Parashat Ki Tesse’
Dedicated in Honor of Raquel & David’s Wedding by Renee & Simon Abadi
Parashat Ki Tesse’
This week’s Perashah starts off with the Pasuk… Ki tesse’ la’milhamha al oy’vecha untano hashem elokecha beyadecha v’shavita shivyo. "If you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord, your God, will deliver him into your hands, and you take his captives…". The Zohar Hakadosh interprets this Pasuk as referring to the internal war a person wages on a daily basis with his Yetzer Hara (the evil inclination). In this reading, the Pasuk can be seen as saying that if we are truly sincere in trying to defeat our Yetzer Hara, then Hashem will help us and we will triumph victoriously!
In Perashat Vayishlah, when Yaakov is fighting with the angel, Yaakov asks the angel, in Perek 32 Pasuk 30, "Now tell me your name.” The angel replies, “Why is it that you ask for my name?" Rashi comments that the angel didn't have a set name, because his name keeps changing. The Yetzer Hara, too, comes in many different forms and is called by many names. It can be called "Money" or it can be called "Internet". It can also come in the form of an addiction like "Gambling”, “Drugs” or “Alcohol" or “Cell Phone addiction”...even on Shabbat! The amount of hours that the youth and even adults are addicted to these games that they can’t stop is scary. It’s exactly what the Avodah Zarah was in the old days, so whatever the Yetzer Hara will disguise itself as, in the end, its goal is to do whatever it can to bring us down Has’ve Shalom.
Our job in this life is to do our utmost to avoid this evil inclination and to run away from sin. But the Yetzer Hara is very cunning and is constantly trying to find different ways to make us fall. It will work on us 24/7, so it’s our job to outsmart the Yetzer Hara and avoid its clutches. The Yetzer Hara is the Satan and the Mal-ach HaMavet all rolled into one. It first causes us to sin, then it's the prosecutor that wants to throw the book at us and finally it's the Mal-ach Hamavet that wants to kill us. But the biggest enemy of the Yetzer Hara is Torah learning, and it will try in every way possible to stop us from learning Torah. There is good news, though, for as it says in the 5th Perek of Masechet Sukkah: "barati yetzer hara v’barati torattavlin". Hashem is saying to us "I created the Yetzer Hara and I created the antidote which is the Torah!" So if the Yetzer Hara grabs hold of you, just drag him to the Bet Midrash where we will be protected. These are all lifelong battles that we all have with our Yetzer Hara which we must continue to fight with and strive to overcome!
In Perashat Vayeshev, we learned how Yosef Hatzadik escaped the clutches of Potiphar's wife when she grabbed his garment as she tried to seduce him. Yosef ran from her, as it says in the Pasuk, "va’yazov bigdo b’yadah"..."He left his garment in her hand". This was not easy to do but that's one of the reasons that he's called Yosef Hatzadik, because he was able to conquer his Yetzer Hara! The question may be asked, why didn't he just go back to get his garment so he wouldn't be accused of anything? The answer is that he was afraid if he went back, he might fall and sin! As it clearly says in the 4th Perek of Pirke Avot: "ezehu gibor ha’kovesh et yitzro". Which means, "Who is a hero, one who conquers his evil inclination!" Although the test is very great, the reward for Yoseph was greater as he became Viceroy of all of Egypt which gave him and all his family wealth for the rest of their lives.
The two rulings that follow also involve the Yetzer Hara. The first one discusses the procedures that must be followed if a soldier desires a beautiful woman who has been captured (because the Yetzer Hara got hold of him). The Torah instructs that it is permissible to take her for a wife, but there are several hurdles that she must first pass: shaving her head, letting her nails grow then sitting and weeping for her parents for 30 days. Only then can you finally take her for your wife. We see from this that the Torah understands human nature. But by the time you follow through with the Torah's instructions, you may find its no longer worthwhile to marry her.
The Torah then discusses the juxtaposition of the Ben Sorer Umoreh, or the rebellious son...which may be the cause of marrying a woman that was captured in war. The passuk says..."If a man has a wayward and rebellious son, who does not obey his father or his mother and they chasten him and still he does not listen to them, his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city.” The Torah then goes on to instruct the parents to tell the elders that their son is wayward, a glutton and guzzler. Such a son must be stoned to death. However, the Talmud explains (Sanhedrin 71a) that there never was and never will be a son who qualifies as a Ben Sorer U’Moreh. There are so many conditions that would have to be met, that such a situation could never actually arise. It is therefore theoretical. However, the Torah wishes to emphasize how damaging the Yetzer Hara can be and how it can effect our Neshamah for the rest of our lives, thus killing us spiritually if not literally. The Talmud in the eighth chapter of Sanhedrin explains that this is a very exceptional situation. The parents notice a trend in their young son’s spiritual development that will almost inevitably lead to a lifestyle involving robbery and perhaps even murder. Therefore the Torah advises that he should be put to death “at the stage in life when he is still innocent,” rather than allowing him to mature to a point where he will actually be fully deserving of death.
The question that’s begging to be asked is why are we killing him now because of the potential that he might become a murderer in the future as an adult. The penalty for murder from the Torah is by the sword but here the penalty for a Ben soreh u’moreh is by stoning, which is a much more sever death penalty. So why are we giving him the penalty of stoning when the act itself from the Torah gets the lower penalty of the sword. The answer the Torah is teaching us, is that every child has a potential to be great but since he blew that potential, the Torah wants to teach us that it’s even worse to blow our potential in life, than the actual crime itself!
