This week we read Parshas Ki Tzaitzai. The Parsha begins with the famous words “Ki Tzaitzai Lamilchama Al Oivecha, unesano Hashem …biyadecha – when you will go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem… will give him in your hand” (Deuteronomy 21:10). The commentaries raise a few questions regarding the wording in this verse. 1) Why does the Torah talk about going out to war? Why doesn’t it refer to waging war? 2) Why does the Torah begin by talking about enemies (plural), and end by talking about him (singular)? Are we always assured that Hashem will give our enemy into our hands?
The commentaries teach us that the war that the Torah is referring to is the war that we each have with our evil inclination. When our evil inclination faces us, we can be tempted to sin in many different ways. We may feel a temptation to eat something not kosher; We may have a challenge in keeping Shabbos; Prayer may be hard for us; or perhaps we have a hard time not speaking badly about someone else. Whatever the various challenges we have are, the many “Enemies” we seem to face, it really comes from one enemy. The yetzer hara, evil inclination, is the source for all the various challenges that we have.
When we wage war with our evil inclination, and we succeed in overcoming a challenge, do we get credit for that? The Talmud teaches us that a person could never overcome the challenges that they face, if not for the help of Hashem. The credit we get, is not for success. That comes with support from Hashem. Rather, our credit is for the effort we make in trying. This is why the Torah talks about going to wage war, as opposed to actually fighting the war. Our main part in this battle is to try, to make the effort to overcome our Yetzer Hara. If we really do that, then our job has been done. Hashem will now help with the rest.
What if a person says, “I’ve tried, but I just can’t!? The Torah addresses that right here. “Unesano Hashem …biyadecha!!! And Hashem… will give him in your hand!!” If you really try to improve, you will succeed!! If you really want to observe Shabbos – You Can!!! There is no commandment that we can’t do! We just have to try!!! As we prepare now for the High Holidays, the Torah sends us this very clear message; just try to keep the commandments, make every effort that you can to improve, and you will succeed!!