisrael.” His son eventually moved to Eretz Yisrael. Years passed and he forgot to fulfill his father’s final request. When he was about eighty years old, he knew that it was now or never, so he hired Reb Mendel Eckstein (who has experience transporting graves) to bring his father’s remains to Eretz Yisrael. Reb Mendel Eckstein traveled to Uzbekistan, and opened the grave. He fainted, when he saw that the tallis covering the body had remained fresh, after all these years. The tallis is usually first to disintegrate, but miraculously this Turkish tallis remained intact. Reb Mendel never saw anything like this before; he was afraid to continue. But he was hired to do this mission, and it was the niftar’s final request, so he took the tallis off to see the body. The skeleton was as he’d expect it to be. The tachrichim were totally disintegrated, just the tallis remained untouched.
He brought the bones and the miraculous tallis to Eretz Yisrael. In Eretz Yisrael, the custom is to bury people without a tallis. Reb Mendel asked a shaalah and a rav told him that because of the unusual circumstance, the niftar should be buried with the tallis. Who was this man? Was he a tzaddik nistar? When asked about this, the eighty-year-old son replied, “The tallis? That’s easy to explain. On the day my father began wearing a tallis, which was the day after his chasunah, he made a kabbalah that he would never speak while wearing it. He kept this kabbalah his entire life. Apparently, in this merit, the tallis remained intact”. We derive from this story the power of a kabbalah. We must recognize and value its potential. It is written, “Open up for Me…” (Shir HaShirim 5:2). The Midrash on this passuk writes, “Open up for Me an opening of teshuvah the size of a needle’s eye, and I will open up an opening so wide that wagons can pass through.” Because all a person needs to do is to start the process of teshuvah, and his kabbalah and his first steps can be small. But Hashem will widen it, until great measures of teshuvah will be accomplished. The shofar teaches us this lesson. We blow through the narrow end. The small opening reminds us that the kabbalah that we choose can be small and it will also be sufficient. It will start us off on the path of teshuvah.