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Ki Seitzei

When you will go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem, your G-d, will deliver them into your hand, and you will capture its captivity (Devarim 21:10).
The commentaries write that this passage is an illusion to the battle one must rage against the Forces of Evil who are trying to destroy him or her spiritually.

We are now in the midst of the month of Elul during which one should be involved in teshuvah (repentance) in anticipation of the Days of Awe which are quickly approaching. All around the world, and especially in Israel, kiruv (outreach) organizations are successfully bringing thousands of Jews back to their roots. It is truly remarkable to hear how even people who were fanatically anti-religious are now totally devoted to Torah and mitzvahs. What is the secret of this phenomenal success?

With all due respect to the dedicated people who work sacrificially to reach out to those who are estranged from the Torah, I believe that it is not they who are so successfully accomplishing this lofty goal. They are merely tools in the hands of Hashem Who is the One Who is actually reaching out to His children. Very soon Moshiach will arrive and there will be a major celebration among the Jewish Nation who waited so long for that day. Every father who marries off one of his children wants all of his other children to partake in that special occasion, even those who may live on the other side of the globe, and he will do all that he can to see to it that they all attend. Similarly, Hashem wants all of His children to participate in the tremendous simchah that will be happening soon and it is He, Personally, Who is reaching out to them and bringing them home. And sometimes He does this in remarkable ways.

The following story is recounted in Aleynu Lishabeach, by Hagaon, Harav Yitzchak Zilberstein Shlita.

Unfortunately, it was very common in "the New World" that religious people's sons did not continue their parents' lifestyle in "modern America." What, then, could be expected of their own children who did not even witness a religious home like their parents did?

Young James, however, had a custom to visit his grandfather every Friday night for a little while. Whenever he came, he saw the same scene: the table was set with a beautiful white tablecloth and his grandfather was singing Eishes Chayil (a Woman of Valor) with a very moving tune. He didn't understand Hebrew, of course, so the only thing he could appreciate was the melody. But he enjoyed what he heard and what he saw and it made an indelible impression upon him. Sometimes, he would even ask his grandfather to sing it again and again.

The truth is that James wasn't really sure why he kept up this custom to visit every week, without fail. He had absolutely no connection with his grandfather, who seemed to be from another planet, and he only stayed a few minutes and barely spoke to him at all, except for "hello" and "goodbye." Nevertheless, something seemed to draw him to go back again and again. Years passed and James grew up and became engaged to wed. The girl he chose was not religious, of course, but at least she was Jewish. Before the wedding, the groom asked the bride to agree to his strange request that, although they had no intention of building a religious home, nevertheless, every Friday night they would put a white tablecloth on their table and sing his grandfather's niggun (tune). The bride agreed, especially when he sang it to her and she heard for herself how beautiful it was.

After a while, James' wife decided that she wanted to know what the words to the song meant. But he didn't even know what they were. Finally, they went to a store in Boro Park, Brooklyn, where they sold Jewish tape recordings and books. When the salesman asked them what they wanted, James asked him if he recognized the tune which he began to sing for him. He explained that he used to hear his grandfather sing it every Friday night and he wanted to find the words to it. After James sang it a few times, the salesman said that he was quite sure that his grandfather must have been singing Eishes Chayil with this tune and he gave them a Shabbos Zemiros book which had the song in it along with some commentaries.

At home, James' wife studied the song, which is actually a chapter in Mishlei (Proverbs), along with its commentaries, again and again. Finally she said that if Judaism has such respect for women then she wants to keep its mitzvahs. She influenced James to become religious together with her and today they share a truly Jewish home, and their sons and daughters attend religious schools.

Now James, who calls himself Binyamin, understands why Hashem caused him to want to visit his grandfather every Friday night.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel