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Rabbi Elimelech Biderman - Torah Wellsprings - Ki Tetzei

The parashah begins, "When you go out to war against your enemy…" The simple meaning of the verse is about wars, and the remez, the implied explanation, is referring to the war against the yetzer hara.

Someone complained to the Tiferes Shlomo zy’a that he has many ups and downs in his battle with the yetzer hara. "Just yesterday, I won the battle against the yetzer hara, but today I failed again. This is constantly happening to me." The Tiferes Shlomo told him that fighting the yetzer hara is like going to war. You don't win every battle. Sometimes the enemy wins. The main thing is to continue fighting even after a defeat, only by doing so can you win the war. The Tiferes Shlomo said that this is implied by, “when you go out to battle” against the yetzer hara. The verse doesn’t say, "When you go out to win" the yetzer hara. Because our focus should be war against the yetzer hara, for if that is our intention we will eventually win.

In Shacharis we say, "They kneel and fall, while we got up and are encouraged" (Tehillim 20). Notice, that the verse doesn’t say that we don’t fall. It states that we get up again, because falling is inevitable. The goal is to get up after the fall and to try again.

Reb Yitzchak Hutner zt'l writes the following in a letter: "We have a bad habit: When we discuss the greatness of tzaddikim, we begin at the end of the tzaddikim's life and the great heights they attained. We skip the great battles they had with their yetzer hara and with their bad tendencies. The stories people tell give us the impression that they were born tzaddikim. For example, everyone praises the shmiras halashon of the Chofetz Chaim, but who talks about all his struggles, the ups and downs that he went through until he reached this level. This is one example among thousands… The problem with this is that when a bachur desires with all his might to grow in avodas Hashem, and he is confronted with challenges and setbacks, he thinks that he will never reach the level of tzaddikim, whom he admires. He thinks that the definition of someone going in the right path is someone who has peace from the yetzer hara, and he enjoys the yetzer tov… He thinks that if you have challenges, there is no hope, but that is ridiculous… Know, my friend… you will definitely fall, and there will be battles that you will lose, but I guarantee that in the end you will finish the battle wearing the crown of success. The wisest of all men said, 'a tzaddik falls seven times and gets up.' … The wise understand that the the reason the tzaddik attained high levels as a result of his falling seven times. I beg you, when you think about the gedolim, don’t picture them as people who are at peace with their yetzer tov. Think about the great struggles they went through; their failures, their humiliation, and their losses. Realize that when the yetzer hara is burning inside you, and you struggle to overcome the yetzer hara, these are the moments you are most similar to the gedolim; more than when you are at peace with the yetzer hara. And specifically in those areas where you fall the most is where you will become holy, and you will sanctify Hashem's name."

It is repeated in the name of the Baal Shem Tov zy'a, one should encourage himself, and he should take this encouragement from fruit that grows from a rotting seed. A seed rots in the ground, and then a tree grows from it. Similarly, when one falls from his service of Hashem, and he is "rotting," he can grow even higher, if he picks himself up and tries again.

Rebbe Gedalyah Moshe of Zvhil zt'l asked someone why he wasn't going to listen to a certain mussar drashah. The man replied, "I know myself; even if the speech inspires me to do teshuvah, it won't last for long. Soon afterwards, I will be back myself again. So what’s the purpose?" The Rebbe told him, "If someone’s drowning at sea, and someone swims up to him and says, 'I can save you for a half hour, but then you will fall back into the sea again,' would he accept the offer? Of course he would. So why shouldn’t you also seek to do teshuvah? Even if it only lasts for a short while — as long as the speaker is speaking — it is also worthwhile…"

The Chazon Ish zt'l taught, "Hakadosh Baruch Hu loves hischazkus (when one strengthens himself to do Hashem's will) even if it only lasts for a moment."