Rav Dovid Feinstein makes an interesting linguistic inference from the wording in this chapter. When the Torah originally describes the situation of the ben sorer u’moreh, it states “he did not listen to the voice of his father nor to the voice of his mother” [Devarim 21:18]. However when the Torah describes the testimony of the parents in Beit Din, there is a subtle change of language: “He does not listen to OUR voice” [Devarim 21:20].
There are no secret formulas to raising good children. Raising children is the most difficult job in the world. However, there are clearly certain things parents should try to avoid. Parents should always present a unified message of their expectations to their children. When a child hears mixed messages – one thing from the father and another thing from the mother – that is a garden in which weeds can grow.
Rabbi Frand elaborates that the child then hears mixed messages, he follows whatever he thinks is right. Since one parent says one thing and the other parent says another thing – “let the third pasuk come and reconcile between them.” Even if the parents present a unified approach as to what is good and what is not good, what can be done and what can not be done – there is still no guarantee that the children will come out perfect. But at least the parents have removed one of the greatest reasons why children go astray.
Therefore, the Torah stressed at the outset that the parents were not of one voice and one opinion. The child did not listen to his father’s voice and independently he did not listen to his mother’s alternate voice. Only subsequently, when the child has already left the tried and true path, do the parents come and, sadly, tell the elders of the court: “Now we are together. We have a unified voice and we know that what our son is doing is wrong.” Unfortunately, by then it is too late.
Parents may have disagreements among themselves as to what is the proper course in raising children. But those disagreements need to be decided among themselves. When parents come before their children, they need to articulate a clear, decisive and uniform position. When they reach the status of “our voice” rather than “the father’s voice” and “the mother’s voice,” their chances for success will be much greater.
The Torah wants to also teach us that if we become addicted to these desires at a young age then we may actually lose our freedom of choice and our ability to make Teshuvah. Rabbi Twersky writes in his book that when he worked with addicts, they continually said, "When I needed drugs, I did things that I never thought myself capable of doing." Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman was in Deal one Shabbat last year and in one of his talks to us, the Rabbi said..."When we're eating food that's not healthy for us like sugar products...do we listen to our pancreas or our kidneys or our liver or our colon that are all disgusted by most of the products that we put into our bodies? The only organ that craves those detrimental products is just our tongue with its few hundred taste buds that yearns for these bad influences to our body! It's the Yetzer Hara that try's to convince us constantly... it's only one cookie or just one piece of candy...just eat it and enjoy! These cravings overwhelm our freedom of choice. The addict in his desperation is capable of eliminating anything that stands in the way of gratifying his needs and desires.
Don’t underestimate the power of the yetzer hara, no one can say it won’t affect me or I can handle it because it’s only goal is to bring us down and it won’t stop till it succeeds! A student of Rav Lopian once asked the Rabbi if it was ok to go to a function that was not going to be so modest, then the student answered his own question saying, "I think I'm strong enough to handle that test". The Rabbi replied, you're strong enough? "I'm 96 years old, I have one bad eye and my Yetzer is weakened and still I'm worried that I won't be able to control my Yetzer Hara!"
Since this parasha began by discussing the dangers of going out to war, I’d like to conclude with a special soldiers letter that we should all keep in mind and think about our young jewish soldiers in the IDF during our prayers...
“Today our hearts are pounding in fear. Who of us will die? And who will return safely?
We are your messengers in fighting. We are fighting so you can live peacefully with your children. So you can stay alive. We are your protection. Will you be ours? We are going to this dangerous mission knowing some of us will not come back, but will rise to their next position in a storm to heaven, as Eliyahu the prophet did.
We are going with devotion and dedication. We are asking you to be our protection with your prayers. Protect us by going above and beyond yourselves through spirituality and good deeds. Pray for us. Pray that you won't see another mother burying her son. Pray that you won't see our wives as widows raise our children in tears. Pray that our children will grow up knowing who their fathers are. Pray that we will eliminate the terrorists who aim to destroy us, and that we will not injure innocent women and children.
Please, we are begging you, as you are reading this, don't just go on to the next thing you are doing. Say a chapter of Tehilim. Wake up King David to ask the A-lmighty for full redemption and peace for all the world. Take upon yourselves another good deed. And please pass this on. I'm certain that your prayer will make a difference.
Remember, we are in this war together. We are on the front lines carrying the weapons and you are fighting along with us with your prayers. Each word of your prayer gives us strength, protection and success! Amen!
“Whoever does not see God everywhere does not see Him anywhere.” –The Kotzker Rebbe
May we all be aware that we all have a Yetzer Hara which we live with every day of our lives. Hashem gave us this Yetzer Hara to test us so that we may earn Olam Haba. May we all recognize that the remedy to control this Yetzer Hara is learning Torah and doing acts of Hesed. May we all follow the Torah's prescription that will enable us to ultimately conquer our Yetzer Hara! Amen!
Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey
Eliyahu Ben Rachel Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher
Sarah Bat Chanah Esther Bat Sarah
Shulamit Bat Helaina Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana
Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rafael Ben Miriam
Rav Haim Ben Rivka Moshe Ben Mazal
Yitzchak Ben Adele Avraham Ben Mazal
Chanah Bat Esthe Ovadia Ben Esther
Moshe Ben Garaz Rahamim Ben Mazal
Avraham Ben Garaz Avraham Ben Mazal
Yaakov Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Kami
Meir Ben Latifa Moshe Ben Yael
Malka Bat Garaz Mordechai Ben Rachel
Yaakov Ben Leah
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