Parshat Ki Taitzai
If you open any translation of this week’s Torah reading, it will likely begin: “If you go out to war against your enemies.” But if you look at the original Hebrew, you will see that this is only an approximate rendition. “Al", the Hebrew word translated as “against,” really means “over” or “above”.
With this choice of wording, the Torah teaches us a fundamental lesson about warfare. To be victorious in war, you’ve got to be “above your enemy”. As long as two foes are on the same level, there will be no true victor. The only way to achieve true victory is to be truly superior.
The same is true when the enemy is not external, but part of our being as is often referred to as the “Yaitzer Hara". We have both material and spiritual desires within us and there is a dynamic tension between them as each seek to control our consciousness and our actions.
In this vein, we can appreciate the importance of being “above your enemy”. If our spiritual tendencies are fighting with the same type of weapons - i.e., our ordinary type of feeling and thought - as our material tendencies, neither side is going to achieve a real victory. But we have within us a truly superior spiritual potential; our soul which is “an actual part of G-d”. When we bring this spiritual core into expression, we are head and shoulders above the way our materially oriented processes work.
The opening verse in this week’s Parsha is reminding us that in order to vanquish our Yaitzer Hara we must always be vigilant and strong to allow our Yaitzer Hatov to guide our daily choices.
Mrs. Tirtza Schapiro
High School Judaics