Dvar Torah Parshat Ki Teitze 5774 2014

The Sidra starts by saying: כִּי־תֵצֵא לַמִּלְחָמָה עַל־אֹיְבֶיךָ, “When you will go out to war against your enemies…”. (Deut. 21,10) The words עַל־אֹיְבֶיךָ, “against your enemies” is superfluous. Against whom would you go to war if not your enemy? One does not go to war against a friend.

This Biblical passage comes to emphasize that the Jewish people do not hate and do not go to war against some nation they consider an enemy. The Jews go to war to defend themselves. They go to war against those people who act as an enemy against them; against a hostile nation that attacks or disrupts the peace; against an enemy that wants to destroy us.

When a soldier goes to war it should not be because of hate but rather to protect himself and his people. He must remember that he is fighting, not because he detests the opponent, but because the opponent has made himself an enemy.

Israel today would be at peace with all its neighbors if they were not out to destroy us. They have voluntarily made themselves enemies and have forced us to defend ourselves. We could live in peace but they do not wish it so.

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Dvar Torah on Parshat Ki Tetzei 5773 2013

When you see that your brethren need help, the Torah says: לֹא תוּכַל לְהִתְעַלֵּם, “…you shall not hide yourself.” (Deut. 22,3) This, Chazal interprets to mean, that you should not look aside as if you do not see what must be done. One must be ever ready to help and cannot look aside.

There is a famous story told about the Chafetz Chaim, the author of the Mishna Berurah. He was once riding in a wagon, as was customary in those days, trying to sell his books. On the way his driver saw a beautiful garden with fruit trees. He could not pass this up so he stopped his horse, climbed down from the wagon. He entered the garden and started to pick some of the enticing fruit.

When the Chafetz Chaim saw this he started hollering, “You are being seen, you are being seen.” The wagon driver immediately dropped the fruit, ran back to the wagon and took off. After travelling a little distance the driver turned to the Chafetz Chaim and protested, “I did not see anyone. No one saw me.” The Chafetz Chaim responded, “You are wrong. You were seen by the One Who sees but is not seen.”

We often think we can do something questionable and no one will be the wiser. We are wrong. We err. Whatever we do has repercussions. We may not realize at first that it will affect anyone else or that we will be found out. But we are wrong. Eventually all becomes known. We know the expression, the walls have ears.

Dvar Torah Parshat Ki Tetzei 5771 2011

The beginning of the Sidra talks about going out to war, KI TETZE LAMILCHAMAH AL OYVECHA, “When you go out to war against your enemies…” (Deut. 21.10) At the end of the Sidra Hashem instructs us to constantly have war against Amalek. This is a Mitzvah that we are forewarned never to forget.

Since the Portion starts with war and ends with war we would expect that it be devoted to laws of war. That is not the case. Instead we find laws that affect our daily lives. There are more Mitzvot in this Portion than in any other one. All of these Mitzvot deal with how a normal society is to live.

There are laws of inheritance, of helping our neighbors, of preventing cruelty to animals, how to prevent potential danger when building a house, and many other laws that have become part of requirements of Jews who want to live within the dictates of our religion.

War is a terrible act imposed on us at times to preserve our way of life. We despise war but are compelled to resort to it to protect our way of life. However, war is not our goal. Our goal is honorable living. Our goal is to treat our fellow man with respect and dignity and honesty. If that is our way of life then we are justified when we go to war to protect it.

Dvar Torah Parshat Ki Teitzei 5770 2010

If one is walking along the road and comes across a bird’s nest and the mother bird is hovering over the young, it is forbidden to take the bird and the young but one must send the mother bird away and only then take the young. The reward for performing this Mitzvah is mentioned immediately in the Torah: LEMA’AN YITAV LACH VEHA’ARACHTA YAMIM, “…so that it will be good for you and you will prolong your days.”(Deut. 22,7)

The Talmud notes that in two places longevity is mentioned as the reward for performing a Mitzvah, in the Mitzvah of sending away the mother bird and the Mitzvah of honoring one’s parents. (Ked. 39b) The difficulty with this statement is that there are other places as well. Long life is also mentioned as a reward for appointing a king and in the Shema. Why didn’t Chazal mention them?

The difference, however, is that in the two instances mentioned by Chazal it also states: LEMA’AN YITAV LACH, so that it will be good for you. (See Deut. 5,16; 22,7) That means that long life in itself is not necessarily a blessing. The blessing is when longevity is accompanied by a good life. Then one enjoys the length of days.

Dvar Torah Parshat Ki Tetze 2009 5769

The opening verses of this week’s Sidra speak about how one should conduct himself in war. The teachers of Musar, or ethical conduct, explain these passages homiletically. They say it refers to going out to battle against the Yetzer Hara or the evil inclination that a person has. One should constantly be battling against this impulse.

The Torah says when you go out to battle against your enemies UNETANO HASHEM ELOKECHA BEYADECHA, “…and Hashem will deliver them into your hands…”. (Deut. 21,10) This, the Musar teachers tell us is a promise from Hashem. If you attempted to withstand your Yetzer Hara, Hashem will give it over to you and you will be able to prevail.

Often we have temptations to do something we know is wrong but we feel overpowered, that we do not have the strength to overcome the temptations. The Torah assures us, if we make a sincere effort we will have the divine assistance and will succeed to withstand these evil desires and will be strong enough to avoid succumbing to them. We must only make the effort and we will triumph.

Dvar Torah Parshat Ki Tetze 2008 5768 דבר תורה כי תצא

There seems to be a contradiction in the Mitzvah of blotting out the memory of Amalek. In today’s Sidra we read the Mitzvah TIMCHE ET ZECHER AMALEK, “… you shall blot out the memory of Amalek…”. (Deut. 25,19) In the story related in the Book of Shemot the Torah states that Hashem says: KI MACHO EMCHE ET ZECHER AMALEK, “…I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek…”. (Ex. 17,14) Accordingly, it is Hashem who will blot out their memory and not the Jews who are instructed to do so.

In truth, how can the Jews be responsible for such an enormous task? We are a small people and there is no chance that we can eradicate all the evil from this world. This is a task that Hashem Himself has to do. The instruction to us is that when Hashem, “,,, gives you rest from all your enemies round about in the land…” (Deut. 17, 19) which He promised our forefathers then we are to eradicate the evil from our midst. Our task is to see that there is no evil among our people. Hashem will take care of the evil in the world.

Dvar Torah Ki Tetze 2007 – 5767 דבר תורה כי תצא

In this week’s Sidra the Torah prohibits marrying an Ammonite or a Moabite for all generations even after conversion. LO YAVO AMONI UMO’AVI BIKHAL HASHEM, “An Ammonite or a Moabite may not enter into the assembly of Hashem”. (Deut. 23,4) The reason given is that when Bnei Yisrael were on their way to the Promised Land these two nations refused to provide them with bread and water, the two greatest necessities for sustaining life. There were nations who enslaved Jews and nations who went to war against Jews. Some were not forbidden to be married by Jews and some were forbidden only for a number of generations. But none were forbidden forever as were the Ammonites and Moabites. Why?

Chazal tell us that there are three important distinguishing characteristics of Jews. Jews are merciful, bashful and charitable. The Ammonites and Moabites demonstrated that they are neither merciful nor charitable. While other people who convert to Judaism may eventually become part of the Jewish fold, individuals of these two nations lack the basic characteristics needed to fit into our people. Conversion will not transform them into true Jews.

Jews have these beautiful traits. They have demonstrated throughout history their desire to help others in need. They have been the greatest contributors to charity. They have always felt for the underdog. They have always demonstrated these traits and never sought credit for doing so. This distinguishes Jews above other people.