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Parasha No. 49
Ki Thetze: “When thou goest forward...”

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 21, 10 - 25, 19

The Torah commands us to act
to desire, combat, conquer and succeed is the most important tikkun


- Overview: the battle of the Jews
- What war?
- Who is a Jewish soldier?
- The arms of a Jewish soldier
- The mitzvot of the parasha
- The themes of the parasha
- The method of study
- The peshat of the parasha leads us to the sod,
  the hidden meaning
- The drash: desire that comes from the heart
- Desire that comes from instinct
- The highest level of interpretation
- Hannah and Hashem Tzevaot
- The meaning of the haftara
- Rahamim

Personal development
Method of study
Memorization exercise
For advanced students


Overview - the battle of the Jews

Those who have read the preceding commentaries beginning Bereshit, which were all based on Shnei Luhot Haberit by the Shla already know the structure of the Torah:
--- Bereshit (the creation, the divine plan, partial failure, reconstruction by one man - Avraham, then by a family who take on the divine mission: this will be the mission of the Jewish people).
--- Shemot (in order to accomplish this mission, the people descend into Egypt where they absorb the best of cultures and the worst, then leave to go to Jerusalem; again there is partial failure, as only a part of the people leave for Jerusalem and only a small part of the Egyptians, but they all receive Hashem's protection and the light of the Torah; they commit themselves to it for all generations and set out to live by it in the land of Israel).
--- Vayikra (in order to bring the functioning of the world into kedusha - holiness - which should be its normal state, the people are given a social organization with the cohanim, leviim and Israel, the Temple the rites of prayer, sacrifices, festival, etc. ).
--- Bemidbar (the people learn how to live within this organization and how to advance: they lament and we learn from their errors; we also learn from those who remain faithful -- Moshe, Yehoshua, Caleb and all the women who are the real strength of the people and were so from Egypt to the Jordan).
--- Devarim (the whole Torah is recounted, with the emphasis this time on the individual, for reality lies with the individual, not with theories, ideologies, or birthrights but with true devotion put into daily practice and the point of retelling the story is to ensure that each individual understands it and hearkens to it. The preceding parasha Shoftim, gave us the necessary intellectual and social tools, but this is not enough; now we must act: this is the meaning of this parasha).

Right away, the parasha tells us that we must act, and go to war in order to carry out the mission that was fulfilled by all generations - to release the sparks (nitzovot) that are imprisoned in darkness and in shells (klipot) and which are preventing fulfillment and bring them back to life.
But this must be done according to the rules of the Torah: we have seen wars recently (Iraq, Yugoslavia, where intentions were good but because those on the side of morality lacked clear judgment, as many of the victims were killed as aggressors. This is where the Torah gives us an alternative. The wars may be similar but the manner of waging them is different, unlike the slogan: "all wars are dirty, and all of them end with pop songs, until the next dirty war." The Torah is realistic: life is a war (ki thetze la milhama, when thou goest forth to war).

What war?
This parasha transmits to us mitzvot 532-605: 74 mitzvot to be heard, studied and applied, it's a lot!
This is not usual war, it is a war of …Hashem. You will say: "we know all about wars of religion, and horrors carried out in the name of God." It is not the same;
" This war is waged by the "tzaddikim," not by rough soldiers or conscripts;
" Their aim is shalom which is the last stage of the process of personal and collective development, just like the word shalom is put at the end of the 19 blessings of the amida and in Vayikra 7, 37 and Bemidbar 2, 27 and 29, 39 (read them). This is not the non-Jewish concept of "peace now" where everything can be solved by giving the adversary all that he demands and becoming his active accomplice.
The realization of shalom is also to be desired today, but it must be prepared thoughtfully and paid for with personal sacrifices. Only the tzaddikim are worthy of combating in this terrain, which is not one that pits opinion polls, disinformation campaigns, demonstrations or national votes.
While seeming to be different, the mitzvot are linked to each other.

