This week’s parshah includes some of the laws pertaining to Bnei Yisrael going to war. Even though most of us will never participate in a battle, there are still a variety of laws and concepts to be learned from here.
The parshah opens, “כִּי תֵצֵא לַמִּלְחָמָה עַל אֹיְבֶיךָ וּנְתָנוֹ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּיָדֶךָ וְשָׁבִיתָ שִׁבְיוֹ” “When you go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem, your God, will deliver him into your hands, and you will take his captives.” (Devarim 21:10). The Kli Yakar asks several questions on the wording of this pasuk. (Please remember that these questions are applicable to the original Hebrew text of the pasuk. As such, they may not seem to be grammatical errors based on our English translation.)
First, why does the pasuk say, “when you go out to war”, shouldn’t it read along the lines of “when you shall fight a war”? Secondly, when the pasuk uses the word “לַמִּלְחָמָה”, it implies that you are merely going to observe the war, not to actually fight. Why doesn’t the pasuk use a word that implies you actually going to fight against the enemy? Lastly, why does the pasuk say “you will take his captives”, meaning from the nation. Shouldn’t it simply read that you will take captives without anything extra?
The Ramban explains in a later pasuk in this week’s parshah (23:10) that when you go to war, you must be very careful to stay away from speaking badly against your fellow soldiers. Lashon Hara leads to discord among the troops which, when it comes to Bnei Yisrael, causes even more damage than the actual battle. Hashem wants us to remain united, if we do not, He removes His Shechinah from us and we become just another group of people going out to war. Our true strength lies in our unity, which brings Hashem to us.
The Kli Yakar uses this explanation to explain the wording of our pasuk. First, the pasuk tells us that we must leave our homes to go out to war; there should not be a ‘war’ inside our own cities. The pasuk stresses this point further by saying we should go to war instead of saying we should go to fight. This implies that we are not leaving a ‘war’, meaning discord, behind us in order to go to more war. Behind us is peace and harmony, ahead of us lies a battle. This is also why the pasuk needs to tell us that we are going to fight our enemies. After all, who else would we be fighting? Rather, it is coming to tell us that we should only fight our enemies and not each other. Finally, the pasuk tells us that we should capture the enemy and not try to capture our friends in our war of words.
This lesson is not only for soldiers, but also for ordinary citizens as well. Furthermore, this lesson is not only for wartime, but also for anytime society places us together as a group (meaning always). Our greatest strength is our unity. It brings Hashem’s presence down to us and helps us fulfill any promise or potential. As we move towards Rosh Hashanah, we are in the middle of a war, not against an outside enemy, but an internal one. We must fight against ourselves and any bad habits we may have in our quest to become true servants of Hashem. Unity can help us in this war as well. By knowing that our friends stand behind us, and us behind them, in our journey towards perfection, it can provide us with that spiritually uplifting push we need to help us succeed.
For any questions, comments, or to subscribe to our email list, please email is at AIMeMtorah@gmail.com.
Check out our other AIMeMTorah project, Nation's Wisdom!