Ki Teitze – When am I Ready for the World? - Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach ztz'l
The beginning of our parsha is כי תצא למלחמה על אויביך, when you go out to battle your enemies.
When the Torah talks about someone going out to war, it writes it in singular. So let me ask you friends, how can one Jew go out and conquer the world?
Here comes the deepest. There are two struggles going on in our lifetime. One struggle is going on inside, deep down inside. This struggle is when I don’t even know if I want to be a Jew, I don’t know if I should keep Shabbos. I don’t know if I should be married to my wife or not. I already have grown up children, but I haven't decided yet if I should have had children. Some people are sitting in Israel and they still don’t know if they should have ever left America. These are all real inside struggles.
But then there another struggle, and this struggle takes places when my inside is already fixed. It’s mamesh clear to me in two million ways that I cannot move an inch away from the Torah... I just can’t, even if I wanted to. Let's say I met this beautiful girl and I decided that I'm going to take off of yiddishkeit for a week. So I told her 'do me a favor, come to the moshav at 9 o'clock this Friday night'. She comes in a limousine, and I promised her I would take her out to Tel Aviv, and we will have some Chinese food. Let me ask you, in all honesty. Can I walk out from the moshav on Friday night, step into a limousine and go with this girl to have Chinese food? It's not even a question of choice. I look at my feet and they don’t move… they simply don’t move. You know why? What's the first sign if you make a covenant with G-d? That there are certain things inside that I don’t have to struggle with anymore. I'm a yid.
Inside, inside I don’t have to struggle anymore. Sure, it's hard. You have to make decisions every minute. G-d is testing you every second of your life. So what I'm doing is only fixing the outside. It's clear to me, I cannot step into a limousine Friday night and go to a discotheque in Tel Aviv, I can’t. So where is this struggle? Open your hearts in the deepest way. I have choice when I am sitting by my Shabbos table. I can sit there and say bad things about other people, or I can mamesh keep Shabbos in the deepest depths.
I struggle when I know what yomtov is, but I can get away with not keeping it on the deepest level.
So you see what it is? A person who still has inside struggles - don’t you dare go out converting the world, you are not on the level yet. When the Torah is talking about כי תצא למלחמה, when you are going out to battle, we are talking about someone who inside is Baruch Hashem strong like a lion.
Do you know when one Jew is not able to go out and conquer the world? When this one Jew has not finished the struggle of the inside. Obviously if I am not so sure yet there is one G-d, if I'm not a hundred percent sure that Shabbos is really necessary - I cannot come to the world for G-d. I can learn Torah for two hundred years, but deep deep inside, if there is one little corner left where I doubt that every word of the Torah is really from heaven then I can’t really conquer anything.
And here we are coming to the end of our parsha, wiping out Amalek. Our holy rabbis teach us that Amalek is the numerical value of safeq, doubt. Amalek isn’t saying anything bad about G-d, but it is saying 'are you sure?'
You see what it is, the greatest evil is not that voice that tells me 'step into a car on Friday night and go to a discotheque'. Yeah, it's a cute little retail evil, but wholesale evil… wholesale evil doesn't tell you what to do. Wholesale evil just comes and says 'are you positive? You are a thinking person, you have a PHD in logic. Are you sure this Shabbos thing is for you?'
You see friends, our real struggles in life comes from this place where the inside isn’t fixed yet. It's when I still have my doubts deep inside. Let's say I have trouble keeping Shabbos. If I turn you onto Shabbos, what kind of a Shabbos am I turning you onto if every Friday night you are struggling to keep Shabbos? This is only when you received Shabbos from someone who is also a little bit Amalek, and is not sure about Shabbos himself.
In the holy sefer "Baal Shem to al haTorah" ......
HASHEM IS CONCEALED IN THE TRANSGRESSION
The Hebrew word for transgression is חטא - pronounced, 'cheit'. The only letters you actually hear are the 'chet' and the 'tet'. The 'aleph' is silent.
Conceptually, חטא-cheit means to miss the mark; i.e. transgressions lead us away from our goal. 'Tshuvah' is returning to our goal.
The Degel Machane Efraim teaches in the name of his holy great grandfather, the holy Baal Shem Tov, that the א represents אלופו של עולם- the Master of the World. The 'aleph' in 'cheit' is silent- the Master is silent in the transgression, He is hiding and concealed there.
The Talmud teaches 'man does not sin, unless a spirit of folly has entered into him'. This spirit seduces man into thinking that Hashem is no longer paying attention to him, or that Hashem doesn't really care if he transgresses or not. Other times this spirit tries to convince man that he can step into a 'bubble' - that he can take a short break in his service of Hashem, do the sin he attracted to, and then return to serving Hashem, as if nothing will be lost. And so man turns away from Hashem, even just for a few moments at first and he does the 'cheit'-transgression, thinking that Hashem is not there with him.
