Parsha Ki Teitzei

August 29th, 2020

9th of Elul 5780


The Yetzer Hara is Overcome in Circumventing Ways

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"When you will go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem, your G-d, will deliver him into your hand, and you will capture [its people] as captives; and you will see among its captivity a woman who is beautiful of form, and you will desire her, you may take her to yourself for a wife" (Devarim 21:10-11)

The Mussar authorities explain this verse as referring to the Yetzer Hara, meaning that one must wage an all-out battle against the Yetzer Hara, for he is a person's greatest enemy. When a person indeed enlists all his strength, he is given the explicit promise of "you will capture [its people] as captives". This means that not only will he merit emerging victorious from the battle against his Yetzer Hara, but he will also succeed in redeeming all the captives that were taken from him by the Yetzer Hara. To clarify: When one is under the power of the Yetzer Hara, he cunningly takes from the person a number of things. For example, he 'captures' his Yirat Shamayim, meticulousness in obeying Torah law, fear of sin or other similar matters. But when a person decides to go out in battle against his Yetzer Hara, he is promised to emerge victorious and even regain all those positive things that were taken from him when he was a captive in the Yetzer Hara's hands.

Many commentaries ask why the verse says, "and Hashem, your G-d, will deliver him into your hand". Would it not have been enough to write "and Hashem will deliver him into your hand"? Why did the Torah find it necessary to add the words "your G-d"? A simple explanation seems to be that according to nature man does not possess the ability to conquer his Yetzer Hara, since the Yetzer Hara is fashioned from consuming fire while a person is only flesh and blood. When fire competes with flesh and blood, fire will easily overcome the flesh. So the Torah added the words "your G-d", to tell us that only when a person leaves behind all other gods, which refers to the lusts and vanities of This World, and appoints Hashem as the only G-d over him, is he then given special Heavenly Assistance to defeat his Yetzer Hara.

In addition, when a person goes out to war against his Yetzer Hara, heaven and earth testify that his entire being is given over to Hashem's authority, for were it not so, he would not gather his strength to battle the Yetzer Hara. Since the person's actions prove that he is under the Kingship of Hashem Yitbarach, he therefore merits Heavenly Assistance to succeed in his battle against the Yetzer Hara. The Mussar authorities add that this power of discarding all other gods and accepting Hashem alone as King over him, affords the person the merit of the special gift, "you will capture [its people] as captives ". All the positive attributes and lofty levels that were cunningly taken from him through the Yetzer Hara's ruses are returned to him, and not only this but the person merits an additional level, as will now be explained.

The Torah says, "and you will see among its captivity a woman who is beautiful of form". Interpreting this according to Mussar, one can explain that the verse is referring to the Torah that is called 'a woman'. For as long as the person was a captive to his Yetzer Hara, the Torah that he contained was also in captivity. But once a person merits defeating his Yetzer Hara and redeeming all the attributes that were taken from him, he immediately recognizes the reality of the Torah and regrets that it was under captivity as long as he was under the influence of the Yetzer Hara. When a person repents completely, not only does he hurry to reconnect to the Torah, but he sees in the Torah "a woman who is beautiful of form", the beauty of the Torah and its brilliance shines far into the distance and causes a person to want to connect to it even stronger than previously.

The Mussar authorities question why Adam Harishon was punished immediately after he sinned by eating from the Tree of Knowledge. We know that Hashem is Slow to Anger and Abundant in Kindness and does not hurry to punish His children, rather He waits for them to repent. If so, why with Adam HaRishon did Hashem overstep His usual conduct and hurry to punish Adam with great stringency despite this being his first and only sin?

The Mussar authorities answer that when Adam HaRishon was created, the Yetzer Hara was not yet a presence in the world. Adam was the one who fashioned it and brought it into the world by his sinning. Had Adam been vigilant with his deeds and conquered his middot, this ‘overcoming’ would have stood for all future generations and the Yetzer Hara would not have taken up residence in man's heart. But once Adam HaRishon was tempted to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, through this act he brought the Yetzer Hara into existence, including all its terrible repercussions for all future generations. Since Adam HaRishon's sin was not only a 'personal' sin but also caused his future descendants to sin, Hashem punished him with full severity so as to illustrate to him the destructive significance of this sin whose ramifications will be felt by all future generations.

This is also the reason why Hashem is particular with the righteous like a hair's breadth (see Baba Kama 50a). This is because their greatness in Torah endows them with the ability to recognize Hashem's greatness and the truthfulness of the Torah, therefore when the righteous sin, the claim against them is much bigger and greater since they possessed the ability to overcome their Yetzer and compel it. A person is only faced with challenges that he has the ability to overcome, so certainly the righteous, due to their greatness in Torah, are capable of defeating their Yetzer Hara, as Chazal say (Kiddushin 30b), "I created a Yetzer Hara and I created the Torah as an antidote". This being the case, the more Torah a person contains, the greater is his ability to defeat the Yetzer Hara and annul his power of influence.

