When You Go Out to War – War Against Who?

Today’s ‘Parashah’ (weekly Torah portion) is ‘Ki Tetze’ {כי תצא} (Hebrew for ‘when you go out’). This is the sixth ‘Parashah’ in the Book of Deuteronomy and can be found in Deuteronomy 21:10–25:19. The name of the weekly Torah portion comes from the first two Hebrew words of the opening verse:

“When you go out to war against your enemies, and the LORD your God gives them into your hand and you take them captive.” (Deuteronomy 21:10)

The phrase ‘when you go out’ appears in the original Hebrew as Ki Tetze. The second word of this Hebrew phrase – Tetze {תצא} – derived from the Hebrew root Y-Tz-A {י-צ-א} which literally means to exit and can be found, among others, in the Hebrew phrase Yetziat Metzeraim {יציאת מצרים} – the exodus from Egypt.

According to some Jewish traditions, it is customary to understand the war that the Book of Deuteronomy speaks about not as a classic war between armies but rather as a SPIRITUAL war or battle within. This spiritual war takes place in every person’s heart and it is the eternal fight or struggle against the evil inclination – ‘Yeyzer Ha-Rah’ {יצר הרע} in Hebrew.

According to traditional Jewish thought, ths is also the reason for using this special Hebrew phrase ‘Ki Tetze’ (when you go out ) which suggests that the most difficult decision here is to actually to face or to go out for this challenging battle.

However, the good news is that once a person makes the decision to go out for a battle against his/her evil inclination, the outcome (‘Totza’ah’ {תוצאה} in Hebrew – which derived from the same Hebrew root Y-Tz-A as well) will be the LORD your God gives them into your hand and YOU take them captive. This means instead of you being a captive of your own evil inclination, it will be your captive, YOU will control it and not the other way around…