The Torah Portion of Ki Teitzei
THE MONTH OF COMPASSION AND FORGIVENESS
Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
"When you will go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem, Elokecha, will deliver him into your hand, and you will capture its [people as] captives. And you will see among the captives a woman who is of beautiful form... And she shall shave her head and she shall do (i.e., either cut or grow) her nails...And she shall remove the garment of her captivity... And she shall weep for her father and for her mother for a full month..." (Devorim 21:10-13)
Rashi says that the Torah text is speaking about an optional war. It is written in the name of the Arizal that the Torah text is hinting about a Baal Teshuva (someone who is repentant for his past sins). When a man returns in repentance to Hashem, he will "go out to war against his enemies"; the enemies being hinted at here are his evil inclination and the limbs of his body. "And Hashem, Elokecha, will deliver him into your hand (Devorim 21:10)"; that is, Hashem will deliver your evil inclination into your hand. Then, "you will capture its captives (Devorim 21:10)" ; this means that you will gain control over the limbs of your body. "And you will see among the captives a woman who is of beautiful form (Devorim 21:11)" ; this refers to the Neshama, the soul. "And she shall shave her head (Devorim 21:12); she (the soul) will remove from herself false beliefs. "And she shall do (cut or grow) her nails (Devorim 21:12)" ; this refers to removing and preventing unnecessary luxuries. "And she shall remove the garment of her captivity (Devorim 21:13)" ; this is the garment which was made from the acts of the sins that he did, as is written (in Zechariah 3:4): "Remove the soiled garments from upon him, and then he said to him: Behold! I have removed your iniquity from upon you". And afterwards it says, "And she shall weep for her father and for her mother" ; her father refers to the Holy One Blessed Be He, and her mother refers to the congregation of Israel (See Berachot 38). "For a full month (Devorim 21:13)" ; this is the month of Elul (according to the Zohar Chadash). For the entire month of Elul one needs to cry about his sins since because of them he is separated from his father -- the Holy One Blessed Be He, and his mother -- the congregation of Israel.
A Wayward and Rebellious Son (Devorim 21:18)
The Sages say that "A Wayward and Rebellious Son" never existed in the past and never will exist in the future, because there are too many details which need to be fulfilled. If so, then why do we learn about this? Only in order to explain it and to receive reward. There are those who ask, wouldn't it be bettter to explain and receive reward about the usual topics in the Torah which occur regularly, rather than something which never occurred and never will occur? Rabbeinu Bacchya explains that in the Torah's wisdom, we are given the opportunity to learn this topic in order to increase our knowledge. By learning this topic, people can come to understand the greatness of the requirement to love Hashem, may He be blessed. For behold, there is no greater love in the world than the love of a father and a mother for their son, and since the son transgresses the Mitzvot of Hashem, they are are required to have their love of Hashem overcome theirr love for their son, to the point that they themselves must bring him to the court for to be punished by stoning, as we find in the Akeidat Yitzchak (the binding of Yitzchak by Avraham).
"And you shall destroy the evil from within the midst of you, and all Israel shall hear and they shall fear." (Devorim 21:21)
Someone who wants his words to have influence, first he needs to fix himself, and afterwards others will accept his words.
"Remember what Amalek did to you..." (Devorim 25:17)
Before the remembrance of Amalek, it is written about the remembrance of what happened to Miriam: "Remember what Hashem Elokecha did to Miriam...." (Devorim 24:9) The Masters of Mussar (Ethics) explain why these two remembrances are close to one another in the Torah. It is to tell us, that just as we like to beautify the Mitzvah of remembering Amalek by listening to the Torah Portion of Zachor about Amalek, so too we should beautify the Mitzvah of remembering the story about Miriam, by not speaking or listening to Lashon Hara (derogatory speech).
MUSSAR (ETHICS) FOR ELUL:
It is taught in Masechet B'chorot (40b) that if a first born domestic animal has one large eye and one small eye, that is a defect. Rebbe Ya'akov Perlov of Novominsk explained: a man always needs to look at the virtues of others and not their shortcomings. And this is hinted at by the Mishna: if a man looks at himself with a "large eye" and thinks that he is an elevated person, and he looks at others with a "small eye", and notices their shortcomings, this is a sign that he himself has a defect.
Saving the Honor of the Lowly
Much greatness of character was demonstrated by the Rebbe Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, the author of the "Sefat Emet", in how he related to wretched, lowly people. One time a Tzedakah (Charity) box was stolen from the house of the Rebbe. Suspicion fell on a man who had come to help out in the house for a certain salary. The Rebbe called him and said to return the money that he had taken. That person tried to deny the theft, but when he saw how the Rebbe's burning eyes penetrated deeply within him to his very depths, he wasn't able to continue to deny it and he confessed. When he returned the money, the Rebbe told him, now I willl advise you to return to your city, for here they will not honor because of the act which you did, and I will send you your salary every month...
"....MAY I DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF HASHEM ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE..." (Tehillim 27:4)
The Torah Portion of Ki Teitzei has 110 verses. 27 positive commandments. 47 negative commandments.Haftora: "Rani Akara" and also "Aniah Soarah" (Yishayahu 54)Pirkei Avot, Chapter 2.
May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat.
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772
May you be written and sealed for a Good Year.