Dvar Torah Ki Seitzei – “Learning War Tactics From The Yetzer Hora

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    Ki Seitzei – “You Can Learn From Anyone, Even Your Enemy”: War Tactics Of The Yetzer Hora

    By: Rabbi Avraham Bukspan
    כי תצא למלחמה על איביך ונתנו ה’ אלקיך בידך ושבית שביו

    When you will go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem, your G-d, will deliver them into your hand, and you will capture its people as captives (Devarim 21:10).

    We may wonder: Shouldn’t the pasuk have written, “Ve’shavisa shevi — you will take a captive” rather than “shivyo — his captives”? We are capturing the enemy, not his captives. (See Ohr HaChaim.)

    While the words in this pasuk describe a physical war with an actual external enemy, many commentaries add the subtext of a war in which we all engage on a daily basis, the war against the yetzer hara. The Yalkut Shimoni (924) tells us: “Lo dibrah Torah ella k’neged yetzer hara — The Torah is only speaking about the war against the evil inclination.” (See Kli Yakar.)

    The Torah is telling us that we should take captives the same way that the enemy, our yetzer hara, takes captives, as if we are taking his captives. The Baal Shem Tov (Ki Seitzei 1) gives an example. To the same degree that the yetzer hara displays zerizus, alacrity, to tempt us to transgress, we must counteract with our own show of readiness and enthusiasm, to do mitzvos and stay away from sin.

    In Kedushas Levi (Noach), Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev reads a pasuk in Tehillim (119:98) to the same effect: “Mei’oyevai techakemeini mitzvosecha ki le’olam hi li — Each of Your commandments makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.” As Rav Levi Yitzchak explains, “Mei’oyevai — From my enemies,” meaning the yetzer hara, which entices me to follow my desires; “techakemeini mitzvosecha — I have become wiser at performing mitzvos,” because I learned how to channel those feelings into a burning desire to serve Hashem; “ki le’olam hi li — because any mitzvah I do will be mine forever.” I realize that satisfying my physical desires affords me fleeting satisfaction, while doing mitzvos earns me eternal bliss, as I am attaching myself to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, Who lives on forever. And it is the yetzer hara that helps me learn this lesson.

    The Chasam Sofer (Toras Moshe ad loc.) teaches us that the yetzer hara does not go all-out on day one, but slowly and methodically gets a person to break personal religious boundaries. The Gemara (Shabbos 105b) describes how the evil inclination operates: “Hayom omer lo aseih kach u’le’machar omer lo aseih kach — Today it tells a person, ‘Do this,” and tomorrow it says, ‘Do that.’” Eventually, the man loses control over his actions and when the yetzer hara tells him to worship idols, he does.

    We are enjoined to use those same tactics against him. We should not go all-out in one day, expecting perfection. Such a course may be doomed to failure and be the cause of despair. Rather, says the Chasam Sofer, we should work on improving one middah at a time. “Today I will work on improving this trait, and tomorrow a different one.” With slow and incremental growth, we can be assured of success. This is what the pasuk means when it says, “Ve’shavisa shivyo — You will take his captives”: Capture the yetzer hara the same way that it aims to capture you: one middah at a time.

    Rav Shem Klinberg (Ohalei Shem, Yisro 19:10) cites Rav David of Dinov, the Tzemach David, who asks: Why doesn’t the Gemara give specific examples of the tactics of the evil inclination, such as: “Today it tells a person to eat non-kosher, and tomorrow it says to desecrate the Shabbos,” rather than a vague, “Today it tells a person, ‘Do this,” and tomorrow it says, ‘Do that.’”?

