“If you go out to war against your enemies, and God delivers them into your hands, and you take captives…” (Devarim 21:10)
The literal reference here is to a voluntary war, Rashi reminds us, versus an obligatory war (milchemet mitzvah) – against 7 specific idol-worshipping and immoral Canaanite nations that we were commanded to destroy upon entering the Land, and includes every battle to protect our country and People today.
But the personal aspect of this pasuk resounds clearly as well.
Each day we go out to war, often with ourselves.
The parasha is full of examples of mitzvot that require both effort and restraint – a man must wait a month before marrying a woman captive of war, we must go out of our way to return lost animals or objects to their owners, and we must be super honest in weights and measures – i.e. all of our business dealings.
During a visit to Rachel’s Tomb this week, I heard a short and lovely dvar Torah on this theme, which I shared later that day at my daughter’s new rank ceremony upon becoming a Captain, after 5 plus years in the Israeli Air Force.
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chassidut Chabad, describes each person as having a “Nefesh Elokit” (Divine Soul) and a “Nefesh Behamit” (Earthly/Animal Soul), that both complement and struggle with one another.
Every morning when we open our eyes, we must choose who will command us through the day – our “Nefesh Elokit,” which strives upwards and pushes us to behave with faith, joy, honesty, optimism, holiness, and a desire to raise up others? Or our “Nefesh Behamit,” which can pull us downwards towards sadness, impulsiveness, self-absorption, laziness, or jealousy.
Afterwards, my daughter told me that the concepts of “Nefesh Elokit” and “Nefesh Behemit” from her L’Chaim were being bantered around the hallways of the IAF Leadership and Command School, in the context of work discussions on leadership and motivation!
May this eternal wisdom of the “Baal HaTanya” help inform the decisions of our pilots and soldiers, and protect each one of us in the battlefield of our hearts every day!
To a revitalizing month of Elul and Shabbat Shalom!