Shoftim - Fighting the Eternal War

Who Is the Or HaChaim HaKadosh
Rabbi Chaim ben Atar (Sale, Morocco, 1696 - Israel, 1743), was the Rabbi of Sale  and spent the majority of his time engrossed in Torah study, His saintly way of life gained him the name Ohr HaCaim HaKadosh (The Light of Life). Rabbi Chaim Yosef Dovid Azulai (The Chida), a student of the Ohr HaChaim, wrote the following: “Atar’s heart pulsated with Talmud; he uprooted mountains like a restless torrent; his holiness was that of an angel of G-d ... having severed all connection with the affairs of this world.”
He established a major yeshiva in Israel, Knesses Yisroel Bais Midrash (~1742), after moving there from Morocco. Chassidic tradition holds that the main reason the Baal Shem Tov twice tried so hard (and failed) to get to the Holy Land was that he said if he could join the Ohr HaChaim there, together they could bring Moshiach. The Ohr HaCaim HaKadosh is buried outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. Due to his extensive knowledge, sharp intellect, and extraordinary righteousness, he was received with great honor everywhere he went. (Source)
The Embroidery Request
He engaged in his profession only on a temporary basis, weaving threads of gold and silver into fancy garments. (Source)

Once, the governor of Sali, where the Ohr HaChaim lived, was marrying off his daughter. The entire family bought expensive clothing and sent them to the Or HaChayim to weave gold threads into the material. He said to them, "Every month I work enough for my livelihood, and the rest of the time I devote to Torah study. This month I have already earned enough money for my livelihood. Come back next month." They then told him that the wedding was taking place already that month. The Ohr Hachaim still refused the job, and returned to his studies. 

When word got back to the governor about R' Chaim's refusal to perform the work for his daughter's wedding, he was incensed. He immediately ordered that the lions in his courtyard be starved and sent a warning to R' Chaim that if he doesn't accept the job at once he will be cast into the lion's den. He ignored the warning and continued learning. The governor's men eventually came and took R' Chaim from his home and threw him into the lion's den. He sat in the middle of the lions, who formed a circle around him, and sang chapters of Tehillim in a sweet, pleasant voice, as all the lions watched and listened. It was quickly reported to the governor what was happening, and he came to see the amazing miracle with his own two eyes. As soon as he looked into the den, he ordered that R' Chaim be lifted from the den, and begged the sacred rabbi for forgiveness, entreating him with gifts. 

Thus, through the great rabbi the verse was fulfilled - "And your fear and intimidation will be cast over all the beasts of the land." Chazal teach us that anyone within whom the image of G-d rests in totality instills fear upon the animals, "and no animal overcomes a person unless he appears to the animal as another animal" (Shabbat 151b), that he has lost his "Tzelem Elokim," image of G-d.
Fighting the Eternal War
When you go out to war against your enemies, and you see horse and chariot, a people more numerous than you, you shall not be afraid of them, for HaShem, your G-d is with you Who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
כִּי תֵצֵא לַמִּלְחָמָה עַל אֹיְבֶיךָ וְרָאִיתָ סוּס וָרֶכֶב עַם רַב מִמְּךָ לֹא תִירָא מֵהֶם כִּי ה קלקיך  עִמָּךְ הַמַּעַלְךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם
Devarim 20:1
Says the Or HaChaim Hakadosh, the verse refers to “Man’s war with the Yetzer HaRah (his Drives)” and comes to remove cowardice from one’s heart. That is to say, “When you go out to war” – which war – The Known War, and there is no war greater than this war.

And in this war, there are 2 difficult things that wear a man out.
  •           Man is not skilled in this war like the Yetzer HaRah is skilled in this war
  •      That the ‘structure of man’ embraces everything that  Yetzer says to him, concerning matters of theft, stealing, pride, and to eat whatever one’s soul desires.

Like an Infection
This prevents  man from listening to ‘words of Torah and Mitzvot’. And then, after one succumbs to many sins, the power of the Yetzer Hara is strengthened by the collection of sins. This is like an infection that spreads with no turning back.

The words of Hashem come and say “When you go out to war.” Deeper ideas are referenced in “horse and chariot”

  • -        Horse: this comes to represent the essence of the Yetzer. Why what is it about a horse that makes it capture the Yetzer? The horse is prepared for war. Which is not the case by man.
  • -        Chariot: this comes to represent the structure of man that is inclined to desire things

      A people more numerous than you: this comes to represent the powers that consolidate out of one’s evil actions.

