Ki Tetzei 5779
Ki Tetzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19 )
GOOD MORNING! Everyone loves a story -- particularly a true story and especially a story with a surprise and a happy ending. Even better is when there is a message which we can incorporate into our own lives. That is why I am sharing with you a wonderful article, "Meriting a Miracle," written by one of the writers I hold in high esteem, Rabbi Avi Shafran. Here is the article:
In 1943, after more than three years of German control over France, the Great Synagogue of Lyon continued to function. That December 10, the Lyon Milice, the shock troops of the Vichy government, decided to put an end to the Jewish worship.
The synagogue's rabbi survived the war to tell the tale, which is recorded in a book about Klaus Barbie, the infamous "Butcher of Lyon" (which is also the title of the book, by Brendan Murphy - Empire/Harper & Row, 1983). A member of the Milice quietly entered the rear of the sanctuary that Friday night during services. Armed with three hand grenades, he intended to lob them into the crowd of standing worshippers from behind, and to escape before the explosions. After silently opening the door and entering the room unnoticed by anyone but the rabbi (who stood facing the congregation), he pulled the pins.
What he saw, though, so shook him that he remained wide-eyed and motionless for a crucial moment, and then only managed to toss the grenades a few feet before fleeing. Several worshippers were injured by shrapnel but none were killed.
What had so flabbergasted the Nazi was the sudden, unexpected sight of his intended victims' faces, as the congregation, as if on cue, turned as one on its heels to face him.
The would-be mass-murderer had entered the shul precisely at "bo'i b'shalom," the last stanza of the liturgical poem Lecha Dodi, when worshippers traditionally turn toward the door to welcome the Sabbath. The account came to mind of late because it is, at least to me, a striking reminder of something truly fundamental yet easily forgotten. We Jews often survive on miracles.
To be sure, we don't base our belief on them, as do some religions. Maimonides famously wrote that the miracles recounted in the Torah - even the parting of the Red Sea - are demonstrations not of God's existence but rather of His love for His people. We know God exists because of our carefully preserved historical tradition that He communicated with our ancestors at Mt. Sinai, an event we celebrate on Shavuot.
All the same, though, His love and His miracles underlie our existence.
Our tradition teaches that our foremother Sarah was biologically incapable of conceiving a child; the very beginning of our people thus was miraculous. The perseverance of the Jewish people over the millennia is a miracle, as is our rebirth after countless decimations.
And recent Jewish history has been no less miraculous. When Israel destroyed the assortment of Arab armies arrayed against it in 1967, even hardened military men well aware of the Israeli air force and army's skill and determination spoke of miracles. And the rescue at Entebbe in 1976 may have entailed special-forces acumen, but sensitive Jews saw on it the clear fingerprints of the miraculous as well. And, in 1981, they recognized no less in the destruction of the Iraqi nuclear plant at Osirak, signs not only of military might but of miracle, of God's love.
None of which is to belittle the tremendous efforts of Israel's military, may its members be safe and protected. But while "this world" efforts must always be made, believing Jews maintain a concomitant consciousness of the fact that success and failure are determined by something considerably more sublime. In the perspective of our religious tradition, that something is our merit as a people - our kindness to one another, our prayers, our study of Torah and our performance of mitzvot. In the end, those are the things, our tradition teaches us, that will make all the difference. In the Torah we read how the Jews, led by Joshua, fought the Amalekites. When Moses held his hands high, the verse continues, the Jews waxed victorious. "Were Moses' hands waging war?" asks the Mishna. The answer, it continues, is that "when the Jews eyes [inspired by Moses' hands] were lifted heavenward, they were militarily victorious."
In these terribly trying times for Jews, when hatred carefully nurtured for decades has erupted in a plague of vicious murder ... it behooves us to remember that fact. We all ask ourselves what we can do on behalf of our beleaguered brothers and sisters. There are many things, to be sure.
But at the very top of each of our lists should be: prayer; with concentration and heart; charity, with generosity and concern; Jewish observance, with care and determination; Torah-study, with effort and commitment.
Because, unified spiritually by the expression of our common Jewish religious heritage, we are doing something nothing else can do: meriting a miracle.
Ki Tetzei, 21:10 - 25:19
Topics in this week's portion include: Women Captives, First-Born's Share, The Rebellious Son, Hanging and Burial, Returning Lost Articles, The Fallen Animal, Transvestitism, The Bird's Nest, Guard-Rails, Mixed Agriculture, Forbidden Combinations, Bound Tassels, Defamed Wife, Penalty for Adultery, Betrothed Maiden, Rape, Unmarried Girl, Mutilated Genitals, Mamzer, Ammonites & Moabites, Edomites & Egyptians, The Army Camp, Sheltering Slaves, Prostitution, Deducted Interest, Keeping Vows, Worker in a Vineyard, Field Worker, Divorce and Remarriage, New Bridegroom, Kidnapping, Leprosy, Security for Loans, Paying Wages on Time, Testimony of Close Relatives, Widows and Orphans, Forgotten Sheaves, Leftover Fruit, Flogging, The Childless Brother-in-Law, Weights and Measures, Remembering What Amalek Did to Us.
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based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Almighty, your God, will give him into your hand..." (Deut. 21:10).
The Arizal, a great Kabbalist, noted that the verse refers to the Jewish people in the singular. However, regarding our enemies, it starts out in the plural ("enemies") and the verse ends referring to them in the singular ("give him" -- instead of writing "give them"). Since this is not a case of poor editorship, what is the lesson that the Torah is coming to teach us?
The Arizal elucidates: The Torah is telling us that if we have unity and are as one when we go out against our enemies, then even though our enemies are very numerous, you will be victorious as easily as if they were just one.
The importance of unity for accomplishment applies not only during times of war against an enemy. It is just as necessary during times of peace. When a group of people will work on any project with a spirit of togetherness, they will accomplish much more than if they would each be doing things as separate individuals.
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
Guatemala 6:15 - Hong Kong 6:11 - Honolulu 6:18
J'Burg 5:42 - London 7:02 - Los Angeles 6:45
Melbourne 5:50 - Mexico City 7:23 - Miami 7:09
New York 6:51 - Singapore 6:46 - Toronto 7:14
If only My people would heed Me,
if Israel would walk in My ways ...
in an instant I would subdue their foes,
and against their tormentors turn My hand.
-- Psalm 81