The Weekly Parsha: A New Dimension

by Rabbi Heshy Grossman

Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues


"Ki Tetze LaMilchama Al Oyvecha, V'Raisa Sus VaRechev Am Rav Mimcha, Lo Sira Meihem, Ki Hashem Elokeicha Imach HaMa'alcha MeiEretz Mitzraim"

"V'Hayah K'Karavchem El HaMilchama V'Nigash HaKohen V'Dibber El HaAm"

V'Amar Aleihem: 'Shma Yisrael, Atem Kreivim HaYom LaMilchama Al Oyveichem, Al Yeirach Levavchem, Al Tir'u, V'Al Tachpezu, V'Al Ta'artzu Mipneihem" (Devarim 20,1-3)

"....Let not your hearts soften, fear not, do not panic, and do not be terrified before them"

"Four warnings, corresponding to the four things that the non-Jewish kings do. They push out their shields, in order to bang one against the other, to make noise that will frighten their enemy into flight. They rumble with their horses, screaming with them, in order to make heard their galloping hoofs, they shout loudly, they blow their Shofar and varied noisemakers." (Rashi, ad. loc.)

The simple Jew looks around the world at the loud and boisterous party of his mortal enemy. The laughter beckons to the weak of heart.

They display their shields. "We are secure, nothing can ruin our party."

They run with the horses. "We have the strength and the power."

They shout and scream. "This is life, lived to its fullest."

They blow their Shofar. " We are the ones who speak to the world. We set the tone."

Looking at their multitudes, one can be swayed from his commitment. Along comes the Kohen to remind us, "Shma Yisrael". Through the merit of the Mitzva by which we declare that G-d is One, we recall that true strength is not determined by numbers. We can stand strong against the enemy who believes that victory is guaranteed by the multitude of his adherents. We understand that holiness is silent and hidden, while the forces of impurity revel in a world defined by superficiality.

The Torah's warning of "Do not be frightened", comes to teach an important lesson.

The Mishna describes the function of certain officers who went to battle with the B'nai Yisrael. Those whose role was to stand both in front of, and behind the regiment, holding iron bars in their hands, insuring that noone dare leave the battle.

"....because flight is the beginning of defeat." (Sotah 44b)

Why is this relevant to us?

"It is well known that every battle with external enemies flows from the battle with the internal enemy. Proportional to the conquest of our Yetzer HaRa will be the victory over our enemies." (R.Tzaddok HaKohen, Machshavos Charutz, Pg. 127)

The true battle in life is the one we face every day, the fight for our souls. The Torah is advising us how to fortify the trenches. We must stand strong before the enemy, for there is nothing to fear.

"And the officers added, speaking to the people, saying, 'Who is the man who is frightened and faint-hearted, let him go and return to his home, and not soften the heart of his brothers' as his own'." (Devarim 20,8)

In this shiur we will explain why evil must be fought with the strategy of the battlefield, where victory is determined by the courageness of one's stand.


"Stam Milchama Hu Amalek" (Sfas Emes, Devarim, pg. 78)

Our Parsha describes the B'nai Yisrael going out to do battle, but does not specify the enemy. The Sfas Emes teaches that all such situations are referring to Amalek, our eternal foe.

"Z'chor Es Asher Asah Lecha Amalek BaDerech B'Tzeischem MiMitzraim.'

"Asher Korchah BaDerech...." - " Who happened upon you on the way... " (Devarim 28,17-18)

"Asher Korchah - a term of cold and hot, cooling you from your boil, because the non-Jews were afraid to do battle with you. Came this one [Amalek] and began, demonstrating a place for others. Parable: A boiling bath that no man can enter, comes along one loose man and jumps in. Although he is burned, he cools it off for others." (Rashi, ad. loc.)

Amalek is known as "Reishis Goyim". The evil they introduce in their battle with the B'nai Yisrael defines forever our conflict with the nations. Rashi alludes to this in describing Amalek. It is the spark of Amalek that enables the nations to continue the battle. Specifically, the 'cooling off' of the B'nai Yisrael lowers them from their previously untouchable status, initiating this struggle.

Actually, the true root of evil is found elsewhere.

"And the snake was more sly than than all the animals of the field.....and he said to the woman, 'Even though Hashem said not to eat from al the trees of the garden'." (B'reishis 3,1)

The Snake injects man with his evil venom. "So, Hashem commanded, so what? Does it matter? Do it anyway!"

In other words, there is no need to fear G-d's word. The snake succeeds in assuaging the natural fright that man faces in violating the D'var Hashem.

He cools the burning fire.

Similarly, the initial approach of the Yetzer HaRa is not to tempt man to cross the word of G-d, but to make that violation possible. Whereas man in his pristine state cannot fathom sin, the seduction of the snake renders it feasible. The burning desire to serve G-d at all costs slowly dissipates, as man loses his grip on a heavenly world where even angels tremble in fear.

The snake has opened the gateway to hell. Amalek is quick to jump in, and the nations follow in his wake.

Just as escape is the onset of defeat, so too, our battle with sin demands constant vigilance. The watchman must remain on his toes in his determination to repel all intuders. It is the letting down of one's guard, the complacency of false security, that gets Amalek in the door.


Let us return to the Pasuk with which we began.

The Torah divides its warning into four categories. "Al Yeirach Levavchem, Al Tir'u, V'Al Tachpezu, V'Al Ta'artzu MiPneihem."

Why do we need four separate admonitions reminding us not to be frightened?

Rav Yerucham explains. (Da'as Torah)

The Torah is teaching that the battle with evil is constant and never-ending. It is present at every stage of our lives, and everywhere we turn. Every move is an opening for evil, demanding vigilance. In other words, each situation deserves a separate warning.

" 'VaYitzer Hashem Elokim Es HaAdam' - with two 'Yudin'....Oy Li MiYotzri, Oy LiMiYitzri - woe to me from my Creator, woe to me from my [evil] inclination." (Brachos 61)

There is no escaping the responsibility with which G-d has entrusted us. Man must constantly be on the lookout. He must learn to distinguish the silent demand of his conscience from the raucous laughter of a beckoning world. To remain coolly unaware of the consequence of his actions is to fall victim to Amalek, convinced by the snake that nothing really matters.

All this is quite relevant after all.

We live with the illusion that if we can set ourselves up comfortably, assuring the physical welfare of our families, we can rest comfortably with the knowledge that heaven is anxiously awaiting our arrival.

Nothing can be further from the truth.

Our greatest enemy lies within. He has infiltrated our defenses. He has become one with us and we no longer are disgusted or frightened by his presence. It is here that our lives need work and repair.

At a time when our enemies from without are growing ever-stronger, it is time for us to remember where the real battle is fought. As we prepare for Yom Hadin, let us rededicate ourselves to the task that lies ahead, remembering that man was created to toil.

"Im Tachaneh Ali Machaneh, Lo Yira Libi, Im Takum Ali Milchama, B'Zos Ani Boteach."

The Mitzva of Shma Yisrael gave strength to the B'nai Yisrael in their battles against their enemies. In our day, the sparkling pleasures and ominous cries of a threatening society have proven that they offer nothing but vanities.

In truth, we are left with but one thing to ask for.

"Achas Sha'alti MeiEis Hashem Osah Avakesh, Shivti B'Veis Hashem Kol Yemei Chayai"

Have a good Shabbos!

Any questions or comments? Address them to:

Back to this week's parsha | Previous Issues

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel