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The Crown of Halacha

Shoftim 5777 – War is Upon Us!

This entry is part 5 of 9 in the series Devarim 5777

Shoftim 5777 – War is Upon Us!

He shall say to them, “Hear O’ Israel, you are coming to battle against your enemies; let your heart not be faint; do not be afraid, do not panic, and do not be broken before them.” (Devarim 20:3)

The Mishna in Sotah 42A explains:

  • Let not your heart be faint – at the neighing of the horses and the brandishing of swords.
  • Do not be afraid – by the crash of shields and the tramp of the soldier’s boots.
  • Do not panic – at the sound of their trumpets.
  • And do not be broken – by the sound of battle cries.

For Hashem is your God, is the One Who goes with you, to fight for you with your enemies, to save you. (20:4)

The Chafetz Chaim says that often times the struggle against the evil inclination is expressed in war terms and the “methods used in war that bring fear upon man.” Ideally, this will bring a man to contemplate on the source of his fear and realize that if he fears the One he then fears no one.

However, there are other ways to reach a high level of yirat shemayim:

Would you classify the following activities as life threatening: a plane trip, driving a car, riding in an elevator, taking an ocean cruise, a hike in the mountains, a swim in the sea, etc?  Well, even stepping up on a ladder can be risky, as we all know. Yet rarely do we stop to contemplate the danger that is always close at hand and that it is only Hashem’s continual divine providence that protects us from death!

Still, it seems that the best way of arousing our fear and awareness is through the imagery of waging a war. The following story will explain why this is so.

Rodger Tutt, a WWll vet, explicitly addresses the issue of atheism during a war.  Recalling the hours he lay at the bottom of a deep crevasse, dehydrated, alone and with a broken leg, he states:  “At first I was totally convinced I was on my own, that no one was ever coming to get me. I had stopped believing in God many years before becoming a soldier.  Until I was faced with death, it never once occurred to me what it really meant to die. And by contemplating my death I understood how much I wanted to live.  I began to pray fervently, begging God to save my life and I immediately felt calmer, knowing that I had appealed to the most powerful force possible.”  He was rescued shortly after.

War is a powerful teacher. It gives us a taste of pure, unadulterated fear. The lesson Chazal teaches us by invoking the image of war is how to value life.

Our war with the evil inclination is not a concept; it is a raging battle for our soul that never ceases. How can we possibly defeat such a powerful enemy? It is only after coming to the realization the only way out of the foxhole is by praying to Hashem.


Series Navigation<< Reah 5777 – It’s Not About the Money!Ki Seitsei 5777 – Amalek Stands at the Head of All Evil >>
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