Ahh! But Hashem is there! - concealed in the 'silent aleph'. Without the presence of the ' אלופו של עולם - aloofo shel olam'- the Master of all, man would not be capable of doing anything, big or small.
Furthermore, the concealed 'aleph' teaches us that when we are drawn to a transgression- look for the 'aleph'! Try to find Hashem there, try to listen to what He is trying to reveal to us; try to find Him in the place we have run away to - He is there! He is hiding because we need to seek Him out. You will then grow and come closer to Him.
And if man has already transgressed the concealed 'aleph' is there whispering to him to come home; it is there to help guide him back to the home of his soul. And not only that! He is there, in the concealment of the silent 'aleph' to give us the strength and the opportunity to transform the dark into light, the bitter into sweet, the 'transgression' into a 'mitzvah'- when we return to Him out of love
Another word in which we find the silent א ‘aleph’ is, טמא –‘tamei’, the state of ritual impurity. Hashem is with us, concealed in the silent א, even in our states of ‘tumah’. In the Yom Kippur service, as described in Leviticus 16, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to perform the special Yom Kippur sacrificial service, to atone for the Kodesh- the holy place into which we brought ‘tumah’. The last phrase of this verse teaches us, as Rashi explains, that the Shechinah would continue to dwell with us, in the Mishkan and in the Beit Hamikdash, even when were ‘tamei’
16 And he shall make atonement for the holy place, because of the ritual uncleannesses of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, even all their sins; and so shall he do for the tent of meeting, that dwells with them in the midst of their ritual uncleannesses.
The secret of the silent concealed א is that Hashem is always present, always wants us back, always presents us with real life messages to help guide us back to the home of our souls. And not only can we turn away from our transgressions, through תשובה מאהבה – ‘tshuvah’ inspired by deep love for Hashem, the ‘tamei’ can be transformed into ‘tahor’- ritual purity.
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Honesty, Poverty, Wealth and Security
Further on in the parsha in Chap. 25: 13-16, we learn the mitzvot of honest weights. Not only are we instructed to give an honest weight we are also forbidden to have any inaccurate or misleading weights and measures in our possession.
Rashi teaches that from these verses we learn that possession and use of dishonest weights and measures leads to poverty, whereas being scrupulous in honest weights and measures will lead to plentitude.
These mitzvot are followed by the Mitzvah to remember what Amalek did to us when we left Egypt. How he attacked us and cooled us of from serving Hashem.
One of the hardest things is to be completely honest. Rashi points out that from the juxtaposition of honest weights and measures and Amalek, we learn that dishonesty brings on the worries of enemies. Ultimately we will possess only that which is rightfully ours. If I take something which is not mine, I won't get to keep it. It will be taken away somehow, and sometimes with a lot of pain.
To be completely honest with our selves with our dear ones with our friends is probably one of the most difficult things to accomplish. Reb Nachman says that one ought to pray an entire lifetime, just to be able to utter one word of prayer honestly and sincerely. In the meantime, the one honest thing that we can say, is that we have not yet said a completely honest prayer... such an admission is honest and will bring great blessings and reward.
שבת שלום באהבה ובברכה - שלום
OVERCOMING THE YETZER HARA:
When is self-judgment idolatrous?
11) בעל הטורים – פרשת כי תצא, פרק כה
"כל הנחשלים אחריך". בגימטריא זה היה שבטו של דן.
Amalek attacked the stragglers who were at the back of the camp. Rashi says that these were the people who had been expelled from the 'clouds of glory' that protected the camp of B'nai Yisrael- the Children of Israel. The 'Psikta' teaches that these were people of the tribe of Dan and they were expelled because of idolatry.
But we need to understand this. Dan was an important tribe in Israel, they were the leaders of the tribes of Asher and Naftali. "Degel Machaneh Dan" – they were one of the four flagship tribes. This means that they carried a message that was important for all of Israel. How then are we to understand that they were idolatrous and why were they expelled by the 'clouds of glory'? And if they were idolatrous, why did they occupy an important role of leadership?
It is explained in שיח שרפי קודש that Dan was, as the name suggests, self-judgmental. They were so much aware of their shortcomings and they judged themselves harshly. They believed that they were not worthy enough to be inside the 'clouds of glory' and therefore they did not wish to enter into the 'clouds of glory'.
Now, it is true and important to be honest with oneself; to know that we are but on a low level of holiness, maybe even barely so. However if self-judgment goes so far as to prevent you from entering into holiness, if you say 'I'm not holy enough to do this mitzvah' or 'I'm not holy enough to study Torah' and consequently you don't try to learn or do the mitzvot - such self-judgment is idolatrous.
