Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Battling our Spiritual Enemies

Grape Gathering Festival 2012
Dearest Friends,
Since Parashat Ki Tetze is my birthday parasha, I connect with this parasha in a special and personal way. The parasha opens with going out to battle. A recurrent theme in my life is to always be challenged to struggle against obstacles including people opposing my work. I have always been a fighter – from my teenage years at the dinner table, discussing Middle East politics with my father, (at that time I defended the “Palestinian” rights oy!) – to fighting the authorities for building permit for Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin (Looking forward to having that battle behind me). Parashat Ki Tetze is one of the busiest parashot in the Torah. It includes more mitzvot than in any other parsha – 74 mitzvot (27 positive and 47 nega­tive.) Most of them are in the realm between people. I’m always busy, multi-tasking and striving to accomplish more and more. Interpersonal relationships and communication occupies a great part of my life. I Hope you will find the meditation meaningful and that it will be helpful in overcoming our spiritual inner enemies.

Click here to donate to Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin in honor of my birthday and of Rosh Hashana

With Blessings of the Torah and the Land
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum 

Read Rebbetzin's commentary to Haftorat Ki Tetze: "Comfort for the Bereaved Woman"

Parasha Meditation Ki Tetze
Devarim 21:10-25:19
Overcoming our Personal Enemies
This week’s parasha is about personal struggles: “When you go forth to battle against your enemies, and Hashem your G-d deliver them into your hands and you take them captive.”[1] This Torah verse urges every Jew to wage war with our personal enemies at this time when we prepare for the New Year. Why does the Torah state: “When you go out (תצא)…” rather than “When you go (תלך)to war?” Netivat Shalom explains that “When you go out” is directed at our neshama from the moment when it goes out from the upper world, into this physical world, in order to fulfill our purpose in the world by waging our personal war.[2]

The main reason we are sent into this world is to overcome our negative natural tendencies. If a day goes by without battling our negative inclination, it is considered as if we didn’t accomplish anything on that day. This is why the Torah verse states “your enemies” rather than just “the enemies.” For every person has a particular spiritual enemy to overcome. This is his mission for which he is sent into this world.

Finding our Purpose in the World
Sometimes I wish I was born in Arizal’s time. He would be able to take a quick look at my face and tell me exactly my purpose and mission in life. Most of my life I have been struggling to figure out my personal purpose in life – my tikun – for which sake I was sent into the world. Wouldn’t we all like to know exactly what we are supposed to achieve in this lifetime? Netivat Shalom explains that when we come to the upper world (until 120) we will be asked, “What did you accomplish in the world?” Even if we learned a lot of Torah, and fulfilled many mitzvoth, if we didn’t overcome our personal enemies, it is considered as if we didn’t accomplish anything in the world; since we didn’t fulfill our personal mission. Reading this gave me great chizuk, to be determined in finding my personal mission in the world, and make a plan to fulfill it! Netivat Shalom explains that the cue to discovering our personal enemies that we need to overcome – and thereby fulfill our purpose, is in the matter where our negative inclination is strongest. When we see that our negative inclination is overcoming us with otherworldly power, we are recognizing our personal enemy. We will then know that our battle in life is to focus on overcoming this enemy. We were sent into this world in order to specifically rectify this point.

Going out of ourselves – to overcome our Spiritual Enemies
Just as in war it is not enough to know how to shoot, in order not to waste bullets, we also need to know how to aim and hit the bull’s eye. Therefore, we need to focus all our might on the point where the negative inclination is trying to overcome us the most. Just as the soldier enters into war ready to give over his life, if that’s what it takes, we too, need to be willing to go out of ourselves in complete mesirut nefesh (self-sacrifice, literally to hand over our soul) in order to overcome our personal enemy and achieve our rectification. This is why our parasha opens with “When you go out” – of yourself and your comfort zone, and your natural tendencies… Just as a soldier mustn’t fear or think about his wife and children, but turn away from everything in order to dedicate himself to warfare,[3] likewise we need to transcend everything that’s keeping us down, gather all our energy and focus on our spiritual goal, while turning away from the distractions trying to side-track us. We may have formed negative habits in response to a certain negative situation we experienced as a child. That response becomes habitual, and then the habit forms a character.

Although habitual attitudes feel comfortable, we become their prisoners. They persist even after the negative environment to which they were formed has been left behind. Therefore, we won’t be able to overcome the “enemy” without going completely out of ourselves and our negative habits. In order to be successful, we need to totally “go out” of ourselves and transcend our situation and reality, just as Rambam teaches us to go to the other extreme.[4]

Overcome our Enemies through Preemptive Action
An additional reason it states “When you go out…” is to teach us to be prepared, take preventative steps and go out towards the enemy before it takes us by surprise. Only “if you go out” and open the war against your enemies will “Hashem your G-d deliver them into your hands.” It’s much easier to conquer our negative impulse before it has gotten a hold of us. Becoming aware of our personal weaknesses where our negative inclination is strongest is the first step in taking preventive means to overcome it. The next step is to make a realistic plan, and a firm decision to stick to it. During this month of Elul, Hashem empowers us to carry out our resolutions, overcome our personal enemies, and come closer to Him and fulfilling of our personal mission.

