Every year, at the beginning of the month of Elul, we read the Torah portion of Ki Teitzei, which starts with the words, “When you go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem, your G-d, will deliver him into your hands…”
Many of the commentaries highlight that, more than merely referring to a physical war, this verse alludes to a spiritual battle – our internal battle against the yetzer hara (evil inclination), which presents us with the harmful desires and distractions we face on the journey of life. This would, indeed, explain the use of the singular, “deliver him into your hands”.
Each of us has our inner battle to wage. For some of us, it may have been the same battle, striving to overcome the same weaknesses for many years. For others, it may be different challenges in different stages of life. But one thing is certain – we all fight, we all struggle, and we all wage an inner battle.
To accomplish and achieve in life, we must be willing to fight. Our dreams and aspirations won’t materialise without strife and difficulty. As Ethics of the Fathers records Ben Hei Hei as saying, “According to the effort is the reward” or, as we would say, “No pain, no gain.”
In this month of Elul, we reflect on our achievements and the shortcomings of the past year. Too often, we fail to reach our goals simply because we stopped fighting when life got tough. When we got knocked down, we failed to rise again. Show me the verse in Torah which promises us an easy life!
We must remind ourselves that our nemesis, the yetzer hara, appears in many guises. This would explain the plural form, “enemies”, in the above-quoted verse. Perhaps as feelings of apathy and complacency that creep in and multiply? Perhaps as self-doubt, taunting us that we can’t?
We must realise that just as Hashem as resourced the yetzer hara, he has adequately provided for the yetzer tov (good inclination) as well. We have the divine tools at our disposal to accomplish and succeed. More than that, we have the greatest ally, as we read in last week’s portion, “For it’s Hashem, your G-d, who marches with you to do battle for you against your enemy, to bring you victory.”
Notwithstanding the enemies lurking on all fronts and in all forms, and, notwithstanding the obstacles we must overcome at every turn, if we persevere down the path of personal accomplishment and self-growth, Hashem will deliver our enemies into our hands. It’s Hashem’s promise to us!
This Elul and beyond, as we gird ourselves with our battle gear of Torah and mitzvos, let us, most importantly, not forget our shield of faith. Let us put our trust in Hashem as we march side by side onto the battleground.
May you all be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet new year!