Parshas Ki Seitzei
The Real Battle
The parsha opens up talking about going to war against our enemy and the topic of the captive woman, the aishes yifas toar. “When you go out to war against your enemy and Hashem delivers them into your hands… (Devarim 21:10).” The Zohar explains the verse allegorically to be referring to man’s individual war against his evil inclination. ‘Hashem will deliver him in your hand’ refers to the weapon that you have: Torah study, which is in the hand of man to utilize.
It is fascinating that regarding this opening parsha of the yefas toar and its laws, Chazal say (Kiddushin 21b, quoted by Rashi ibid.), “lo dibrah Torah elah kineged yetzer harah, the Torah only permits (taking her) in lieu of man’s evil inclination.” Based on the Zohar, this can be read differently instead: the Torah is only speaking to teach us to fight against our evil inclination. Gra taught us that the sod, secrets of Torah, fit in perfectly with the pshat, simple understanding as well.
Ohr HaChaim points out that the greatest battle one has in life is that against his own base drives, brought about by the yetzer harah (as taught by Chovos HaLevavos). This is why the verse can be said to refer to that battle, as it is the most important one that we all struggle with.
There are many lessons to learn here. One is that Chazal (Kiddushin 30b) teach us, “man’s yetzer gets stronger each day and if not for Hashem assisting him, he would not be able to overcome it.” That is the background of the challenge, it is daunting, but Hashem is the One Who will deliver. If you go out and wage battle and do your best, Hashem will help you.
Secondly, you will only succeed in this battle if you bring your weapon in your hand. “Ashrei me shebah likan v’talmudo biyado, praiseworthy is one who arrives with his learning in his hand (Bava Basra 10b).” This means that Torah protects one when it is acquired in one’s hands and put into actual practice. That is the most powerful Torah that the Torah is referring to here, “Hashem delivered the enemy in your hand.” This is why Zohar says it refers to your use of the Torah as your weapon to overcome the yetzer with.
Third, Ohr HaChaim (Devarim 20:1) states that when one remembers that Hashem took us out of Egypt, this inspires one to be able to fight the war with his yetzer. Firstly, it shows that one can overcome even the greatest evil challenges, as Egypt was the most spiritually contaminated land in the world. Secondly, it teaches us that just as Hashem did an act that defied nature, by sanctifying the Jewish nation and extracting them from the depths of impurity, so too, we can bring ourselves away from tumah and choose kedusha. Lastly, it reminds us that Hashem loves us and that inspires one to the greatest heights.
May we all merit to win the battles and ultimately the war by grasping onto the Torah.