Who is the Jewish soldier (refer to the references)
Yes, we must be soldiers, says the Torah. But what kind? Not a rosh katan (little head as we say in Hebrew, meaning someone who just obeys orders without thinking). The Jewish soldier, says Rashi on Bemidbar 31, 3, is "armed for combat halutz tzava not only with courage but also with tools (of the Torah)."

The arms of the Jewish soldier
are as follows (refer to Rashi's commentary on Bemidbar 31, 3-5):

1. man. The Jewish concept of manliness is not of a macho, or of a man who believes he can be a political leader simply because he commanded men in battle, or of a man who despises women and minorities and dares to say so in public.

2. tzaddikim, the righteous, according to Rashi. Before the combat with Amalek, Shemot 17, 8 says that this is who we must choose -- true men of dignity (behar lanu anashim).

3. men who are Torah Sages and who are recognized as such, Devarim 1, 15 (anashim hakhamim veyeduim). Only they will be able to confront the terrors of the night says Job 4, 13, which means the most awesome battles of human existence both on an individual and a collective level. This is the teaching of Midrash Tanhuma on the parasha and this is Rashi's source.
Let us hope these times return for the people of Israel! And that our leaders will no
no longer choose to combat our enemies in was that are alien to us.

4. Rashi adds: such fighters are dear to all Israel and come from all the tribes (on Devarim 31, 5).

5. A sign of the high quality of these men was that they practiced all the laws of purity in their relations with their spouses (Kiddushin 76a). Keddusha in marriage is the most important human quality. They were so righteous that they even granted a get (act of divorce) in case they were lost at war (Shabbat 56a and Ketuvot 9b).

6. David was the prototype of these men; he knew how to organize his army and how to go to war, but he also constantly studied the Torah. He always had a Torah scroll at his side, wore a talit (prayer shawl) and consulted the Sages when he was in doubt.
The arms of these soldiers are the Torah, the Ark of the Covenant, the breastplate of the High Priest, the talit which covers the divine presence, the tefilin which frighten the enemy for they are a sign that these soldiers follow the path of God and are protected.

7. In this way David led his army and his troops: David reigned over all of Israel, he ensured justice and benevolence (ose mishpat u tzedaka) for all his people and Yoav ben Tzeruya led the army (II Shmuel 8, 15). These soldiers who know that war is a part of the battle for righteousness and goodness, which is Hashem, ensure the salvation of the people: vayaavot yisrael et Hashem kol yeme Yehoshua, all Israel served Hashem during all the days of Yehoshua (Yehoshua 24, 31), an exceptional period in history.

We must be modest, we have not yet re-gained this level. Many young Jews who want to live according to the Torah and their people, believe it is impossible to serve in the Israeli army because it does not allow them to live a life of Torah. The idea of establishing religious units in the army is a white elephant. This is all mixed up with the debate over the recognition of Torah study as a vital contribution to the nation; not to mention the misunderstandings and hatred between religious and secular, the difficulty reconciling the two pillars of the state "Judaism and Democracy," and the numbers of young people who are not prepared to make sacrifices and participate in the national struggle.

8. But no one should criticize young Israelis of any sector, if they themselves have not participated in the struggle, for it is written in the Torah that the soldiers came from all the tribes, thus even from the tribe of Levi (Rashi on Devarim 31, 4).

It is important to know this in order to fully understand the meaning of this parasha.

The mitzvot in the parasha

The parasha teaches us mitzvot 532 to 605 in order to wage this war well: 74 mitzvot which we must study and apply! Despite their apparent disparity the mitzvot are in fact interconnected.

The main factor they have in common in this war and in how to "set out" for war is noted by Ribbi Yaakov Abuhatzera and by Sages: the mitzvot are all placed in the same framework - the presence of Hashem in the world. The first verse (Devarim 21, 10) in fact begins and ends with the letters khaf and vav whose numerical value is 26, the same as the Name of Hashem, and the following verses (21, 11-14) all begin and end with the last two letters of God's 4-letter name vav he, all of which points to the task that must be accomplished in order to make the holy name complete.

