Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 21   No. 49

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Menuchah bas Boruch Zvi Mordechai a"h lybc"l
on her nineteenth Yohrzeit (13th Elul)

Parshas Ki Seitzei

Going to War
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

"When you go to war against your enemies, and Hashem your G-d delivers them into your hands and you take captives " (21:10).

The Oznayim la'Torah extrapolates from this Pasuk a number of timeless lessons connected with warfare:


War Tactics

The first lesson, he says is that, when fighting our enemies, we should not wait for them to enter our territory, thereby allowing them to wreak havoc at home, despite the assurance that G-d is on our side and that we will eventually defeat them. It is preferable for us to take the initiative and attack him on his territory or at least in no man's land, thereby avoiding the spoiling of our land.

This is inherent in the popular mantra 'The best method of defense is attack'.


Neighbours Aren't Enemies

Secondly, the Torah refers to "your enemies". This precludes neighbours with whom one has fallen out. Should that happen, it is advisable to patch up one's quarrels and to do whatever is possible to retain the good neighbourly relationship that existed before the conflict began.

The importance of such a relationship cannot be overestimated. Indeed, the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos, remarks that, after a good heart, a good neighbor is one of the four most important assets to aim for.


Enemies, Not Fellow-Jews

Thirdly, the Torah writes enemies, to preclude fellow-Jews. Indeed, we find, in the civil war between Yehudah and Yisrael (the ten tribes), where, following the instructions of the Navi, the Pasuk writes in Divrei ha'Yamim 2, (28:15) "The men mentioned by name arose; they took hold of the captives (of Yehudah), they clothed all their naked from the booty; they dressed them and gave them shoes, fed them and gave them to drink; all the weak ones they led on donkeys and they brought them to their brothers in Yericho before returning to Shomron" (as Rashi cited earlier in 20:3).

Jews do not take Jews captive, and may certainly not marry women against their wishes. Consequently, the current Parshah is not applicable to them.


A Well-known Trap

Fourthly, says the Oznayim la'Torah, it is only after "G-d has given the enemy into your hands", once the battle is won, that the concession of taking a woman as described in the Parshah, applies. As long as one is fighting (aside from the fact that one should concentrate one's efforts on defeating the enemy), it is not uncommon for women in similar situations to act as spies, so that taking a woman in wartime would constitute endangering the entire camp of Yisra'el. We have the precedent of Rachav ha'Zonah, who assisted Pinchas and Calev, when they spied out Yericho, as related at the beginning of Yehoshua.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

Returning a Lost Ox

"Do not see your brother's ox or his lamb going astray and hide (your eyes) from it " (22:1).

The Oznayim la'Torah asks why, having taught us the same ruling in Mishpatim, only with regard to the ox of 'one's enemy', the Torah sees fit to repeat it here with regard to one's brother's ox?

Otherwise, he explains, we would have thought that the objective of the Mitzvah is to overcome one's Yeitzer-ha'Ra and to make peace with one's fellow-Jew. The Torah therefore teaches us here that returning a lost article to its owner is a Mitzvah in itself.

And the reason that the Torah inserts the Mitzvah in Mishpatim, is to teach us that in addition to the Mitzvah of returning a lost article to its owner, there is a Mitzvah of overcoming one's Yeitzer ha'Ra. Consequently, where the option exists of returning the lost article of a friend or that of an enemy, one should choose the latter - not only because two Mitzvos are better than one, but because overcoming one's Yeitzer ha'Ra is hard, and Chazal have said (in Pirkei Avos, end of the fifth chapter) 'the harder the Mitzvah, the greater the reward'.


Women May Not Carry Weapons

"The vessels of a man shall not be on a woman" (22:5).

Unklus explains this with reference to a woman carrying a weapon and going out to war.

This is the opinion of Rebbi Eliezer ben Ya'akov in Nazir (Daf 59), and is cited by the Rambam le'Halachah.

This interpretation, the Oznayim la'Torah explains, is based on the fact that the Torah uses the expression "vessels on a woman", as opposed to 'wearing the clothes of a man' (as it does with regard to the prohibition of men wearing women's clothing).

And he attributes the reason for the prohibition to the fact that G-d created women to create life, not to snuff it out.

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