G-d commands us to enter into the 'clouds of glory' – into the world Shabbat, the world of Torah and good deeds. Yes we do need to examine ourselves honestly at all times; we always need to try and improve. But we do not have the right to decide that we are not holy enough to do a mitzvah or to think that we are not holy enough to study Torah. We must enter into the holy 'clouds of glory' simply because that is what Hashem wants us to do. To think that you are not good enough to do, or at least try to do what Hashem commanded us to do, is idolatrous. If you think that way then the 'clouds of glory' do expel you.
See how the beginning of our parsha is directly linked with its end. The parsha begins with going to battle against our evil inclination, and ends with the command to wipe out Amalek. Thinking I'm not good enough or worthy enough to engage in this battle to get away from evil and do and be good; thinking that only holy people can do this, leaves us unprotected from Amalek- because it is idolatrous to think that way.
We need to know ourselves honestly; we need to know what we need to fix, and we must never believe that we are not good enough to even try (even if we have already tried hundreds of times without much success)! Hashem says keep on going further, so long as you keep on trying, you can be assured that you will succeed. As it says:
י כִּי-תֵצֵא לַמִּלְחָמָה, עַל-אֹיְבֶיךָ; וּנְתָנוֹ ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּיָדֶךָ--וְשָׁבִיתָ שִׁבְיוֹ.
21:10 When you will go forth to battle against your enemies, [this includes, your 'evil inclination'] Hashem your G-d will deliver them into your hands, and will take them captive.
If/when you go to war against your enemies, and Hashem your G-d will put them in your hand and you will capture his captives.
The Chassidic commentators explain that the wars with "your enemies", mentionned in this verse, also refer to our struggles with our Evil Inclination, the Yetzer Hara, and here the Torah promises, "Hashem your G-d will put ‘him’ in your hand and you will capture his captives." His captives are our holy sparks that were taken by the spiritually negative forces and they feed off them. When we are in kedusha- connected with Hashem’s kedusha, the holy sparks are aroused and wish to return their sanctity.
The Pshischer Rebbe says that in the Talmud [Kiddushin 30b] we find that the Rabbis taught: If it were not for Hashem's help, we would not be able to overcome our evil inclination. Thus our responsibility is to be strong and to do battle with our evil inclination, and to have faith in Hashem's promise that He will help us and will deliver the enemy into our hands.
How to …. With light and joy
Chassidut emphasizes that the best way to fight the Yetzer Hara is with light and joy, for 'a little light dispels much darkness'! Reb Nachman and all the Chassidic Rebbes warned their disciples to never give in to despair or sadness, for these lead to depression, which is the ultimate weapon of the Yetzer Hara.
How to …. With faith and self-confidence Amalek's Weapon: Doubt
In the following excerpt from Reb Shlomo's teachings we learn about the dangers of 'doubt'. When going to war, when going to battle with the Yetzer Hara, we must have self-confidence and complete trust in Hashem that He will indeed help us and that we will be victorious.
In the last portion of our parsha, we are commanded to always Remember and never forget what Amalek did to us; we are instructed to completely wipe out all traces of Amalek - the archenemy of the Jewish people. To wipe out Amalek from within, is to wipe out all traces of doubt. [It is significant and revealing that the 'gimattria', the numerical value of 'Amalek' ע+מ+ל+ק = 240, which equals the numerical value of 'safek' ס+פ+ק = 240. ספק means doubt.
Reb Shlomo speaking:
"Obviously I cannot conquer the world for G-d, because I'm not so sure yet if there is one G-d. I'm not 100% sure that Shabbos is really necessary. I can learn Torah for 200 years but deep, deep, deep inside, inside there is one little corner left, in which I doubt if the Torah, really – [if] every word is from heaven.
And remember what our holy Rabbis tell us, Amalek is numerically, "safek" (doubt). Amalek doesn't say anything bad about G-d. He just says, "Are you sure?" You know the greatest evil is not that voice that tells me, "Step in a limousine Friday night and go to a discotheque. That's a cute little retail evil. We're talking about wholesale evil.
Wholesale evil doesn't tell me anything [about] what to do. Wholesale evil just comes and says, are you positive? You are a thinking person, right? You have a PhD in logic. Aren't you overdoing it? You are too serious about it. [That's] Amalek!
If the inside isn't fixed yet, if I have my doubts deep inside, then you know what it is, I have trouble keeping Shabbos. And then [if/when] I turn you onto Shabbos... What kind of Shabbos am I turning you onto? That, every Friday night you have to struggle to keep Shabbos? [If that's the case, it is] because you received Shabbos from somebody who's also a little Amalek, he's not sure if it's Shabbos, right?
And you know how you conquer Eretz Israel, how do you conquer the world? When it's clear to you that the world is really longing... The world is longing for the deepest, deepest depths. But again, let it be clear to you, if you're full of doubts, you won't get it.