(letter khaf) ki thetze lamilhama al oyevekha
unetano Hashem elohekha beyadekha veshavita shivio (letter vav);
(letter vav) veraita bashivya eshet yefat toar
vehashakta vahvelkahta lekha leisha (letter he)…

"When thou goest forth to battle against thine enemies,
and Hashem thy God delivereth them into thy hands, and thou carriest them away captive;
and seest among the captives a woman of goodly form,
and thou hast a desire unto her and wouldest take her to thee to wife.." (Devarim 21, 10-11).

Since we know that all existence depends on the 4-letter name of God, we can see that the first two letters of His name (yud, he), which symbolize the divine plan, chacterize the first verse, which tells us that we have a war to wage in this world and in our short existence. This is God's role.

Then, in the following verses it is man's role: he must make the holy name complete by carrying out what is described in these verses (seek a wife and the sparks of the neshama, deliverance). Then the two letters of the divine name which encompass these verses (vav, he) will be fulfilled and Hashem will be unified and his 4-letter name will be complete,
as it is said: yiye Hashem ehad u shemo ehad, on this day his Name will be One (Zachariah 14, 9).

In light of these mitzvot, Judaism excludes the idea of a savior who has already come to this world and the lamentable state of the world is enough to prove this. This idea anyway is contrary to the word of God and His Torah.

We are slowly but surely on the path to discovering the meaning of this parasha: the question now is what is this war that we must wage?

The themes of the parasha
Some of the themes associated with the mitzvot in this parasha are:
desire for union with a female prisoner, the care to be extended to the remains of condemned, objects that must be returned to their owners, the help that must be given to animals who collapse under their burdens, the prohibition against wearing clothes of the other sex, the injunction to set free a mother bird when taking her chicks from her nest, the construction of railings to prevent falls, the prohibition against mixing certain textiles in clothes, the rules towards a woman who has been raped, the rules governing a mamzer born from illegitimate sexual relations, the bill of divorcement certifying and completing a divorce,…/…the Levirate marriage, the injunction to remember Amalek and what he did to the Israelites.

The method of study
The Modia Beit Midrash does not transmit ideologies about the Torah. It transmits solely the teachings of our Sages.
Let us examine again, stage by stage how the Sages proceed in order to understand the Torah. Their method is to ask many, detailed questions before formulating the smallest "idea." As an example, let us look at the caution with which Ribbi ben Attar proceeds in his study. We will learn from this the vocabulary used to formulate questions (in respect of the first verse of the parasha).
---"When thou goest forth to battle against thine enemies," one must know tzarikh ladaat why the Torah feels obliged to say all of this lama ustrakh lomar kol ze.
--- furthermore od, after it has said ahar she amar "when thou goest forth to battle" it was not necessary to say lo hava tzarikh lomar "against thine enemies."
--- but maybe the text felt it had to say this hach hakhatuv she…
--- and from this you have learn that mi ze ata lamed she….

Try to do this exercise yourselves on the first verse. You will then be doing the true method of study that has always been the tradition of the beit midrash and the yeshivot.
Ribbi ben Attar goes on to note that the text does not say "seest among the captives a woman isha of goodly form" but "seest among the captives a woman eshet (wife) of goodly form." What is the significance of this term?
In Hebrew a woman is isha and the wife of someone is eshet. As in the song sung every Friday night Eshet Hayil: this does not mean a "strong woman" but "the wife of a strong man" which is a clear reference to Hashem. Thus the real meaning is lost if one does not know Hebrew properly.
So the woman taken prisoner and desired by the Jewish soldier is seen by him as his future wife. The commentaries stress the fact that the text does not say "and you will desire her" but uses the imperative "thou will desire her." Some go even further, dding "even if she is a married woman." What does this mean?