The Divrei Chaim of Tzanz zt'l told the following story, to describe teshuvah: A poor woman found an egg, and her hungry children rejoiced, for they assumed their mother will divide the egg between them, but their mother had other plans. She gathered her children, and told them excitedly, "We will not eat this egg. We will place it under our neighbor's hen until hatches. We will then let the chick become an adult…” The children thought that they would eat the chicken, but once again, the mother had greater plans. She said, “We will raise that chick until it lays eggs of its own. We won’t eat those eggs. We will wait until those eggs become chickens. Soon we will have many chickens and many eggs, but we still won’t eat them. We'll sell them and buy cattle. The cattle will propogate…and we will have many sheep and cows. We will sell them to buy land…" She went on and on, as she described to her children their future wealth. As she spoke, she waved her hands about happily. Suddenly the egg dropped from her hand and all her dreams vanished in a moment. The Tzanzer Rebbe zt'l told this story to describe how people often make grand plans in Elul, how they will improve in the upcoming year, but very often nothing comes from it. They tell themselves that this year things will be different, but within a few short weeks they revert to the same behavior.

The Beis Yisrael zt'l once said to a bachur, "The greatest praise one can say about Hakadosh Baruch Hu is that He doesn’t laugh." The bachur didn’t understand the Beis Yisrael’s point, so he asked the Rebbe's brother, the Pnei Menachem zt'l, to explain it. The Pnei Menachem replied, "I am the rosh yeshiva of the Gerrer yeshiva. If a bachur isn't acting properly, and after I rebuke him the bachur promises that he will improve, I will believe him. On the following day, if I see him acting the same negative way, and I ask him about this, and he promises once again that he will be better, I will believe him once again. However, if this happens several times, I won't trust him anymore. I will laugh when he tells me he’ll be better. But Hashem never laughs. Even if a person says daily that he will be better, yet he doesn’t change, Hashem doesn’t laugh. He waits until he succeeds to do teshuvah." Especially now, in chodesh Elul it’s important to speak about teshuvah, and the attitude of trying again and again until you succeed.

The Gemara (Moed Kattan) teaches, "Forty days before the child is formed a bas kol announces, "this person's daughter should marry that person," and the bas kol also announces, "this person's field should go to that person…" People are familiar with the concept that every shidduch is bashert. Forty days before the child is formed it was decreed and decided who his spouse will be. However, from this Gemara we discover that also which field one will receive is pre-destined. The Ra'n explains that there used to be a custom that parents of the kallah would give a field as a dowry. A father may be worried, "How can I afford to buy a field?" And if he has many daughters, his fear multiplies. The Gemara is comforting him, telling him that it’s already been decreed. You should do your effort, but there isn't anything to worry about because the field you must give was already designated, and it will certainly happen.

We have a mitzvah to destroy Amalek from beneath the heavens. The Tiferes Shmuel zt'l explains that Amalek thinks everything happens naturally. We are obligated to erase Amalek and become aware that everything happens by Heaven’s decree. The Imrei Emes zt'l teaches this lesson from, "Destroy them from under Hashem's heavens" (Eichah 3:66). We must destroy the notion that things happen by chance, "under the heavens," and to know that everything that happens is by Hashem’s decree.

Right before the Satmar Rebbe's wedding, his father, the Kedushas Yom Tov zt'l, told him, "Do you know why the wedding customarily takes place under the stars, and not in a building? It's to remind the groom and bride to look up to heaven and to trust solely in Hashem. Don’t trust in your father or your father-in-law or on the dowry you received. Turn your eyes to heaven and trust in Hashem, alone. (Immediately after the week of sheva brachos, the Kedushas Yom Tov was niftar. The Satmar Rebbe zt'l certainly couldn’t rely on his father to help him.)

It is written, "I praise You Hashem because You were angry with me…" The Gemara (Niddah 31.) explains this with a parable of two people who were going towards the port to travel for business. One of them got a thorn in his foot, and he was angry that he missed his trip. Some days later he heard the ship sank. Then he praised Hashem…" because then he realized that his problem was for his benefit.

