I. Inner Meaning
1. ‘When you will go out to war against your enemies, and HaShem* your G-d will give them into your hand, and you will capture his captives.’ (Devorim* 21.10) We can explain the meaning of this verse according to what I have written elsewhere concerning the Rambam’s* explanation of the teaching of Chazal*: ‘The Holy One Blessed is He does not have a place in this world except in the four amos* of halacha*.’ (This appears in his introduction to the Mishnah.) My teacher [the Baal Shem Tov] explained that this refers to the idea that everything that is done in this world has a deeper inner meaning. (See what I explained there.) With this idea we can understand the verse. ‘When you will go out to war.’ This means immediately when you go out from the house of study. You find yourself in a war ‘against your enemies.’ This is because immediately when you open your door, sin waits to entrap you. When a person understands this, [it will be that] when he goes out to do his work in this world, he [will realize that he] is in a war with his enemy; The Yetzer HaRah*. Then he will make war with his Yetzer HaRah… Then ‘and HaShem your G-d will give them into your hand, and you will capture his captives.’ You will find the inner meaning that applies to all the external [revealed] actions. This is one’s work in the things of this world. [You will find the inner meaning] which is hidden in the [actions that you do in the] external world. ‘And you will see among the captives a beautiful women.’ This is the inner meaning.
‘And you will desire her.’ You will have an inner desire for this [inner meaning.] [And your inner desire will] not be joined with an external desire. [Your desire will be only to serve HaShem according to the inner meaning.] (p. 689 sefer Toldos Yakov Yosef teachings of Rebbe* Yakov Yosef of Polnoye.)
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II. Remembering old Sins 2. ‘When you will go out to war against your enemies, and HaShem your G-d will give them into your hand, and you will capture his captives.’ (Devorim 21.10) We can explain this verse according to a teaching from the sefer* Yesh Nochlin. [He says that] when you will be presented with the [possibility of doing] some sin. You should consider all the sins that you have already done. From this you will be able to save yourself from falling into this sin. This is the meaning of the verse: ‘When you will go out to war against your enemies.’ The main thing is that you should desire to make war with him. Then certainly ‘[He] will give them into your hand. ‘And you will capture his captives.’ These are the captives that you have already had. [The sins which you have done in the past.] You should consider the sins that you had previously fallen into and come up with ideas [of things to do] which will keep you from falling into them again (as we see from the sefer Yesh Nochlin.) Then you will be saved from falling into the sin again. [You should always consider] that it is possible for you to fall into this sin as you had been accustomed to doing it in the past. Therefore it says ‘And you will capture his captives.’ You shall make ‘gates’ [so that you will not sin again.] (p. 69 sefer Razin D’Oraysa teachings of Rebbe Velvel of
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III. Reward of the Mitzvos* 3. ‘You shall send the mother and the children you should take for you.’ (Devorim 22.7) The Talmud* tells us that there are two mitzvos for which HaShem specifically explains their reward. One is called the easiest[, the sending the mother bird.] The other is called the hardest [,the honoring your parents.] The sending of the mother bird refers to the person who is able to leave over any desire for good things that he may have in this world for the honor of HaShem. This is called the ‘easiest’. This is because every Jew is capable of doing this. [It is easy to achieve holiness and purity of intention when doing things for which he has no personal gain.] Every place where a person leaves over the good things of this world, then he becomes purified. The honor of your father refers to those mitzvos from which a person receives personal enjoyment. These are called the ‘hardest.’ That is because in the place where a person has some personal enjoyment it is very hard for him to be pure in his motivation. For this reason with regards to the sending of the mother it says first, ‘in order that it shall be good for you’ and then ‘your days will be lengthened.’ This is because here we are referring to one who has left over all enjoyment involved in that act. For that reason HaShem tells him first that ‘it shall be good with you.’ This is certain. The person himself knows that it is true and he has trust that HaShem will lengthen his days.