The peshat (literal meaning) leads us to the sod (hidden meaning)

Ribbi ben Attar explains it thus: because of Adam's sin, important parts of the souls (neshamot) were lost under the influence of negative forces (sitra ahara) and these are the souls of converts (gerim). Refer to the Modia page on Conversion. Ribbi ben Attar adds: "go out of yourself and understand (tze u lemad) how very many great figures [Jews] in the world come from foreign nations, you will find Ruth and Shemaya and Avtalion, and Onkelos, and many others….and I will reveal to you a secret, these pure but imprisoned souls are not capable of freeing themselves before the time set for their liberation" (Sanhedrin 96 b).
This is the sensitive issue involving conversion, and it is identical to the question of what makes Israel different to other nations. The Pesah Haggada gives us the answer: our ancestors were also gerim, converts as they tried to set liberate themselves from the shells that imprisoned them.

Tradition also tells that this problem has not been resolved among the Jewish people and Jews of long standing, because:
- during the exodus from Egypt, a rough group of people infiltrated themselves among the Israelites, not out of solidarity or belief in their God, but for material interest and they were the ones who instigated the golden calf and many catastrophes in our history;
- the exodus from Egypt did not resolve the problem of the reunion of man and woman since the time when there was just one Adam;
- and, finally, each individual has to face the challenge of liberation and he may fail: has to make constant choices in regard to the values he has received, devotion to the mitzvot, control of his instincts, as we shall see.

The drash: desire that comes from the heart
The Torah shows us that the main source of this morality comes from desire. Through desire, we turn our hearts and feelings towards those who are weakest.

The Torah places great value on the desires of the heart and directs them towards Hashem: adonut negdekha kol taavati, "adonut, all my desire is before thee" (Psalm 38, 10). Rabbenu Bahya uses this verse as an epigraph to his commentary on this parasha.

Contrary to superficial opinion which holds that prayer or sacrifices only have an instructional role, tradition teaches us that God seeks the heart of man (ramana liba bae, Sanhedrin 106b and Rashi's commentary on it). Rav Nahmanides puts great emphasis on this in order to counter the errors of the rationalists.

The Shla also stresses this theme in all his works with the phrase avoda tzorekh gavoa, "the prayers of our heart are needed by the Almighty." The text of the shema commands us not to be led astray by our heart and by our eyes (Bemidbar 15, 39). And because our eyes are the gate to our hearts and awake our desires, we are told to constantly control our eyes and re-orient them, if they err. Isaiah 11, 3 says that the Messiah will be "in fear of Hashem and shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears" (vahariho beyireat Hashem velo lemare einavyishpot velo lemishma oznav yokhiah).

Thus the Torah tells us that the condition for the coming of the Messiah is the ability to control what we see and what we hear, and to be sufficiently perceptive and strong not to take things at face value and judge others. At a time when the media seek to influence through the press and TV and when we become their accomplices by looking through their eyes, it is important to remember this injunction of the Torah. Without it there would be no Rahamim, mercy or salvation in the world.

This links to the passage in Ketuvot page 110 which says that he who lives outside of Israel is like someone who does not have a God (hadar behutz laaretz dome kemi she ein lo Eloha), for inevitably this person will see and hear what is reflected in his environment, the values of this environment and its "gods," and will not integrate the Torah, Hashem and the values of the land of Israel.

Desire that comes from instinct
Tradition calls desire that comes from instinct yetzer hara. It does not see in it something negative, for without instinct there can be no reproduction and continuity of life. What is important is to channel the instincts, the yetzer hara towards God and the Torah.

The prohibition against wearing garments of the other sex is linked to the need to control the yetzer hara, (yetzer hara derekh taava ufitui, the evil instinct comes from desire and excitation). The Sages say that the entire Torah is devoted to educating the yetzer hara, (lo dibera Torah ella keneged yetzer hara, Kiddushin 21 b). This is the level of symbolic interpretation.

