Devar Torah - Ki Teitzei

Friday, 28 August, 2020 - 4:00 pm

Broadening Our Boundaries and Our Horizons in the Month of Elul

By Rabbi Shimon Raichik

This week's parsha of Ki Teitzei begins by speaking about going to war. The parsha begins: “When you go out to war on your enemies, the L-rd your G-d shall deliver them into your hands, and you shall capture from them captives.” There is an obligation to go out from inside our boundaries and fight.

Rashi explains that this verse is referring to a non-obligatory war. In reference to an

obligatory war of conquering the Land of Israel, the Torah would not stress, "and you seize their captives," because it has already said: "You may not allow any soul to live". 

What does the idea of an optional war mean to us today in 2020, a time when we aren’t waging wars, both personally and globally? 

Chassidus explains that a non-obligatory war for each individual refers to conquering all of our mundane activities and using them in the service of Hashem. On a practical level this refers to our commitment to eat, to speak and dress like a Jew. 

Our mitzvah of waging elective combat is to go out from our home into the world outside and reveal the glory of Hashem in a world that hides His presence. Our home is the Torah we learn, mitzvos we do, the shul we attend and our personal environment. There is a natural tension, a low grade state conflict, a state of resistance and war between our homes and the outside active right beneath the surface that we wage as we go out into the world of business and our interactions.

We have an obligation to go out into the world.  Without entering the world we cannot provide our  basic necessities. This is the obligatory war that is fulfilled once we have procured our basic needs. There's nothing requiring us to engage any further with technology or with the culture other than the bare minimum.

An elective battle is waged for the purpose of broadening boundaries. For this we do use technology and worldly concepts to a greater extent to express a G-dly purpose.  It's not an obligation, it's an opportunity. 

When we exploit these opportunities every detail of life can be permeated with sanctity and directed toward fulfilling our purpose of making this world a dwelling place for Hashem.

The Rebbe showed us an example of this from the interactions of visitors of the Rebbe. If the Rebbe met with a reporter for example, he would tell him to use his newspaper to spread Judaism to as many people as possible. The Rebbe  also spoke about using telephones and radio to spread the message of Chassidus. The Rebbe said that this was the purpose for which these things are created.

In the past it was common to shun the world and anything worldly.  That approach would say to avoid the internet and stay off of Zoom  so as not to expose the children to negative influences. While we need to be on guard (the Rebbe wrote and spoke against having televisions in the home), nevertheless the Rebbe’s  message was to use all these things for a holy purpose. This was the approach of both the Previous Rebbe and the Rebbe when sending young yeshiva bachurim and young men to different  and distant places as their shluchim  to build yeshivos and to strengthen Judaism  everywhere. Since the furthest place in the world also needs to be a dwelling for Hashem a neshama needs to be aware that its purpose is to accomplish this task. The neshama needs to go out of his or her own comfort zone, ‘Ki Teitzei’ from home outside into an elective war of making a dwelling place for Hashem.

Because of this approach, the Rabbeim of Chabad were the original trailblazers in the outreach movement.  With time everyone else has learned and followed in their wake.

An elective war also needs to be waged within our personal service of Hashem as well.  We can get comfortable and well adjusted to the place that we have reached in our service of Hashem based on previous accomplishments. The message from this week's Parsha is to go out, Ki Tetzei, and reach the next level. To strive further and further, higher and higher, day to day to reach even greater heights. This is our focus during the month of Elul,  a time when we try to go beyond our previous accomplishments and reach new and more broad vistas in the areas of Torah, Avodah and Gemilus Chasadim. Ki Tetzei, to go out also applies to working with our children. This is also an important and essential shlichus.

Once we use everything in our homes and in our lives in the service of Hashem, then we are converting the world into a place for Hashem. Our accomplishments bring the revelation of Moshiach and Hashem's kingdom will shine openly over the entire world.

A Good Shabbos

(Adapted from Sefer HaSichos 5750-1990 pages 655-670)

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