Ki Tzaitsai 2006

This week we read Parshas Ki Tzaitsai. The Torah describes to us various laws that apply when the Jewish people go out to war. In the very first phrase describing the situation of battle, our commentaries are puzzled by several interesting phrases that are used. First the Torah says “ki Tzaitsai” – “when you will go out”. Although in English the same word is used for ‘you’ in the singular, and for ‘you’ in the plural, in Hebrew it is not. The word Tzaitsai – means you as an individual will go out. To say to many people that you will go out, it would have to say “ki Tzaitsu”. This is puzzling. Certainly when the Jewish people go out to war they don’t just send out one soldier! What is the meaning of describing a situation where one soldier goes out to war? A second point: The Torah tells us “ki Tzaitsai lamilchamah” – “when you go out to war”. Why is there an extra word here? Why talk about going out to war? In Hebrew there is a much shorter way to just write Ki Tilachamu – when you wage war. What is the stress on going out? One more question: The verse starts off talking about oivecha – many enemies. The end of the verse refers to unesano – Hashem will give him - one enemy. How many enemies are we talking about fighting? The commentaries answer all these questions with one remark. The Torah here is hinting to a second war – one that each Jew must wage within ourselves. This is the war that we conduct with our inner yetzer hara – our evil inclination. That war is not waged on a battle ground by masses of soldiers. Each Jew fights this battle alone, within his or her heart. This is why there is a singular tense – Tzaitsai that is used. This battle may appear to be with many ‘enemies’. There are times that a person is faced by a temptation to do something very slow. Other times a person may feel an impulse to react to a situation too quickly. Sometimes we spend money too freely. Other times we may feel too stingy. There are many different and even opposite feelings that we must contend with as we try to improve ourselves. This may appear to be oivecha – many enemies. However, in reality it is all him - one enemy. We must realize that as we strive to improve ourselves, all the temptations that seem to stand in our way are all really just different facets of the same self that we must strive to make better and perfect. Finally, we address the middle point above. The Torah tells us that ki Tzaitsai lamilchamah - when you go out to war – then we are assured of victory. We are promised that when we do really try to make changes, to improve ourselves, Hashem will make sure that we succeed. We must never feel that change is beyond us. Just really put the effort, don’t stand behind excuses, and success is guaranteed.