Parashat Ki Tetse is always read during the month of Elul, in preparation for Rosh Hashana (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). In this month we are at war – “Ki Tetse (when you go forth) to war against your enemies, and the Lord your G-d will deliver him into your hands, and you will take his captives” (Deuteronomy 21:10) – a war for identity. The month of Elul is a time of return to our “true self”, discarding the “false self” and reconnecting to the soul. This month and the ten days of repentance that follow give us the unique power to help us with this spiritual work.
The “Ohev Yisrael” (the Apta Rav), points out that the Torah does not indicate that we will be forced to fight, but rather that the struggle is about the battle with the real enemy within, i.e., the despondency, pain, anger, helplessness and pessimism. The basis in the study of Kabbalah is to allow us to recognize the enemy, those negative feelings and emotions and replace them with Light, creativity, health, productivity, hope and enlightenment, so that we can be creators and fulfill our purpose in this world. When we declare war over this enemy, consequently “the Lord your God will deliver them into your hands” and the Light will enter bringing luck and blessing.
The Torah conveys the words “…and you will take his captives”, rather than “and you will bring back captives”, and thereby teaches that we are to take back those powers that the enemy had taken away from us in the past. It is important to remember that the peak of darkness and despair is before dawn, before victory, and increased struggle is a sign that victory is near.
The Parasha concludes with one of the important issues in the Torah – the Mitsva to “Remember that which Amalek (a Biblical enemy) did to you” (Deuteronomy 25:17). The Torah reminds us to beware and not stumble over the sin of vanity and arrogance, for even with devotion to the Creator we are still susceptible to impropriety and could fall into the hands of Amalek, which is the safek, or uncertainty (the numerical value of “Amalek” and “safek” each amounts to 240) of the Light, uncertainty over whether good will triumph, that ultimately “the Lord your G-d will deliver him into your hands”. The way to remember and remind others is by living our lives so that we each renounce and eliminate the Amalek from our every deed, word, thought and conduct.
As we recall, Amalek attacked the Israelites just after they left a place called Refidim in the desert. Interpreters reveal that “Refidim” broken down is “Refi yadaim” (giving up), i.e., when we cease to fight, to make an effort or believe, is when Amalek will appear.
Parashat Ki Tetse contains the secret of redemption, the Messianic Era, a time when human beings stop believing in evil and hopelessness, instead, they begin to believe in good and perform good deeds. As good increases exponentially, it will bring redemption and the end of agony and suffering.
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