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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Ki Teitzei

Parshat Ki Teitzei

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Ki Teitzei                                                                         Print Version
14 Elul, 5782 | September 10, 2022

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi YY Jacobson
Every Jew Religious

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz was a very insightful man, having written dozens upon dozens of books, and notably translating the Talmud into what is known today as the Steinsaltz Gemara.

He lived in a German colony in Jerusalem, and on Shabbos morning, he used to daven in the Old City. One Shabbos morning, on his way to shul, he met a liberal arts professor, who he had known of. They exchanged hellos, after which the professor asked where Rabbi Steinsaltz was heading. “I’m going to synagogue,” replied Rabbi Steinsaltz. “And where are you going?” he turned around to ask. “I’m going to the one restaurant in Jerusalem where they serve sell bacon and eggs. Every Saturday, I make sure to go there for a breakfast of bacon and eggs.” Rabbi Steinsaltz was intrigued.

“And what do you do for lunch?” “There’s a bar where you can still find real yayin nesech, wine that is prohibited to a Jew. I go there for Shabbos lunch.” “Wow,” continued Rabbi Steinsaltz. “And what do you do for Shalosh Seudos, the third Shabbos meal?” “There’s one place where you can get fresh shrimp, so in honor of the third meal, I head there.” “And what do you do between the meals?” pressed Rabbi Steinsaltz further. “I make sure to go to the beach and carry the books that I read.

This was this professor’s Shabbos schedule. But Rabbi Steinsaltz was a smart man.

“I’m jealous of you.” The professor was confused. “Why are you jealous of me?” “I’m jealous because of how much Shabbos affects you. I can’t say Shabbos affects me as much. For me, Shabbos can be routine and perhaps unexciting. But you, you don’t just read a novel on Shabbos. You have to find a place where they serve bacon and shrimp and you’re busy carrying. You also observe Shabbos; you just do it in a little bit of a different way than I do. But I see that Shabbos really gets to you. Every Shabbos, you need to do something so that you can celebrate it.”

The professor became Shomer Shabbos, observing Shabbos in the right way, in due time. He realized the truth of what Rabbi Steinsaltz was saying.

A Christian once told me, after being asked what he thought about Jews. “All Jews are religious,” he said. “Even Jewish atheists are religious. They deny G-d with religious fervor. A Jew doesn’t know how to not be religious.”

Jews are religious. They are deeply committed. The question is to what? The greatest revolutions in history were started by Jews, because we have a revolutionary spirit. Every Jew wants to change the world. Every Jew wants to bring Moshiach. Every Jew wants to make the world a good world. The question is how it will be done.

And Shabbos is part of that spirit. It is embedded in the DNA of the Jewish soul, no matter what.

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein zt”l
A Knock on Our Door

Shlomo Hamelech’s most poetic of writings, Shir HaShirim, is filled with God’s most impassioned and expressive love towards us. Its words awaken us to remember His unbounded affection of us, and spurs us to take steps of our own to experience this delightful relationship.

In Chapter Five, Shlomo Hamelech paints the following scene.

Hashem comes to “His garden,” a metaphor for us, the Jewish nation. He enters our hearts and souls, referring to us as His sister and bride, terms of beloved endearment. He brings with Him aromatic spices and fragrances, awaiting the moment we will see one another and feel the depth of each other’s love.

But what are we, the Jewish nation, doing?

“I am sleeping,” Shlomo Hamelech writes. We are resting, our eyelids closed and head nestled on the soft and cool side of the pillow. However, adds Shlomo, “my heart is awake.” Our feelings for God, however dormant they may seem, are alive as ever.

As we lie on our beds, reclining and relaxing, we hear a sound. It’s coming from the front of the house. Someone is banging on the door, or more accurately, our souls. Hashem is stirring us to come close to Him. That knocking on our soul is that feeling which reverberates in our heart and mind that we want to change, come close to Hashem and better our life.

“Open up!” God pleads of us. “Open up your heart!” Hashem wants to talk to us. Hashem wants a relationship with us. “Open up My sister, My beloved friend, My dove, My perfect one.” God has such endearing ways to refer to us. Then Hashem continues.

“My head is dripping with dew.” Hashem comes to us with an abundance of blessing, as if it’s dripping off His head.

But what do we answer? “I’m sorry Hashem, I already took off my clothing and am in my bed in pajamas. I can’t put them on again! I took a shower already and am clean. If I get up, I’m going to get dirty!”

To this answer of ours that we don’t want to open up our heart, Hashem has no choice but to turn around and leave.

But then something happens, God forbid. Illness strikes, no shidduch comes through for months, a couple goes for years without children, a family seriously struggles financially. When this occurs, we get out of bed and open the door! Now we need someone. When Hashem comes to us, we were sleeping; but now that we need Hashem, we spring into action.

Now we open the door. We look for Hashem, frantically wandering the city, but He isn’t anywhere to be found. We call out to Him, but He doesn’t answer. The guards circling the city find us wildly running and searching for God, and must contain our disorderly behavior. They beat us. We feel pain in our legs, tears streaming down our cheeks and aching in our heart. We want to send a message to Hashem, but what can we tell Him now?

Should we pout and cry out with tears, “I’m sorry … Forgive me!” No. That’s not it. It doesn’t work, Shlomo Hamelech tells us.

Rather, do the following. Approach the daughters of Jerusalem and say, “Swear to me that if you find My beloved, Hashem, tell him, ‘I am sick in love with You.’” Don’t tell Hashem that you are bad, that you did something wrong. Don’t tell him that you need His forgiveness, and that You want Him to help you. Just tell God one thing: My soul is sick for Your love.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is not about beating ourselves up. It’s about a relationship with God. And when you find yourself lost in despair and without knowing how to get yourself close to God again, just tell Him that you love Him. There is nothing more important to you. You grow sick without His love and everything you want is Him.

