Dedicated bizchut Michoel Simcha ben Chana Sarah, for a refuah sheleima and yeshua.
Presented on Shabbos Parshat Ki Seitzei, at the Jewish Girls Retreat, Summer 5778.
“Ki seitzei l’milchama – if you go out to war” – a voluntary war – “against your enemies, and Hashem your G-d will deliver them into your hands, and you will take his captives (Devarim 21:10)” a Jewish man may see a very attractive woman among them. He may want to take her as a bride, and the Torah actually permits him to marry her. However, no wedding may take place until some very curious preparations are made. The Torah outlines how the woman, the “eishes yafas to’ar,” must allow her nails and hair to grow long; she must remove her beautiful clothing she is wearing; and the man must let her sit in the entrance of his home and cry for her parents for an entire month. All this, so that her appearance won’t be quite as pleasing, and the Jewish man will have the time – and perhaps incentive – to reconsider his choice of marrying this non-Jewish woman (who would mandatorily convert before their marriage).
Isn’t life like a battlefield, on which we are all soldiers? In a spiritually dark and chaotic world, we are locked in perpetual battle between conflicting desires and voices. On our quest to do the right thing – what Hashem wants – we are sometimes on the brink of being led astray, by some sort of temptation. Before we act on impulse in pursuit of this desire, we must pause, and remember what’s taught in the Tanya: “Moach shalit al halev – The mind rules over the heart.” We need to ask ourselves, “Is this the right think to pursue, that Hashem wants me to, and will be proud of? Is this desire all it projects itself to be; or, is it essentially a whole different story – something I don’t really want after all? Will the fruits of my choice be productive, or, G-d forbid, destructive?”
Passion can be a tremendous gift. It steers us to positive action with real and lasting effects. Passion is the key to spread Torah throughout the world and ready it for Moshiach. Later on it says in the parsha: “Remember what Amalek did to you… al karcha baderech – when he happened upon you on the way.” “Karcha” denotes coincidence, but the root, “kar,” is also Hebrew for “cold.” After being brought up by G-d’s mighty hand from Egypt – and the world saw the revealed miracles and supernatural signs that were Divinely wrought – the Jewish People were on fire. Amalek was the only nation brazen and reckless enough to attempt attack on us; but he didn’t only come against us with the physical sword. In his apathy, he doubly intended to quench our spiritual fire of faith and wonder in the Creator of the Universe; and, most vitally, our passion for G-d’s Torah and Mitzvos. It is for this deeper reason we are commanded to obliterate all traces of Amalek’s icy indifference to G-d. And it is from this episode and its joint Mitzvah that we see the significance of passion.
Passion is purposeful and powerful. We need just harness it correctly, to know and serve Hashem in all our ways, with fervor, warmth and joy. We will follow in the footsteps of our Avos and Imahos. When we do or pursue anything, we need to make sure our hearts and minds, our values and actions, are in line and on the same page. The choice is ours.
Choose wisely, and Shabbat Shalom JGR!!!
–The Messenger Bird