The sedra of Ki Tetze is the busiest of all, containing the largest number of commandments of any sedra. The laws span a broad range; from death and burial, forbidden mixtures, etiquette of war, to lost objects, divorce, and loans. The final verses speak of Amalek – the evil nation tasked with destroying the Jewish People, and one of our numerous commandments is to wipe them out before they are able to achieve this. We encounter descendants of Amalek attempting to destroy us throughout history, such as Haman from the Purim story.
The opening words of this week’s parasha speak of battles, and the Torah’s attitude to Jewish behaviour in war-like situations. The Chofetz Chaim, who lived until 1933 and was known to be a great sage, explained that these verses have dual meaning. Not only are they referring to the battle fields that helped to create the Jewish Nation, but there are other battles we have to face in life – we all have the battle with our yetza harah (evil inclination). The Chofetz Chaim enlightens us to the fact that, just as the Jewish People go out to war with other nations, we are all in constant battle with a force intent on causing us to stumble. Simply put, in order to create free will, we are given the right to make our own decisions; it is our yetza harah that tries to guide us down the wrong path.
Our Rabbis teach us that this specific battle is the hardest of all. This is difficult to imagine, especially if you speak to a soldier returning from the front lines. Still, waging a war against our evil inclination trumps all others. The reason being, this battle never ends! We can never truly feel free from the oppression of our yetza harah; it is always there ready and waiting, lurking around every bend.
So how do we win? How can we fight this invisible, unrelenting army?
The answer is that we have to wage war! We need to wake up every morning and know what it is that keeps us in bed. We have to recognise and be prepared for the battles we are going to face and then go out and meet them head on. This all comes down to knowing who we are. I am sure we can all think of several parts of our day where we have the opportunity to make bad decisions – but are we able to plan for those scenarios and be prepared?
In the run up to Rosh Hashanah, we should be using this time to organise ourselves for the upcoming days of awe. We get to look back at our year and see where we failed, where we fell and now can start to look at our opportunities to grow. For this to be truly effective we have to know ourselves.
We can also help others too; being a good friend, parent, teacher or mentor gives us the chance to help and advise others when they themselves cannot see they are tripping up. We should be conscious to do this with sensitivity and love. By helping to build ourselves and overcome personal battles, as well as help others overcome theirs, we help to make the world a better place.