Someone wanted to take a bus to work, but he missed the bus, so he had to go by taxi. He waited a long time for the taxi and paid a lot of money for the trip, and he was very upset that all this happened to him, all because he missed the bus. Someone told him, "If you would hear that the bus was in an accident and the people on the bus were hurt, wouldn’t you praise Hashem that you missed it? Now, I ask, it is really important for you that the bus should flip over and many people get hurt, just so you can have that good feeling? Praise Hashem that He is leading you in good ways regardless of what happened with that bus. You don’t know why you had to miss it, but believe that it was for the best…"

The Birchas Avraham's zt'l son asked his father for financial help. The Birchas Avraham told him, "It seems that you consider me Hashem's son and yourself Hashem's grandson. Therefore you think I have more pull in heaven. It isn’t so, my child. You are also Hashem's son, and Hashem has compassion on you, as it is the way of a father to have compassion on his children…"

The Sefer HaChinuch (480) states, "Everyone who understands the ways of the Torah… knows with clarity that when one is generous with his money to give to others, he will earn more. Hashem judges a person according to his deeds, and He will grant him blessings… Whereas stinginess erects an iron wall between him and the blessings…"

The Sefer HaChinuch (480) states, "Everyone who understands the ways of the Torah… knows with clarity that when one is generous with his money to give to others, he will earn more. Hashem judges a person according to his deeds, and He will grant him blessings… Whereas stinginess erects an iron wall between him and the blessings…"

It states in Megillas Rus, "The name of the man whom I did for him today was Boaz…" Rus did for Boaz. It doesn’t state that Boaz did for her (although Boaz was the one who gave her tzedakah). The Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 34:8) learns from this that when one gives tzedakah, the giver is the one that gains the most. Thus, Rus did a greater favor to Boaz, by enabling him to give her tzedakah, than what Boaz did for her. In the words of the Midrash, “Even more than the wealthy do for the poor, the poor do for the wealthy.”

Avos d'Reb Nosson (4:5) states, "Reb Yochanan ben Zakai was walking in Yerushalayim, and Reb Yehoshua was walking behind him and they saw the destruction of Yerushalayim. Reb Yehoshua said, "Woe to us that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, a place where the sacrifices would atone for the sins of the Jewish nation…' Reb Yochanan replied, 'My son, don’t feel bad, because we have another atonement that is just as effective. That is gemilus chassadim, as it states (Hosheia 6:7), "I desire kindness, not sacrifices…"

The Gemara teaches that when someone writes in his will that a certain one of his children should get all the money and property he leaves over after his demise, we assume that his intention was that that this child should be the guardian of the money, the apitropus, to distribute the money among his siblings, but it isn’t that the money is only his. We don’t assume that the father wants only that child to get all the money, for why would he want only one child to get all the money and the others nothing? It must be that he wants that this child be the apitropus, to take care of the money and to distribute it evenly among his siblibgs. The Alshich HaKadosh quotes this Gemara, and writes that we are all Hashem's children. If Hashem gives someone more money than to others, the logic is that Hashem doesn’t intend for that person to have money and not others, for why would Hashem choose one child over the others? Hashem loves all of us! Rather, Hashem wants that person to be in charge of the distribution of the money. He is an apitropus, who takes care of the money until it is divided between us.

The Rebbe of Skulen zt'l explained this concept with a parable: A waiter put his laden tray, filled with good foods, onto a table, to serve the people seated at the table. The one who sat near where the tray was put down thought the entire tray was for him. When the waiter began giving to others, he said, "Why are you taking away from me, to serve others?” He didn’t realize that the waiter simply had to put the tray down somewhere, and he happened to place it next to that him. But the food in the tray is for everyone. Similarly, when someone has a lot of money he thinks that those who ask for charity are asking for his money. He doesn’t realize that, in a way, it was never his to begin with. It was given to him to distribute to others.

There really isn't a valid reason to hold back from giving tzedakah (when halachah requires or advises it) because whatever one gives, will come back to him, with much more. As Chazal say, "tithe so you will become wealthy." And as it states, "Test Me in this regard…" (Malachi 3:1). This means one can test Hashem and discover on his own how true it is that by giving tzedakah, one only earns.