Guard Your Tongue

A Gossipmonger

One who repeats stories that he heard from others and goes around saying, so-and-so said this about you, a certain person did this to you, I heard that so and so did this to you or intends to do to you, then even if this matter is not necessarily negative, and even would the person be asked, he would not deny the fact, nevertheless the one who repeats these tales is called a gossipmonger and this behavior is forbidden.

Words of the Sages

Why are You Paying Him?

"On that day shall you pay his hire; the sun shall not set upon him" (Devarim 24:15)

The son-in-law of the Chafetz Chaim once travelled with a wagon driver to a certain destination. On arrival, he took out money from his pocket and paid the wagon driver his fee, as per their agreement.

The Chafetz Chaim asked him, "Tell me, why did you pay the wagon driver?"

His son-in-law replied, "What do you mean? I paid him because he brought me to my destination."

Again the tzaddik asked, "But why did you pay him?"

"Because he deserves it…he completed his job", replied the son-in-law.

The Chafetz Chaim did not let up. "Tell me why you paid him!"

The son-in-law could not understand what the tzaddik wanted. "We made an agreement that I would pay him. He fulfilled his part of the deal so I must fulfill my part." Then the Chafetz Chaim animatedly said, "Say that you paid him because there is a mitzvah of "on that day shall you pay his hire". That is why you paid him!"

With the Chafetz Chaim, there was no such thing as merely paying someone because 'he deserved it'. Who said that he deserves it? The Torah! The Torah commands us to pay a person for his service, therefore we pay because this is what the Torah commanded us to do.

This is how the Chafetz Chaim conducted himself in all his ways and deeds. He had only one deliberation when considering how to act. What is Hashem's will?! Due to this, when he wrote his significant masterpiece, the 'Chafetz Chaim', he did not assign his name to the sefer initially. What difference does it make who authored this sefer? He quoted the source for every ruling, therefore anyone studying the laws could explore the source and realize that indeed all his words were true and just and that he did not fabricate anything. If so, the Chafetz Chaim was of the opinion, why would it be necessary to know the name of the author?

The Haftarah

The Haftarah of the week: "Sing out, O barren one who has not given birth" (Yeshaya 54)

The connection to Shabbat: This Haftarah is the fifth of the seven special 'Haftarot of Consolation' that are read starting with the Shabbat following Tisha B'Av. They are chapters of consolation for the Jewish people.

On those years when Rosh Chodesh Elul falls on Shabbat Re’eh and the special Haftarah for Rosh Chodesh is read instead of the regular one, then Ashkenazim have the custom to continue with the next section, "O afflicted, storm-tossed one", the Haftarah that would have been read.

Walking in Their Ways

Kosher Money – Cornerstone of Endurance

A Rosh Yeshiva once approached me and began singing the praises of his worthy institution. He told me about the wonderful staff and the remarkable young men who glorify this noteworthy Yeshiva by immersing themselves in the Torah’s teachings day and night. But, he added, the yeshiva suffers tremendously in the area of finances. For some unknown reason, they could never make ends meet.

I advised him to investigate the source of the money which comes into the yeshiva. Did it come from a place of sanctity, or, chalilah, the opposite?

After an exhaustive search, the Rosh Yeshiva discovered that the majority of their funds came from Jews who violated either the Shabbat or other severe Torah prohibitions, rachmana litzlan. With this realization, he understood that a yeshiva cannot exist on a rotten foundation. When it is supported by tainted monies, a blessing cannot rest upon it. This was surely at the source of his yeshiva’s difficulties.

This incident reminded me of something that happened to me. A considerable amount of money was once stolen from me. I was stumped by this as the money had belonged to public funds. Why did Hashem allow it to be taken from me? I decided to make a thorough investigation into its source and discovered that this money had its origins in theft. When money is acquired in unjust and crooked ways and it is not pure, it cannot provide berachah.

On another occasion, when a mikveh was being erected in Paris, things kept going wrong, causing untold losses of money. An enormous sum had been invested in this venture to make the mikveh as beautiful and perfect as possible, but for some mysterious reason, each day brought more incidents of damage and deficit than the day before. One day a pipe burst, the next day the walls revealed cracks, and so on and so on.

Eventually, I decided to investigate the source of the funding. I found that all the donations had come from Shabbat desecrators, therefore this building was incapable of containing a blessing.

I instructed the workers to demolish the entire edifice which had already been built. We then rebuilt the mikveh using money that was kosher and untainted. Baruch Hashem, the second time around, the building went smoothly without any monetary losses or hitches.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

The Enemies Intentions Are Not Known in Advance

"When you will go out to war against your enemies" (Devarim 21:10)

The Mussar authorities explain this verse as referring to the war against the Yetzer Hara, for a person must battle an all-out war against his Yetzer Hara and when Hashem sees that the person tries his best to defeat his Yetzer Hara, He endows him with Heavenly assistance to overcome his Yetzer Hara and force him into captivity.