The higher level of interpretation - the sod
The level of the sod, the secret meaning, takes us to a higher level of interpretation.
It is demonstrated by Rabbenu Bahya regarding the 544th mitzva (Devarim 22, 6) which commands us to set free a mother bird when taking her chicks.

Let us now use the method we have learnt of discovering the meaning of the Torah text through its linguistic features. The fact that the text says "the mother" and not "the father" shows us that it relates to the higher levels that are called "mother," as in Proverbs 2,3: ki em la bina tikra, "you will say to wisdom, mother."

Rabbenu Bahya gives us another interpretation at this level which is inspired by Zohar Ruth on va yehi bime…: this mitzva creates the superior level of Rahamim (mercy: the word mercy comes from rehem, womb) for a mother bird that is set free fears her nest will be destroyed and is anxious to the point of suicide at being separated from her young. Then the power above asks God for mercy, as is written: verhamav al kol maasav, "his tender mercies are over all his works," (Psalm 145, 9) and then the level Rahamim spreads goodness across the world.

So when a person changes his route in order to carry out this mitzva of not taking the mother (this is not an obligatory mitzva, eina mitzva mehuyevet shemo shear mitzvot), he helps to better the world. This is why the text says that this mitzva prolongs the days of one's life, for only Rahamim can do this.

Rabbenu Bahya notes that this is one of the mitzvot that can only be truly understood through the level of kabbala (mitzva zo min hamitzvot hamekubalot).

Hannah and Hashem Tzevaot
It is from this point of suffering that Hannah implored Hashem ("And she was in bitterness of soul and prayed unto Hashem, and wept sore; and she vowed a vow and said: Hashem Tzevaot…" I Samuel 1, 10-11).
Tradition teaches us that when all the gates of prayer are shut, the gate of tears allow the prayer to ascend, to be received and granted (Zohar I 132 b, 228 b; II 12b, 145b, 165 b). It should be stressed that the term Rahamim belongs to the highest level, together with ratzon (will), of God's names and corresponds to the name Ehiye which was revealed to Moshe and remains incomprehensive to man, as is noted by Ribbi Yosef Gikatilia in Shaare Ora and accepted by all subsequent masters.

The teaching of the Haftara
The above enables us understand the choice of the haftara (Isaiah 54, 1-10) and the meaning of the first mitzva of the parasha, that of the woman prisoner of war.

The term Hashem Tzevaot links the haftara to the parasha

Read this again: ki voalaikh osaikh Hashem Tzevaot
"For thy maker is thy husband, Hashem Tzevaot is his name."

The haftara depicts Jerusalem as a sterile woman (cf. Hannah) and as a widow. Both these conditions are tragic and unalterable. And it is written that Jerusalem will spread (Rahamim will lead to the dissemination of the flux of benediction) in space and numbers, that its humiliation will end and that love will return; (thy maker Hashem Tzevaot will be thy husband).

We have seen that Hannah uses the same term for God, for she knew the meaning of these holy names and their function in prayer. The name Hashem Tzevaot…signifies that the goodness of Rahamim descends to become concretized in the goals of creation; this is the intermediary level between Rahamim (the source) and El Shaddai (fruition), as Yaakov says when he finds his sons again: El Shaddai give you Rahamim (Bereshit 43, 14). All is taught in Shaare Ora by Rav Yosef Gikatilia.