The truth is, one earns amazing benefits – in Olam HaZeh and in Olam HaBa – for every mitzvah one performs, not only for tzedakah. The Dubno Magid zt'l explains this with a parable: A ship came to the port loaded with expensive fabrics. Private consumers and wholesalers came to the ship to buy the bolts of fabrics. The merchant announced, "Each bolt is at least sixty meters long, and I'm selling each for ten rubles…" The buyers wanted to be certain that the bolts contained sixty meters, so when they were ready to make a purchase, they asked the merchant to measure the material. He said, "I don’t have time to measure each bolt, so bring me the thinnest one, and I will measure it before you. You will see that it has sixty meters. Then you will know that the larger rolls surely have sixty meters.” The nimshal is, Hashem gave us 613 mitzvos and each mitzvah has its segulah, which brings us much goodness, even in this world. But people want to be certain that they will gain by keeping the mitzvos. Hashem says, take the mitzvah that seems to cause you a loss — the mitzvah of tzedakah — and test it. You will see that it brings you wealth. Now you will know that similarly all the mitzvos result with immense wealth and goodness in this world and in the next.

The Ben Ish Chai tells: Two friends became wealthy and they asked each other how they earned their wealth. One replied, "I heard a derashah from my rav. He said that by tithing one's money to tzedakah one becomes wealthy. I followed that counsel and became wealthy. Now tell me how you became wealthy." He replied, "I was at a drashah too. My rav said the Gemara (Bava Metzia 59) teaches, 'Honor your wife and you will become wealthy.' So I bought my wife expensive jewelry, and I became wealthy." The first one returned to his rav, and complained: "Why did you only tell us the segulah of tithing one's money? Another rav advised honoring one's wife, and that segulah works just as well. I have a friend who followed that approach and became wealthy. If I had known about that option, I would have chosen that one, and I wouldn’t have given so much tzedakah." The rav replied, "The segulah that I gave you brings you wealth in both worlds. The other rav's segulah will bring you wealth in this world, but not in the next one." The Ben Ish Chai writes: This is the meaning of the verse (Tehillim 49:17) don’t be frightened when you see someone becoming wealthy, and the wealth came because he honored his wife immensely, because he won't take that wealth with him to the next world. But those who become wealthy through tzedakah will enjoy wealth, and spiritual wealth in Olam HaBa, too.

The Shevet Mussar (431) tells about someone who commited many sins in his lifetime, and when he was on his death bed, his family said to him "Why don't you eat something? You haven't eaten in days!" He replied, "If you give me a hard boiled egg, I'll eat it." Before eating it, though, a poor person came to their door begging for food. The ill person said to his family, "Give him the boiled egg." That was the first and only time that he gave tzedakah throughout his entire life. He died three days later. After his demise, he came to his son in a dream and said, "My dear son, give tzedakah, and you will merit Olam HaBa. I gave tzedakah once in my lifetime — when I gave that egg to the pauper — and that merit tipped the scales of my deeds to the side of merit, and I was sent to Gan Eden." How could one good deed tip the scales to the side of merit? Don't forget that this person was a great sinner. How could giving tzedakah once bring him to Olam HaBa? The Shevet Mussar explains that the pauper standing at his doorway was on the verge of dying from starvation. The egg saved his life, so all of the pauper’s Torah and mitzvos that he will do for the rest of his life, and all the children that will consequently be born, and the good deeds that they and future generations will do will be his merit. It seemed like a small insignificant deed, yet it turned the scale to the side of virtue, and he was immediately brought into Gan Eden. With this story we get an indication of the great merit of giving tzedakah, and how much good it can bring to us.

The custom among the tzaddikim of Satmar is to say a pilpul after lighting the Chanukah candles. The Divrei Yoel of Satmar zt'l added to this custom, for before he began the pilpul, he would distribute food and drink to his chassidim. His nephew, the Berach Moshe zt'l, asked him for the source for this new custom. The Divrei Yoel explained to him that to give food and drink to Yidden doesn’t need a source. There is a machlokes (Beitzah 2) between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel about an egg that was laid on yom tov. Beis Shamai said that one can eat it, and Rashi doesn’t write anything on those words. Beis Hillel says that one can't eat it, and Rashi writes, "The Gemara will tell the reason." Why didn’t Rashi write by Beis Shamai's opinion that the Gemara will tell the reason? This is because Beis Shamai says that one can eat, and to enable a Yid to eat doesn’t need explanation. Only Beis Hillel, who forbids eating it, needs explanation.

When the Jewish nation was in the desert, they were worried about the manna. They said, "Did you ever see a human being who consumes and doesn’t give out?" The Satmar Rebbe zt'l explains that they were concerned because the manna fell for everyone, and therefore, the mitzvah of tzedakah didn’t apply. They asked, "Have you ever seen a human being eating, without giving tzedakah? How can one only take, without giving to others?"