A person's main enemy is his Yetzer Hara and to be successful in this battle one requires help from Hashem. Just as Hashem helps those who fear Him to succeed in defeating their physical enemies, so Hashem will help someone achieve success in his battle against the Yetzer Hara, if He sees that his deeds and intentions are authentic and he possesses the sincere desire to subdue his Yetzer Hara.

A Moroccan king once said that he is more afraid of his friends than his enemies. Since his enemies openly express their evil intentions, he is therefore aware of the need to take precautions. On the other hand, his friends display a loving and friendly countenance, yet sometimes beneath the surface they are digging a pit for his downfall. He therefore has no idea whether they are sincerely faithful to him or have evil intentions. In the same way, the Yetzer Hara works against man with tricks and tactics. On the one hand, he makes as if he loves him and is concerned for his welfare but on the other hand, he stealthily spreads out a net with which to trap him and imprison him in the captivity of materialism and lusts.

When we are not aware of our enemies' intentions, we require great Heavenly mercy and Divine Assistance to be successful in this battle, since man with his powers alone is not capable of waging this war and emerging victorious. Only Hashem who is the King of Kings and tests thoughts and emotions, can help man succeed in this battle. It is the power of Torah study alone that can protect a person from the lowly schemes of the Yetzer Hara and merit him with Hashem's protection.

Chazal tell us (Eruvin 18b) that if a person is faced with two paths, where on one stands a woman and on the other a hungry lion, a person should rather choose the path of the lion, for if he takes the path where he will come across the woman, it is almost certain that he will stumble because of the temptations of the Yetzer Hara. This shows us the extent to which a person must be careful not to stumble. In order for a person not to arrive at a situation where he will fall into the Yetzer Hara's hands, he must try from the start to stay away from situations of temptation and challenge. This is why we recite daily in our prayers, "do not bring us into the power of challenge", for once we are already faced with a challenge, who knows if we will succeed in overcoming it and then shame will be our lot.

Pearls of the Parsha

"It Belongs to Him" Yet One is Permitted to Announce

"You shall surely return them to your brother" (Devarim 22:1)

The following is a true account of an incident that happened in Yeshivat Porat Yosef:

One of the bachurim found a fifty lira note (a large sum in those days) on the premises. He approached the Gaon Rabbi Ben Tzion Abba Shaul zt"l and asked him if he can keep it since it is clear from the Gemara that if one finds money in a Beit Knesset or Beit Midrash "it belongs to him".

Rabbi Ben Tzion took out a fifty lira note from his pocket and told the bachur, "Take this as a gift from me and now go to the Beit Midrash and search for the one who lost the money!" The bachur did as he was told and indeed found a panic-stricken avreich searching for a fifty lira note that he had lost. This man was a poor avreich with many children. He had borrowed the money from a gemach and now it had disappeared.

The bachur immediately returned the money to the avreich and restored his peace of mind.

Rabbi Ben Tzion said to him, "See how you performed an act of kindness with a fellow Jew! Even if you were right according to the law, it is proper to act leniently, above the strict law. The meaning of "it belongs to him" is not that one is forbidden to announce one's find. There are situations where one must be ready to make concessions and conduct oneself above the strict law.

The Segulah of Tzitzit

"You shall make for yourselves twisted threads on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself" (Devarim 22:12)

The sefer 'Zechira' quotes several fascinating ideas concerning the mitzvah of tzitzit.

The word 'ציצית' (tzitzit) is an acronym for 'צדיק יפריד ציציותיו תמיד', 'a righteous person takes care that his tzitzit strings stay separated', and this separation is meaningful according to sod (the secrets of the Torah).

The mitzvah of tzitzit requires great caution since a severe punishment awaits one who is negligent in this commandment.

When a person recites the blessing, "להתעטף בציצית", "to wrap ourselves in tzitzit", he should have in mind that the first letter of each word (לב) has the numerical value of thirty-two corresponding to the thirty-two strings of the tzitzit, and this is a segulah that one's teeth should not hurt him (a person has thirty-two teeth).

One must be careful not to cut the tzitzit with a knife, rather one should cut them with ones' teeth, for a person has thirty-two teeth.

It is told in the name of the Arizal that one who passes the tzitzit in front of his eyes when reciting Kriyat Shema, is promised that he will not become blind, and one who constantly looks at his tzitzit will merit receiving the Shechina. It is also beneficial for achieving great revelations and brings one to fear of G-d.

Looking at the corner of the tzitzit is also good for removing anger – 'כנף' (corner) has the same numerical value as 'כעס' (anger).