You know why the miraglim [the spies] didn't see it? Because inside... If you remember, because sadly enough, because we made the Golden Calf, [and here I want to share something with you], you know what Amalek did to us? I'll tell you what Amalek did to us. Because... Let me ask you the deepest question in the world. Why didn't the whole world come to Mount Sinai? G-d invited the whole world to come! Do you know why? Because we met Amalek on the way to Mount Sinai, and if you remember, Amalek cooled off the whole world.
And you know what Amalek did to us? Because there was one little 'billionthell' of a shade of a doubt left – so the whole world didn't come. And because the whole world didn't come, we made the Golden Calf. Because, if the whole world would have come, we wouldn't have made the Golden Calf. And because the whole world didn't come, we didn't go into Eretz Yisrael. ---------
And I just want you to know one thing. You know my beautiful friends, where is anger coming from? You know where anger is coming from? [from being] (when I am) torn apart with doubt.When my inside is clear, nothing really bothers me. Everybody knows that Esav [the progenitor of Amalek] is the master of anger. Esav is the master of Amalek."
THE TSHUVAH OF ELUL: OPENING GATES AND ENTERING
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Reb Shlomo 1
"I want you to know that the tshuvah of Elul is not tshuvah for sins. That is for the ten days between Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur. In Elul the important thing is, I am doing tshuvah for all the gates that were open to me and that I didn't enter." Reb Shlomo Carlebach zt"l
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Consider. On Rosh Hashanah Hashem is opening all the gates for us. If I don’t do the tshuvah of Elul beforehand, the tshuvah over all the gates that were open to me until now, but I didn’t enter, how will I be ready to, how will I have the courage to enter into the gates of the New Year?
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Intertwined Mitzvot – To Set You Free
Let’s learn a little from the שפ"א Sfas Emes. The Midrash presents a very interesting and difficult to understand juxtaposition between the mitzvah of the קן צפור – ‘the bird’s nest’ [how to act compassionately when taking eggs or chicks from a nest] and the mitzvah of ברית מילה - circumcision. The שפ"א explains the seemingly elusive connection between them. The following are my notes, translations and understanding of these teachings which are found in: שפת אמת, דברים: כי תצא תרנ"ט.
Avraham Avinu was born uncircumcised. By giving him the mitzvah of circumcision, Hashem gave אברהם אבינו the power to remove the ‘foreskin’ that ‘separates’. The essence of the covenant is that Hashem gave Avraham Avinu the ability to remove all separation – He gave him the mitzvah with which to access his deepest essence – the ability to be and live his true essence. He restored him to his original essence.
This is our ongoing struggle and battle: to discover, to be and to live our inner essence. We all encounter this battle daily, ever since we ‘went out’ from our mother’s womb into the world of lies. To win the battle is to find our essence. To live face to Face, essence to Essence, essence with Essence.
Now, the mitzvah of Mila- circumcision, relates to every one of the Torah’s mitzvot – conceptually, it is to remove the physical veil of each limb, to reveal its inner life energy which is, and via its corresponding mitzvah.
We have 248 positive מצות עשה – each of these mitzvot corresponds to a particular body limb. The Rabbis tell us that we have 248 limbs; exactly the same number as number of מצות עשה – positive commandments in the Torah.
Each mitzvah serves as the unique key with which the inner essence of its correspondent limb is revealed. The physical limb is like a tool. Its inner essence is revealed when it is used to bring Hashem’s light into all worlds by doing His will.
The covenant of circumcision is the great gift that affords us the ability to remove the limitations and veils of body bound perception. When we do a mitzvah with a circumcised heart we discover the hidden treasures within our limbs, we discover how they can truly radiate Hashem’s presence and light amidst the darkness of this world.
The mitzvoth are the keys of the limbs. When they shine with and reflect Hashem’s light, the higher worlds are aroused as well. When Hashem presents man with a birds nest, He is giving him an opportunity to do an act of compassion with his entire essence, and the gift of participating in the תיקון עולם -fixing of the world. Through this mitzvah, man awakens and arouses compassion in the supernal worlds.
The entire form of man alludes to supernal world and with each מצות לא עשה – positive mitzvah a specific gateway is opened. This is also true concerning the negative mitzvot – מצות לא עשה - they serve to shut the mouths of the prosecuting voices and the power of the ‘sitra achra’ – the ‘other side’ – throughout the worlds.
It is Hashem’s will that we should be the ones to do the ‘tikkun’ the fixing for the world. With the mitzvah of circumcision Hashem desires and provides the spiritual tools to remove the separations; through our coming towards Hashem from our deepest essence, we arouse the covenant of circumcision in the heavenly abode, we arouse Hashem to reveal Himself to us in His Essence. This explains the juxtaposition: With the ‘bird’s nest’ mitzvah, Hashem gives us the mitzvah to act compassionately; and with the mitzvah of circumcision, Hashem gives the key to do so from within our deepest essence.
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