Nevertheless His good words come and say “you shall not be afraid of them” and the reason that one should not fear is that “for HaShem, your G-d is with you.” This can really be interpreted as, if you come to ‘the war’ with just your own powers, then you wouldn’t have the strength to survive this  war. However since “HaShem, your G-d, is with you” thus your powers are enhanced to be able to save yourself. Since when one comes to purify his time The Blessed One receives him, and then he connects to HaShem and overwhelmed by His divine influence.

The verse closes with the phrase “Who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” This captures the concept of sharp cuts, since HaShem removes the outer peel that conceals the holiness and filters out elements. This underscores the meaning of ‘brought Yisrael up from Egypt,’ which was an act of kindness. And this should serve for you as a sign to further fortify you in this war, like it says in Tehilim:

“The wicked man watches for the righteous man and seeks to put him to death. HaShem shall not leave him in his hands, and He shall not condemn him [the righteous] when he [the wicked] is judged.”
צוֹפֶה רָשָׁע, לַצַּדִּיק; וּמְבַקֵּשׁ, לַהֲמִיתוֹ ה`  לֹא-יַעַזְבֶנּוּ בְיָדוֹ; וְלֹא יַרְשִׁיעֶנּוּ, בְּהִשָּׁפְטוֹ
Tehilim 37:32-33
And our rabbis explain this verse in Masechet Kiddushin:
And R. Simeon b. Levi said: Man's Evil Desire gathers strength against him daily and seeks to slay him, for it is said: "The wicked watches the righteous, and seeks to slay him;" and were not the Holy One, blessed be He, to help him [man], he would not be able to prevail against this Evil Desire, for it is said: "HaShem will not leave him in his hand."
Kiddushin 30B (Soncino Translation)
For the Honor of Torah Scholars
One week nearly three hundred years ago, in the area of Sali, Morocco, a plague broke out amongst the cattle. As a result, all the Jewish-slaughtered animals were found to be traife ("unfit"-disqualified). Only one calf was "kosher mehadrin" acceptable without question, and that was the one slaughtered specifically for the tzaddik, Rabbi Chaim Ben-Atar, the "Ohr HaChayim Hakadosh."

When one of the wealthy men in the city heard about this, he rushed to the Rabbi Chaim's house, hoping to get some meat in honor of Shabbat. He offered an enormous price for a piece, but the Ohr Hachaim refused, saying, "This is not a butcher shop, and the meat is reserved for the poor Torah scholars of our city." Indeed, every week it was his custom to distribute meat to the poor Torah scholars in honor of Shabbat.

While they were speaking, one of Rabbi Chaim's "customers" walked in. Upset, the rich man exclaimed, "Huh? You call this one a Talmid Chacham ["wise student"-i.e., accomplished Torah scholar]?" The Ohr Hachaim ignored his comment and gave the scholar his portion. The rich man realized the futileness of his endeavor, and stalked out in anger.
That night, the Ohr Hachayim had a dream in which he was told from Heaven that since he had not protested against the embarrassment of a Talmid Chacham, he would have to go into exile for a full year. Immediately, Rabbi Chaim packed his few belongings and set out on his long arduous journey, traveling from one town or village to another, making sure not to sleep two nights in the same place. He often went to sleep hungry, yet he accepted his pain with love and prayed to the One Above to forgive him for his sin.

One Friday many months later, the Ohr Hachayim found himself on the outskirts of a city. He sat down on a stone to rest his weak body and reflected on the first verse of the weekly Torah reading, "Eem b'hukotai tailaihu." When he continued walking towards the city, deep in thought and attachment to the Creator, forty two original explanations of this verse occurred to him!

Later, when he arrived in town, he went directly to the local shul. The shamash [caretaker] invited him to his home for Shabbat. At the conclusion of the Friday night meal, the shamash told his guest of the local custom to join the meal at the house of the Rabbi of the city. So they went together, joining the throngs already gathered, waiting to hear the Rabbi's pearls of wisdom.

When the time came and all eyes turned towards the head of the table, the Rabbi was still sitting quietly, in a trance-like state. After a few more moments, he roused himself and began to speak. He transmitted fourteen brilliant explanations on the first verse of the weekly Torah reading, "Eem b'hukotai tailaihu," and then concluded, "These explanations I just heard in Heaven, in the name of the holy tzadik, Rabbi Chaim Ben-Atar."

