Shoftim - Preparing for the New Year

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
The Slonimer Rebbe raises two questions on this verse: 
  • Why does it say 'תצא' (go out) when talking about war, shouldn't it say 'תלחם' (go to fight)?
  • Why does it say 'תצא' (go out) in the singular, shouldn't it say 'תצאו' (go out) in the plural?
Charging Ahead
Explains the Slonimer Rebbe in Netivot Shalom, the verse about war is referring to the 'eternal' war that we all fight, the war against the evil inclination (yetzer hara). The elements further emphasize this theme, with the horse and chariot representing the powerful and strong yetzer hara charging toward us, while 'a people more numerous than you' represents our own personal spiritual losses - the holy sparks falling away from us.

Given this, he explains that in this war,  we can't wait for the enemy to approach, rather we have to 'go out' (תצא) to the enemy, to attack the yetzer hara.

Moreover, this is a very personal battle, hence the phrase used in the singular (תצא), where each and every one of us have individuals drives and desires scheming to undermine our spiritual efforts. So the verse phrases this state of war in the singular to emphasize that it is for each and every one of us to examine our actions and take the best strategy to succeed in this war. 
Sacrifice and Faith 
Considering the nature of this war, there are characteristics that we must develop to succeed: personal sacrifice and our faith in Hashem. 
As it says in Mesechet Brechot, regarding sacrifice for Torah:
For Resh Lakish said: Where do we learn that words of Torah are firmly held by one who kills himself for it? Because it says, This is the Torah, when a man shall die in the tent.
דאמר ריש לקיש מנין שאין דברי תורה מתקיימין אלא במי שממית עצמו עליה שנאמר (במדבר יט, יד) זאת התורה אדם כי ימות באהל
Brechot 63B
Likewise, one must also have absolute faith about being victorious in this war, for over contemplating about one's own shortcomings or past failures will undermine these efforts.

Elul:  A Time for Action
And so it is no accident that we find ourselves reading this parshah during the month of Elul, for this is the month to go out to war, and to fight the yetzer hara. We must gird ourselves with these two traits, personal sacrifice and faith, for it was faith that ultimately redeemed our forefathers from Egypt. 

Morever, these forty days from the beginning of Elul to Yom Kippur, they are a time for change, to elevate one's being. Tshuvah, repentance, not only has the power to overturn past mistakes but sincere tshuvah can set our lives on a new course, raising us higher spiritually. 

Time of the Year
We learn that Elul itself is the beginning of the year. Relating a story from the Rebbe from Lakhovitz, we learn that during the days of Elul, the Rebbe was on his way and stood in a storehouse. He listened as the workers spoke to each other. 
Said one worker, "One that doesn't put in the effort and work hard this month, will have nothing to eat for the rest of the year, since Elul is a month of harvest and the time to bring produce into one's home."
The Rebbe went and called his disciples, and shared with them what he had overheard. 
He said, "Elul is not just a time for introspection, and to repair mistakes that have been done in the past, but this is a time of renewal, this marks the beginning of our efforts build up for the new year. For all the thoughts and goals set for the new, so the year should come to be like that. And if there are no efforts invested in this month, there will be nothing to gain from the new year."

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