    Rav David says the same yesod as the Chasam Sofer. The yetzer hara cannot make a full-fledged frontal assault on a person and persuade him to commit a truly grave sin. Such a tactic would prove unsuccessful; the person would immediately reject such an outrageous suggestion. “I’m going to listen to you and do that? Never!” Recognizing the essential righteous nature of every Jew, the yetzer hara must come with a more subtle approach, enticing the person in increments, beginning with small things. Today it tells a person to do something small, and the next day it tells him to do another minor infraction; both of these actions barely even register as sins. The vague term is specifically used because the yetzer hara does not start with what would be an actual sin, such as eating non-kosher. Instead, it begins by attacking the observance of a chumrah or an above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty good deed. But then slowly, methodically, and continually, it forces small concessions and minor retreats. Before the person even realizes the sad truth, he is sinking fast in deadly quicksand. At that point, the yetzer hara can go for the jugular, telling him to worship idols, and he will listen. Once the floodgates are open, even the most serious offenses become fair game.

    A method for counteracting this ploy of the yetzer hara, continues Rav Klinberg (still in the name of the Tzemach David), was taught to Bnei Yisrael right before they received the Torah. Hashem said to Moshe (Shemos 19:10), “Leich el ha’am ve’kidashtam hayom u’machar — Go to the people and sanctify them today and tomorrow.” From the words, “Ve’kidashtam hayom u’machar,” we learn how to keep the yetzer hara at bay. It may say, “Do this today,” and then, “Do this tomorrow,” but if we make today and tomorrow kadosh, sanctified, by perfecting things that are relatively easy to perfect, we will eventually be able to keep the whole Torah.

    A Musmach of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, Rabbi Avraham Bukspan has been a high-school and special education rebbe for over 30 years in South Florida. He is the author of Classics and Beyond – Parsha Pearls. Written in an innovative and modern style, it combines anthology and analysis, perfect for anyone who wants a substantive and creative thought on the Parsha.

    Reb Eliezer

    The Chasam Sofer explains that veshaviso shivya, to capture something from him, the yetzer hara. The yetzer hara fights us incrementaly, in small steps as the Chasam Sofer also explains vesartem min haderech, we sway from our walked on ways, minhagim which eventualy lead to the worshipping a’z. Asher lo yedatem, we don’t relize that it leads to it. We should fight him with his own techniques.
    See https://www.theyeshivaworld.com/coffeeroom/topic/kedoshim-how-to-accomplish-it

    Reb Eliezer

    Maybe, meohvai techakmenu mitzvosecha. means to make us smarter from my enemies, the yetzer hara, how do your mitzvos, to learn from them as above how to fight them. ki leolom hi li, a mitzva stays with us forever, the enjoyment stays with us and we don’t regret it. However, an aveira is not forever. It is only enjoyed when done and regretted afterwards.

    Reb Eliezer

    “A Musmach of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, Rabbi Avraham Bukspan has been a high-school and special education rebbe for over 30 years in South Florida. He is the author of Classics and Beyond – Parsha Pearls. Written in an innovative and modern style, it combines anthology and analysis, perfect for anyone who wants a substantive and creative thought on the Parsha.”
    He is also the Maggid of the CR

    Reb Eliezer

    As a enemy, the yetzer hara behaves like one. He takes the appetite away to do mitzvos by telling us how hard and tiring it is to do. vaymoreru es chayehem beavoda kasha, says the Chasan Sofer, he makes our life bitter by telling us how hard it is to do the avoda. Arami oveid avi, the yetzer hara takes away the bechina that Hashem commands us to do mitzvos for our benefit as a father who wants the good for his child. The Dubner Magid has mashel to one who comes to visit. The host sends out his servant to get his luggage. The servant comes in exhausted all sweated up. The guest tells him, this is not my luggage as my luggage is light and you would not be sweating from it. If we are exhausted from keeping the Torah, we are doing something wrong. The cheshek, desire to keep the Torah by recognizing that it is for our benefit, should make it easy to keep.

    Reb Eliezer

    Should be above, As an enemy.

    Reb Eliezer

    In the Sefwr Peninim Yekorim questions the wording of the mentioned Yalkut Shumoni, lo dibrah Torah ellah etc should have said, dibrah Torah kaneged yetzer hara? There are two reasons for a wife protection against zenus. against the yetzer hara and having children but here by yefas toar, the child will be a ben sorer umoreh, so the only thing remaining is against the yetaer hara. So we always need to protect ourselves from the yetzer hara.

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