With regards to honoring your father it first says ‘in order to lengthen your days’ and then ‘in order that it should be good for you.’ Even though you already have enjoyment from this world it will be good for you in the future [in the world to come.] (p. 190 sefer Mi Hashiloach teachings of Rebbe Mordechai Yosef of Izbitza)
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IV. Relying on HaShem
4. ‘When you will go out to war against your enemies, and HaShem your G-d will give them into your hand, and you will capture his captives.’ (Devorim 21.10) The verse says, ‘In all your ways you should know Him and he will make straight your ways.’ The meaning of this is that in all of your actions you should see to it that you join yourself to HaShem and become attached to Him [in thought] always. And through this attachment ‘He will make straight your ways.’ The reason is that it is not possible for a person to rely upon himself and his own understanding for any action that is done in the service of HaShem. [The verse says,] ‘With this you shall go into the Holy [area.’ This refers to] when you will join yourself to HaShem. And if HaShem is with you then you will certainly not be lacking in anything. The main thing is that a person should never say that ‘my strength and the strength of my hands has made me wealthy.’ Or that I have the strength to succeed in the war with the Yetzer HaRah. It says in the sefer Chovos Lavovos that the main service [of HaShem] that a person must do in this world is to prepare himself with all of his limbs so that he should always be ready to do the will of HaShem. He need only do the preparation [for the mitzvah.] To take this from being something that is contained in his thoughts and in his will and make it into a completed action requires the help of HaShem. HaShem has to help him so that he could do this good deed. The main desire of HaShem with regards to the person is concerning his preparation [to do the mitzvah.] HaShem wants him to be ready to do the will of HaShem [at all times.] The person who has attained the understanding of this idea is worthy to be called a ‘Chocham*.’ The verse says, ‘The Chocham should not praise himself with his wisdom… with this he shall praise himself, with his knowledge and understanding of Me.’ The meaning is that the person who HaShem has bestowed intelligence to understand, with a purified understanding, that everything is from HaShem. This person is worthy to be praised for his clear understanding [that everything is from HaShem. ‘Understanding of Me’ means that he understands that everything is from HaShem.] From this [understanding] he will be saved from arrogance. This is because he has no reason to be arrogant since [he recognizes that] even his knowledge is not his own, but was bestowed on him by HaShem. This is what the verse means: ‘When you will go out to war against your enemies.’ The main thing to remember [with regards to this war] is … ‘And HaShem your G-d will give them into your hand.’ HaShem comes to the help of the soldiers. When you will understand this with a clear understanding then you will be successful in the war, ‘and you will capture his captives.’ (p. 180 sefer Avodos Yisaschar teachings of Rebbe Yisachar Ber of
Arizal: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok Zechorono LeVaracha our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century Kabbalist
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud.
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
HY’D: Heb. HaShem Yimkom Domov: HaShem should avenge their blood.
Mishleh: One of the books of the Tenach, called in English Proverbs.
Mitzvah (mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah.
nashama: Hebrew word for soul.
peshat: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding the simple meaning in the Torah.
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher
Shabbos: Tractate in the Talmud
Shemos: Second book of the Torah. Called Exodus in English
Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tehillim: Hebrew name for Psalms.
Torah: a. First 5 books of the Jewish Bible b. Also refers to the whole of Jewish law c. also common term for a chassidic teaching
Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance
Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic Rebbe.
Yetzer: lit. Inclination. It is Jewish belief that every Jew has both an evil and good inclination within him, that are at ‘war’ to see which of them the person will follow.
Yetzer Tov: Heb. Good Inclination
Yetzer HaRah: Heb. Evil Inclination.
ZT’L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechor Tzaddik LeVaracha (The memory of a Tzaddik – Righteous person is a blessing.)
ZY’A: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechiso Yagan Aleinu (His merit should protect us.)
Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman ([email protected]) All rights reserved.
Issur Hasugas Givilv