The link between Rahamim and Hashem Tzevaot in the Torah

Our Sages show us how this concept is present in different contexts in which the expression Hashem Tzevaot appears. Here are a few examples:

1. "The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in Hashem Tzevaot" (Zachariah 12, 5).
2. "Let them now make intercession to Hashem Tzevaot that the vessels which are left in the house of Hashem …..go not to Babylon" (Jeremiah 27, 18).
3. "For Israel hath not been forsaken, nor Judah of his God, of Hashem Tzevaot" (Jeremiah 51, 5).
4. "Our redeemer, Hashem Tzevaot, the Holy One of Israel" (Isaiah 47, 4).
5. "His bread will not fail for I am Hashem they God, that divideth the sea, whose waves roared: Hashem Tzevaot is his name" (Isaiah 51, 14-15).
6. "Their redeemer is strong, Hashem Tzevaot is his name, he shall thoroughly plead their cause, that he may give rest to the land" (Jeremiah 50, 34).
7. "For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant and they that escape out of Mount Zion: the zeal of Hashem Tzevaot shall do this" (II Kings 19, 31).
8. "So David waxed greater and greater, for Hashem Tzevaot was with him" (I Chronicles 11, 9).

These roles can be seen clearly in Psalm 84, which is read before the Minha service in Sephardi congregations: one can see how this name ensures benediction. At an hour of fatigue and stress, which is that of Minha, conceived by Yitzhak our father who knew so much suffering, the process of benediction is inalterable. This is what I wanted to express in the verses of Isaiah which are placed around the image of the moon, for the moon is a symbol of something weak which needs to be illuminated by the light of others.

So happy is he who knows this and finds strength in it, as is written in the psalm ashere yosheve veitekha…which follows the Minha service.

We have learnt something new here:
the haftara often elaborates on the message of the parasha which may be dimly perceived amidst the mass of injunctions or hidden behind the literal story. It begins with the word Roni, rejoice. It tells of a woman who finds happiness, freedom and fulfillment through the grace of Hashem.


Exercises: Personal Development

1. Re-read the entire parasha in this perspective.
2. Reflect on the meaning the parasha has in your own life.
3. Discuss your ideas with those close to you.

Method of study:
Note down the numerous rules of study described above and learn them.


Memorization exercise

1. adonut negdekha kol taavati
"adoshem, all my desire is before thee" (Psalm 38, 10).
2. Rahamana liba bae
God seeks the heart of man (Sanhedrin 106 b)
3. avoda tzorekh gavoa
The Almighty needs our prayer
4. lo dibera Torah ella keneged yetzer hara
The Torah speaks only in order to control the yetzer hara (Kiddushin 21b)


For advanced students

Read chapters 3-4 of Shaarei Ora by Ribbi Yosef Gikatillia (in Hebrew) for a detailed analysis of the expression Hashem Tzevaot in prayer.

Refer and study the sources cited above.


- Psychology and Repentance
   (in french)

Part 15

Part 16

- Jerusalem excavations
- Terror and counseling
- Peace and peoples
- Israel and Iran
- Visual study & song on snow
for, through our union with the song of nature, the plan of Creation will be fulfilled

Poem: to be moon

In french

Avec Modia, vivez
vos vacances en Israël,
Texte et photos

- Par Modia, arrivez au Kotel
- La vie du Kotel
- Prières au Kotel
- Fête au Kotel
- La destruction du Temple
- Photos rares et émouvantes des abords du Temple
- Synagogues de Jérusalem
- Maisons de Jérusalem
- Les fleurs de Jérusalem
- Ici, tout sur Jérusalem
- "Le" texte sur Jérusalem
- Voir et visiter Israël
- Voyage dans le Nord d'Israël
- Belle carte d'Israël
- Jérusalem et les nations

- Vacances en Israël sur Modia
- Le Kotel en film direct
- et ici aussi, autre caméra

- Trahison historique:
L'antique synagogue de Jéricho


Part 17

- Love towards all people
- Light in war
- Before the hanukiah
- Land of Israel
- Jerusalem excavations 2007
  Proof of the lies propagated
  by the media

In french - Hope in Israel

Part 20
"Encounters with God
in the real"

- You are planning a tour in Israel - Photos
- My photos and judaism
- New year of beauty
- Flowers
Gallery photos

Part 21

- My english songs


Rav Professor
Yehoshua Rahamim Dufour
(Dipur, in hebrew)

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