When you tell Hashem this, He will find His way back into your heart again. He will fill your life with His presence and nourish your soul.

When this happens, you will slowly come to realize that He in fact never left. All that you just needed to do was open the door and allow Him into your heart.

And with that, the rest is a beloved future.

Rebbetzin Chaya Sora Gertzulin
Not Finders Keepers

Finders keepers, losers weepers.

A child’s chant, but for those immersed in Torah and mitzvos, hashavas aveidah, returning a lost item is a way of life.

We read in Parshas Ki Seitzei about the obligation to go out of one’s way to return lost property. “… you shall surely return them to your brother.” (Devarim 22:1)

The Torah continues: “So shall you do for his donkey, so shall you do for his garment, so shall you do for any article of your brother that may become lost from him and you find it, you shall not hide yourself.” (Devarim 22:3).

It was an “errand running” morning. I dropped off some clothing at the cleaners, and on my way back to the car I spotted a beautiful, well-made jacket laying on the sidewalk.  I assumed that someone must have had an armful of dry cleaning, and dropped the jacket on the way to the cleaners.

I did an about-face – back to the cleaners, this time with the jacket in hand.

“Does this look familiar to you? It must have been part of a set. Did anyone drop off a matching skirt?”

“Oh yes. Someone was just here… but we couldn’t do same day service so they left.”

I asked the proprietor if she could just hold on to the jacket, hoping that the owner would return to retrieve it, but she didn’t want to get involved.

“Would you know the name of the person so I can contact them?”

“Hirsch family.”

That’s all the info I had. But determined to do hashavas aveidah, I took the jacket home, and got to work, hoping to locate its owner.

I dialed several Hirsch families in the neighborhood. Finally… Success! I found a grateful owner. I sensed a feeling of relief in her voice. She couldn’t figure out where she may have lost the jacket. It made her outfit. Without it, the skirt lost “the look”.

I lucked out. HaShem gave me an opportunity to do a mitzvah. He placed the lost object right before me. He even made it relatively painless for me to locate the owner.

Opportunities for mitzvos come our way every day; we just have to pick up upon them.

We can all use an extra mitzvah before Rosh HaShanah. Mitzvos where we can help a fellow Jew in any one of a myriad of ways. Let’s all try to see the world of mitzvos that are right before us.

The mitzvah of hashavas aveidah is mentioned twice in the Torah. In Parshas Mishpatim, we are instructed to return a lost ox or a wandering donkey to “oyivcha – your enemy”. (Shemos 23:4). And, in Parshas Ki Seitzei, the Torah commands us to return lost property to “ochicho – your brother”.

Why the change of terminology from oyivcha to ochicho – from enemy to brother? One of the Torah commentators explains that herein lies an important life lesson. Unfortunately, we all come across people whom we view as “the enemy”. People with whom we disagree, people we have difficulty getting along with, people whom we consider to be difficult. Even then, the Torah teaches us, we must make a concerted effort to help them, to return their lost possessions. In the process, with HaShem’s help, we become achim – brothers. Doing favors, showing kindness to one another, brings people closer together.

Acheinu kol beis Yisroel. We are all brothers. When we are there for each other, we truly all become one.

The parshah opens with the words “Ki seitzei la’milchamah al oyivecha, when you go out to war against your enemies.” Each of the parshiyos we customarily read in Chodesh Elul is there to give us a preparatory message as we approach Rosh HaShanah. “When you out to war….” Each of us has an inner enemy, the yetzer harah, that inner voice that tells us “”It’s hard. I can’t. It’s not for me. I can’t be bothered. It’s not my problem, not my worry. Let someone else take care of it. I don’t have the time, the energy, the ability.” It’s a war against that niggling voice we all hear from time to time, a voice that we have to fight.

HaShem gives us the opportunities. Like the jacket that was laying on the sidewalk, we just have to pick up on our messages.

The Or HaChaim gives us a beautiful insight into the mitzvah of hashavas aveidah. “Hosheiv teshiveim – you shall surely return them”. “Them”, says the Or HaChaim, can also be referring to our lost brothers and sisters. “V’im lo korov ochicha eilecha – When your brother is not near you”, meaning a fellow Jew who may be lost, distanced, or wandering without purpose or mission, we are commanded “v’asaftoh el toch beisecha -- “you shall gather them into your house”, to bring them in and help them find HaShem.

My mother, the Rebbetzin would tell of a father who had twelve sons. Each one of the sons had “issues”, save one. Either they were ill, experienced life challenges, or just lost contact with the father. The one seemingly problem-free son would come often visit his father, telling him not to worry about his brothers. “I’m here. Have nachas from me.”

But the father had no peace, and no rest, as long as any one of his children was in pain. Little does the one son coming and saying “have nachas from me” comfort the father, who loves all of his children.

It’s Chodesh Elul. HaShem is our Father. It’s not enough to say to HaShem, “Look at me. I’m doing well. I’m keeping Torah and mitzvos”. HaShem cannot rest as long as even one child is wandering, is in pain, is distanced from his Father.

None of us is the “ideal” child. Each of us is lacking. Surely, we must begin by bringing ourselves “home” – closer to HaShem. But we must not ignore the many who are searching for spirituality and are unaware of the rich heritage of our people. It is our responsibility to open our hearts, to bring them “home” to HaShem, to Torah and to mitzvos.

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