Due to the above reasons, once a child reaches three years of age, he starts to wear tzitzit for this causes a holy spirit to rest on him.

The Difference Between a Guest and a Prisoner

"So that He will not see a shameful thing among you and turn away from behind you" (Devarim 23:15)

When one shows a guest to the table, one walks in front of him to show him to his place.

When taking an offender to prison, the guard walks behind him, to prevent him from escaping.

If so, writes Rabbi Shaul Natanson, when Am Yisrael follow in the way of Hashem, Hashem walks in front of them.

But when they sin, He walks behind them, therefore we are warned "so that He will not see a shameful thing among you and turn away from behind you" – we should not cause Hashem Yitbarach to walk behind us.

A Novel Look at the Parsha

The Holy Ba'al Shem Tov said that a person's soul comes down to this world and lives here for seventy or eighty years so as to benefit us materially and mainly spiritually. Hagaon Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein shlita added that when a person performs Hashem's will and brings his friend benefit, which certainly includes not causing him harm, he has no reason to suspect that he might lose out. There is nothing more worthwhile than fulfilling the will of the Creator, and if He commanded us and warned us to protect the honor of our fellow man and take care not to harm him, whoever does so will never lose out.

Harav Zilberstein related a wonderful story on this topic, in the name of Rabbi Goel Alkrief, which demonstrates the above directive.

There was a religious family of fourteen who set off to spend a few days in a guest house in the Galilee, during the summer vacation. The father had a few thousand shekels in his pocket, which he, together with his children's help, had saved up for the vacation.

In the middle of the journey, after they had already passed the Golan junction, one of the children urgently needed to use the restroom. The father noticed a prestigious restaurant in the distance and asked their driver to stop off there for a few minutes. The father took the child and asked a worker who was standing by the entrance if he could give him permission to use the restaurant's restroom.

The worker told him that the owner had instructed all the staff not to permit this on any account. Since the restaurant was located right in the middle of the route to the Galilee, if word would spread that he allows such a thing, crowds would take advantage. However, the worker looked around and when he saw that no one was watching he allowed the child to enter but asked that he leave as quickly as possible.

Just at that moment, the restaurant owner arrived… He had probably been following the incident on the security cameras and when he saw that the worker had allowed the child to use the restroom, he came right over and asked the father, "What are you doing here?"

The father, a religious and G-d fearing Jew, immediately grasped the situation and understood that if he would tell the real story and reveal that the worker had given them permission to use the restroom, he will be fired on the spot for going against his boss's orders.

In a fraction of a second, he decided to tell the owner that he had come here with his family to dine in the restaurant. This answer satisfied the owner.

The father took out the few thousand shekalim which were meant to pay for the guest house and told the owner, "You see, with this money I will pay for the meal in your restaurant"… All this sacrifice so as not to cause harm to the worker who could have been fired!

So the entire family sat down to eat in the restaurant and the waiters began serving them course after course, bringing food for the parents and all twelve children. One does not need to be good at mathematics to realize that the price amounted to a few thousand shekels. During the meal, a waiter approached and offered the family drinks. Drinks, to those who are unaware, are not given free… The father decided to decline the offer and not order drinks, so as not to inflate the huge bill even more.

But to his surprise, the waiter told him that the owner had instructed him to offer them drinks on his account…

In his innocence, the father thought that because the owner was aware of the huge sum that the meal had cost them, he had decided to include the drinks free of charge.

The meal ended and it was now time for dessert. Here too, due to the astronomical price, the father decided that he and his family had no need to indulge in dessert. But again to his surprise, the waiter announced that the owner had instructed him to present them with dessert free of charge.

They finished eating and the father went to pay the thousands of shekel that the meal had cost him. He stood by the desk while the cashier rung up the account and then presented him with the receipt. He glanced at the receipt and almost fainted… After a detailed reckoning of all the dishes, the final sum indeed amounted to a few thousand shekels. Yet three words were printed on the receipt: 'Not for payment'! In other words, the family was not being charged a shekel for the entire meal!

Seeing the enormous surprise on the father's face, the restaurant owner approached him, shook his hand warmly and said: "Tell me, do you really think that I did not grasp your clever tactic? Do you think that I don’t know that you came here not to eat but to use the restroom?

Do you think that I am not aware that you did all this so that I should not fire my worker who gave you his consent?"

"I understood exactly what your intentions were," concluded the restaurant owner. "And when I saw your nobility and good-heartedness, and the fact that you were prepared to give up thousands of shekel so as not to cause harm to another Jew, I decided to give you the meal for free! You can go on your way in peace, I am not prepared to take an agurah from you!" The owner added that by sending him drinks and dessert 'on the house' he was trying to hint to his decision…

This story demonstrates that if one has good intentions one never loses out!


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