Make yourself comfortable and breathe several slow cleansing breaths in and out of your nose. Letting the chair take your weight relax, relax, relax even more. Concentrate on the process of recognizing and overcoming your inner enemies.

1. Become aware of the light above your head, your Keter – crown and umbilical connection to the higher realms.

2. Observe the consequences of your thoughts, attitude and actions. Imagine little black fast moving specks trying to enter your crown and invade you.

3. Try to identify these black specks, scrutinize deeply and carefully. Ask in your mind’s voice: “What created you?” Perhaps a lack of emunah, self-doubts, negative thoughts and confusion created these black specks? Do not suppress thoughts and feelings, but observe, discover and examine

4. Allow the energy field of your crown to expand and push the black specks away, see them recede backwards and disappear. Focus again on your breath and feel at peace.

5. Visualize the light in your heart, in the shape of the most beautiful red rose, see the petals unfold. It’s the most exquisite rose, until little black bugs begin to eat away of its petals.

6. Look at the bugs under an imaginary microscope, scrutinize them and ask in your mind’s voice: “What created you?” Is it the hatred, anger, jealousy or grudge thatI keep in my heart that gave birth to these destructive forces? Ask yourself: “What is behind the anger? What is behind the self-defeat? What is behind the emptiness?...”

7. Breathe into your question and know yourself, and your spiritual weakness. Hold the self-knowledge about your personal enemies and make a decision how to eradicate the enemies of your heart.

8. Breathe love into your heart. Recite in your heart: “I am loved and I give out love!”

9. Visualize a surge of light entering your heart, strengthening the rose to push out the black bugs, see them retract one by one, and the rose in your heart growing stronger and more beautiful. The redness increases, and its heavenly scent fills you more and more with every inhalation.

10. Keep breathing and focus on the light surrounding your feet, feel how your feet are firmly planted on the ground. Beauty is within, but something is in the way. What is the shadow blocking the light? Imagine your feet stumbling over a closed door. Are you ready to open the door?

11. Listen to where the words come from when you speak. What is the cause gossip, judgmentalness? Is it a way to cover up your own insecurities?

12. Keep breathing into the closed door, and make a mental resolution to open the door. Allow your inner of light to separate from your inner enemies, peel them off so your essence can radiate and shine! Now imagine you gather all your strength to open the door, and become bathed in your own highest hidden light!

13. When you are ready, open your eyes and with pen and paper in your hand write down, your revelation about your inner enemies, and a realistic plan to conquer them.

In order to succeed in our spiritual warfare, we need to believe in our ability to succeed. We must believe that Hashem supports us to become aware of our spiritual enemies and empowers us to overcome them. Our Torah verse continues “…Hashem your G-d deliver them into your hands” in order to drive home this emunah, that Hashem will give us the ability to succeed if we only “go out” and try our very best. Just as in a physical war, the soft hearted fearful soldier was sent home,[5] likewise our ultimate success is contingent on not being afraid, because we believe that “Hashem our G-d is with you, He elevated you from Egypt.”[6] When we go out to war against our spiritual enemies through emunah in our ultimate victory, then “Hashem your G-d will deliver them into your hands.” We always read Parashat Ki Tetze during the month of Elul, because it precedes the renewal of the year. Each year is its own unit – the renewal of creation. Each person has a special purpose of what he or she must rectify at the renewal of creation in each particular year. This is alluded to in the phrase, “When you go out” – when you go out from the previous year towards the new year, “to battle your enemies” – meaning this is the time open war against the particular negative point within ourselves, in order to change, overcome our nature and open the door to enter the book of life.

[1] Devarim 21:10.
This entire Torah is based on Netivat Shalom, Parashat Ki Tetze, Ma’amar 1.
Rambam, Mishna Torah, Hilchot Melachim, Chapter 7, Halacha 15.
Rambam, Mishna Torah, Hilchot Deot, Chapter 1, Halacha 4.
Devarim 20:8.
Devarim 20:1.


  1. thank you for the very good insights and meditations you send each week, it is very inspiring
    it is said that sometimes we see better into another's life than into our own....
    when i read ou today, it came to my mind that, maybe, your challenge would be to stop struggling....to stop going to war...against or for this or that cause.....
    who knows???/just an idea.....

  2. Thank you for your insighful comment, I appreciate it and will give it some thought!
    Which Elisheva are you by the way?