A Mini-Anthology of Texts

Translated by Cantor Jordan S Franzel

From Parashat Ki Teitzei – Deuteronomy Chapter 21

כי תצא למלחמה על איביך ונתנו יהוה אלקיך בידך ושבית שביו

If you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord, your God, will deliver him into your hands, and you take his captives.

From Talmud B’rachot 54a

A person is obligated to bless God for the bad just as he blesses God for the good, as it says “And you shall love יהוה – YHVH with all your hearts etc.”  With all your hearts means with both your inclinations, the יצר טוב – Yeitzer Tov – good and יצר הרע – Yeitzer Ha-Ra –  the evil.

Torat Maggid Mizlatchov on Parashat Ki Teitzei – Rebbe Y’chiel Michel

When the opportunity to behave poorly presents itself you should think first that you have already committed the act and by means of doing so you can be saved from the transgression that comes before you in the moment it presents itself.  And this is what is meant by “כי תצא למלחמה על איביך – Ki Teitzei la-milchamah al oyvecha – when you go out to war against your enemies…”  to say, the principle point is that you have the desire to wage war against it, and then certainly “ונתנו יהוה אלהיך בידך ושבית שביו – V’natno YHVH Elohecha b’yadecha v’shavita shivyo – Adonai your God will give him into your hands, and you will capture his captives;” his captives that have captured you already, this means to say that you should think that whatever misguided act comes your way, you already have it in your consciousness from its essence and you should make a fence around it so that it won’t ‘capture’ you any more. Then you can be saved from the negative behavior that comes up in any moment. It’s quite possible that a poor act will come to tempt you in a sudden instance and you weaken in it since you have accustomed yourself to this behavior already. Therefore it says “ושבית שביו – V’shavita shivyo” that you have made a fence around it (that you have captured it.)

From Sefer Baal Shem Tov – Ki TeiTzei  Rebbe Yisrael ben Eliezer 

I heard from my teacher, of blessed memory, a commentary on the verse “when you go out to war against your enemies….you will capture his captives.” By means of the complaining yeitzer ha-ra itself one suppresses the Yeitzer Ha-Ra, that if it is agile in its work to entice a human with a misguided act, it is only in order to carry out the mission of God, as it says in the Zohar (Parashat Terumah 2:163a) in the parable of the prostitute.  From this a human takes control of himself, that he should be agile in his work, that he doesn’t listen to the Yeitzer Ha-Ra, for that is the will of his Blessed Creator.

From Toldot Ya-akov Yoseif – on P’kudei – Rabbi Ya-akov of Polnoye

It is fitting for a person that she learns from the inclination towards negativity which is perpetually prepared to entice the person, to do the will of her Creator, as it is explained in the Zohar, the parable of the prostitute. If this is so, how can the person listen to the evil inclination to do the sin?  She would learn from the evil inclination itself, that he (the inclination) is  always doing the will of his Creator.  This is also explained in the Mishnah (Pirkei Avot 4) “who is wise? The one who learns from all people”, including the evil inclination.

From Zohar parashat T’RUMaH 2:163a

Now you might say, ‘How can a person love the blessed Holy One with the evil impulse?  For look, the evil impulse is hostile, preventing a person from serving the blessed Holy One!  How can he love Him with it?’  Well, this is a greater service of the blessed Holy One, when the evil impulse is overturned by the love that one feels for the blessed Holy One.  For when the evil impulse is overturned and broken by a person, this is true love of the blessed Holy One, since he knows how to draw that evil impulse to His service.

Here is a mystery for masters of qualities (kabbalists):  everything that the blessed Holy One has made, above and below, is all intended to manifest His glory, and all is for His service.  Now, who has ever seen a servant denouncing his master, opposing everything that his master wishes?  It is the will of the blessed Holy One that humans should serve Him constantly, walking in the path of truth, thereby becoming worthy of many benefits.  Since this is His will, how can an evil servant come and oppose, by his Master’s will – luring people to take an evil path, distancing them from the good path, and causing them to disobey the will of their Lord?

But actually he is doing the will of his Master.  This may be compared to a king who had an only son, whom he loved exceedingly.  He commanded him, in love, not to approach an evil woman, for whoever approached her would be unworthy of entering the king’s palace.  The son consented to do his father’s will in love.

In the King’s abode, outside, was a harlot, comely in appearance and beautiful in form.  Some days later, the king said, “I want to see my son’s devotion to me.”  He called for that harlot and said to her, “Go and seduce my son,” to see his son’s devotion to him.  That harlot, what could she do?  She went after his son and began embracing him, kissing him, seducing him with all kinds of enticements.  If that son is worthy and obeys his father’s command, he rebukes her, pays no heed to her, and thrusts her away from him.

Then the father rejoices in his son and brings him into his palace, giving him gifts and presents and great honor.  Who caused all this honor for that son?  You must admit, the harlot! And that harlot, does she deserve praise for this or not?  Surely she does, from every aspect.  First, because she carried out the king’s command; and second, because she brought upon the son all this honor, all this goodness, all this love of the king toward him.

From K’dushat Levi – Likutim

On Rosh Chodesh we say “ברכי נפשי – Barchi Nafshi – bless my soul” which concludes with, “יתמו חטאים מן הארץ – Yitamu chata-im min ha-aretz – sinners cease to exist from the land.” (Psalm 104) And the interesting matter is – that the negative inclination and the “other side” they are the aspect of deficiency. But, קדושה – K’dushah (holiness) is the aspect of wholeness, for there is nothing whole except that which is in holiness. And the “other side” and the evil inclination are called “deficiency” and are called ארציות – artziyut – corporeal.  And regarding this it is written, “ואהבת את יהוה עלהיך בכל לבבך – V’ahavta et YHVH EloHecha b’choL l’vav’cha – You shall love Adonai your God with your hearts;” with two inclinations – with the inclination for good and the inclination for negativity.  For we are obligated to learn the great perspective from the evil inclination itself, to serve God and to judge, all the more so, from it, because we see that the inclination to negativity instigates and seduces the person to pursue the desires of this world, animal desires that are impermanent and perishable and have absolutely no substance.  And how much more so, a thousand thousands, is it more appropriate to yearn, long, and desire to serve God, to make Him happy, that He is the Life of Life, Creator of everything.  And so, when a person brings to himself the perspective of the negative inclination to serve God it seems that he makes the aspect of deficiency into the aspect of wholeness.  This is what is meant by yitamu chataim min ha-aretz:  Yitamu – to be interpreted as completeness or wholeness that is, to make completeness and wholeness from the deficient, from the negativity.  And this is Yitamu in a word תמימות – T’mimut – completeness.  And the phrase concludes, Min HaAretz, that is from ארציות – Artziyut (materiality), the negative inclination, the perspective one brings to oneself in order to serve God. And thus it seems one makes wholeness and completeness from that which is deficient,.  And this is what we say on Rosh Chodesh, that Rosh Chodesh teaches about the repair of the ‘damage’ of the moon.  The negative inclination is [equated to] the deficiency of the moon, and holiness is the aspect of the full moon. And when we make whole the holiness by means of the inclination towards negativity, it seems that the deficient moon is made full by this, and therefore we say this Psalm on Rosh Chodesh.