A pauper came to the Satmar Rebbe zt'l and told him about his large family, his financial problems, and that he simply wasn't managing, now that he was about to marry off one of his children. The Rebbe asked him how much he needs and the man replied $30,000. The Rebbe gave him $29,000. After the man left, the gaba'im asked, "If you were going to give this person so much money, why not just give him one thousand dollars more, so he will get everything he needs? The Rebbe replied, "If I would have given him thirty-thousand dollars, he would say to himself, 'Why didn’t I say that I need forty thousand dollars? I probably would have gotten that too.' [And it wouldn’t be a lie, because he could definitely use forty thousand dollars.] His joy wouldn’t be complete. But now that he didn’t get everything he asked for, he feels he got everything he could, and he is happy with his lot." About this it is written, fortunate are those who cleverly understand the needs and feelings of the poor, so they can help them without embarrassing or hurting them in any way.

Rebbe Zusha of Anipoli zt'l said, "A wise person takes; a fool gives." The explanation is that the wise know that when they give tzedakah they are taking, for they will gain so much goodness from it. Whereas when the fools give tzedakah they feel they are giving away, and losing something. This is hinted at in the verse, "Take for Me a donation." It doesn’t state, "give a donation," because when one gives money to tzedakah, he is really taking and earning so much more.

Reb Efraim Margolios, the Matteh Efraim, zt'l, was a giant in Torah. He had Torah and gedulah (Torah knowledge and wealth) since he owned a large bank. Once, a pauper came to the bank asking for a loan. The Matteh Efraim gave him the shtar to sign, and told him to find a guarantor, an arev, who guarantees that the money will be repaid. No one wanted to sign for the pauper, so the pauper wrote in the line designated for the guarantor, 'to Me is the silver and to Me is the gold, word of Hashem.' In other words, the pauper was saying that Hashem is the guarantor. The Matteh Efraim had mercy on the pauper and lent him the money. One day, the Matteh Efraim was ill, so his wife ran the bank instead of him. When she returned home, her husband asked her what happened at the bank. She told him that the poritz borrowed a large sum of money. He knew that there wasn't money left in the bank that day, so he asked her how she had money to lend. She replied that there was a pauper who owed money, and he paid up that day, and that's how she had money to lend out. The Matteh Efraim checked the records and saw that indeed, there was a debt from the pauper who couldn’t find a guarantor. The Matteh Efraim asked his wife whether the pauper himself came to the bank to pay up, or he sent someone to pay for him. She said that the pauper sent someone to pay for him. The Matteh Efraim understood it must have been Eliyahu HaNavi. He asked himself, “Why did I have to be home today? What did I do wrong that I missed the opportunity to meet with Eliyahu HaNavi?” He figured that it was because when the pauper asked for a loan, he told him to bring a guarantor. He should have had mercy and given him the money as a gift.

It states in this week's parashah, "Don’t plow with an ox and a donkey together" (22:10). The commentaries tell us that this mitzvah teaches us to have good middos and to be compassionate. The Daas Zekeinim MiBaalei HaTosfos writes, "An ox chews its cud, [thus it is always eating]. If the donkey will plow together with it, it will have pain when he hears the ox chewing."

Reb Boruch Ber zt'l went to America, to collect money for his yeshiva. Once, at a fundraising event, the speaker was very inspirational and spoke with yiras shamayim. Reb Boruch Ber had to relieve himself, but he didn’t want to leave in the middle of the speech, so he remained. His face began turning red. The baal darshan noticed that, and thought that this means Reb Boruch Ber is really enjoying his drashah, so he elaborated some more, and spoke even longer. When he finally finished speaking, Reb Boruch Ber stood up to leave the room, and promptly fainted. When he came to, Reb Boruch Ber explained what happened. The speaker said, "But the Torah says it is forbidden to hold oneself back…" Reb Boruch Ber replied that had he left in the middle of the drashah, it would embarrass the speaker. Furthermore, people would assume that he didn’t agree with the speaker's thoughts and ideas. He remained with mesirus nefesh, so as not to embarrass another Jew.

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