When you go out to war against your enemies and HASHEM your G-d will
deliver them into your hands and you will capture its captivity. (Devarim
The Torah only speaks versus the “negative inclination” (Rashi)
“When you go out to war against your enemies…” In this verse we find the
strategy for success in war against our most dangerous enemies.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe saw in the verse, “When you go out to war
“al”-literally over your enemy. The Rebbe advises to take the high road and
not to be drawn down by your opponent. That’s the secret, to go over, and
not to be lowered in the process.
I remember it like yesterday, it was 1991, the summer of the Crown Heights
riots. It was not less than a modern day pogrom and a blood libel. It was a
flashback to images we thought were only possible in dark ages.
An unfortunate car accident with no malice intent caused the death of a
young African American boy that sparked and then unleashed days of hatred
and unimpeded rioting by the local residents. It was frightening to the
core. People were killed and property was damaged, all the while, David
Dinkins, an African American mayor of New York attended Tennis matches and
did little to halt or cool the angry mobs.
Shortly after the violence subsided I recall walking in the streets of New
York when I espied a newspaper with an alluring cover. It was one of the
local New York periodicals. There was the Lubavitcher Rebbe with David
Dinkins with a Yarmulka on his head.
I couldn’t resist. I turned to the story just inside the fold. Mayor Dinkins
was paying homage and reaching out to the Rebbe. He was quoted as saying
something to effect, “We have to heal the wounds between our two peoples.”
The Rebbe’s response was stunningly simple and packed with profundity. It
was beyond greatness to my puny mind and breathtaking in its breadth and
scope. The Rebbe said, "Which two people? We are one side. We are one
people, living in one city, under one administration and under one G-d."
Perhaps in our battle with the Yetzer Hora, the negative inclination, a
similar dialogue is helpful. It’s the language of that lower force to divide
us and the task of the ‘Tov” to unite us in good, like the stones around
Yaakov’s head! It’s no wonder the sages suggest that if one is overwhelmed
by his Yetzer Hora he should learn- Torah amplifying his voice of his
G-d-like soul. Then he is well-advised to say “Shema”- unifying HASHEM’s
name. It’s as if to say, "We are one side. We are one people, living in one
city, under one administration and under one G-d."