In Biblical times Jewish solders were held to an extremely high standard of personal conduct after waging and winning a battle. Particular emphasis was placed on the treatment of women captives.
The Torah delivers a not-so-subtle message explaining that Israel’s success in battle depends on its achdut (unity) or the ability to act as a singular entity. For example, the Medrash (Shoftim) points out the irony that King Achav’s generation worshipped idols, but was consistently successful in its war efforts. While King Shaul’s generation was thoroughly devoted to God, it was nowhere as militarily successful as Achav’s. Why? In Shaul’s generation there was friction between people, informers were prevalent and gossip was rampant, while in Achav’s generation, the people were in harmony and displayed an achdut that was rewarded with success on the battlefield.
The Jewish people waged battles unlike other nations. Most peoples went out to war skilled in the art of killing, arrogant in both their strength and power. They entered the conflict certain of the outcome. The Jew, however, did not go out to battle in the same way. He left a ‘get’ (divorce) with his wife lest he disappear in the conflict and she be left an aguna (chained wife); he prayed and repented for his sins lest he die in battle without atoning. Jews took these precautions, because going to war was anything but common and could not be compared to the way other peoples embarked on their war efforts.
Rabeynu Bechaye relates in Chovot Halevovot that a wise man once saw a battalion of soldiers returning from a victorious battle, inebriated with pride in the accomplishment, boastful and arrogant. The wise man said to them, “Why are you all so happy and self-assured? Why are you so proud? If you have at this moment succeeded in war, then the war you fought was meaningless and insignificant. For while you have managed to be victorious in a war with others, you are now entering a much more difficult battle, one in which you must conquest yourselves.”
“Return to Me”
On the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipper, we are exhorted to take the first step. A novel compromise is proposed by the Admor of Kotsk (Poland 1776-1848). He envisions the following dialogue between God and man:
God urges man, “Return, O Israel, to Me. But I know you will not succeed. The demands are many, and you are simply not up to it. Therefore, you have a perfect right to say to Me, ‘Cause us, O Lord, to return. Without Your assistance, we are lost.’”
Experts have discovered that many psychological breakdowns are due to complexes, inhibitions or fears as much as the complete abandonment of hope and faith. The afflicted person often perceives himself as being incapable of returning to normalcy. He cannot rid his heart of despair and hopelessness. He makes no attempt to spiritually connect to God as intended by Heaven. Little does he realize that if he just makes the first move, the rest can follow from the Divine source.
Before you open your mouth, think first and then speak. Consider carefully what you are about to say. Ask yourself, “Will my talking bring some benefit to myself or others?” If the answer is ‘no,’ or you are not sure, silence is best. Better be silent than sorry.
Speech is one of man’s most powerful and unique features. If you care to be wise, develop a passion – for silence!
September 2011 Elul 5771-Tishrei 5772
Candle Lighting Times and Torah Portions
Light candles at: 6:58 p.m.
Torah Portion: Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9)
Friday, September 9
Light candles at: 6:49 p.m.
Saturday, September 10
Torah Portion: Ki Tetze (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)
Friday, September 16
Light candles at: 6:39 p.m.
Saturday, September 17
Torah Portion: Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)
Friday, September 23
Light candles at: 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, September 24
Torah Portion: Nitzavim-Vayelech (Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30)
Wednesday, September 28
(Erev Rosh Hashanah)
Light candles at 6:23 p.m.
Thursday, September 29
Light candles after 7:16 p.m.
Friday, September 30
(Second Day Rosh Hashanah)
Light candles at 6:20 p.m.