"Mr. Chaim ben-Atar [i.e. not a tzadik, not a rabbi -ed.]!" the unknown guest called out. All eyes turned to see who had the chutzpa to dishonor the Ohr Hachayim, and were prepared to punish him. However, the shamash, feeling responsible for his guest, requested them to leave the poor man alone.

At the conclusion of his Shabbat day meal, the Rabbi expounded on a second set of fourteen interpretations, saying that these too he had heard in Heaven in the name of the holy tzadik, Rabbi Chaim Ben-Atar.
The same scenario repeated itself. Again the anonymous guest screamed out, "Mr. Chaim Ben-Atar," heightening the irritation of the townsmen.

Before the Third Meal, the shamash warned his guest to behave properly. To no avail. The scene repeated itself a third time. They decided to lock the disrespectful guest in a room until after Shabbat, and to keep him locked up until fitting measures would be decided upon.

That night, a sudden strong storm swept through the city, causing much damage. The townspeople franticly rushed to the Rabbi for his prayer and blessing. The Rabbi told them that he had just been informed from Heaven that Gehinom closes on Shabbat, and it does not reopen on Saturday night until the Ohr Hachayim recites Havdala [the "separation" ceremony to enter into the new week]. Since the tzadik could not make havdala, being that he is currently locked in a room, a great uproar ensued above, which is the cause of such a harrowing storm below.

Upon hearing this and realizing their mistake, the townsmen immediately released their holy guest from his confinement. Rabbi Chayim understood that this was his sign that his repentance had been accepted in Heaven, and the next day set out to return to his home.
Fearful and Fainthearted
And the officers shall continue to speak to the people and say, "What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, that he should not cause the heart of his brothers to melt, as his heart."
 וְיָסְפוּ הַשֹּׁטְרִים לְדַבֵּר אֶל הָעָם וְאָמְרוּ מִי הָאִישׁ הַיָּרֵא וְרַךְ הַלֵּבָב יֵלֵךְ וְיָשֹׁב לְבֵיתוֹ וְלֹא יִמַּס אֶת לְבַב אֶחָיו כִּלְבָבוֹ
Devarim 20:8
Our rabbis teach in Masechet Sotah:
For if it agreed with R. Jose the Galilean, behold he has said: ‘Fainthearted’ i.e., he who is afraid because of the transgressions he had committed!
Sotah 44B
As the verse states:
Sinners in Zion were afraid; trembling seized the flatterers, 'Who will stand up for us against a consuming fire? Who will stand up for us against the everlasting fires?'
 פָּחֲדוּ בְצִיּוֹן חַטָּאִים, אָחֲזָה רְעָדָה חֲנֵפִים; מִי יָגוּר לָנוּ, אֵשׁ אוֹכֵלָה--מִי-יָגוּר לָנוּ, מוֹקְדֵי עוֹלָם.
Yesheyahu 33:14

That means one who has transgressions in his hand, his heart is full of fear, and he trembles from himself. And even for one that does not realize that transgression in his hand, nevertheless fear enters his heart, in the Known War, everyone has sins in their hands.

Our rabbis taught when a transgression enters one’s heart, fear is created. That even for one whose only transgression was talking between Yishtabach and HaYotzer. The Shulchan Aruch explains that one who talks needlessly between Yishtabach an HaYotzer commits a big transgression and would grouped in the category of those that should be sent home in a time of war.

The Mishna Brurah explains that this refers to the verse in Devarim “What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house.” And our rabbis explained this verse as referring to one who is fearful from the sins he has accumulated, and this act of speaking between Yishtabach and Yotzer is also a sin. And the he said in the name of the Mateh Moshe () that the ‘klipot’ (outer shell) hold back prayer from going up, thus by reciting Pseukei Dzimrah the ‘klipot’ are destroyed. So when one talks, then he would be exempt from war on account of having this transgression, he would be brought together with those exempt from war on account of an our abundance of sins. So it is advisable not to talk.

And the reason for one to be able to go into war is that he has to have a miracle prevail upon him to save him from the enemy’s sword. However everyone that has attributed to him an aspect of evil is thus not suitable for a miracle and his fate becomes more frightening, making him unfit to go to war (Megillah 3A). 

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