The Elul War
As we begin the study of this week’s parsha and encounter the narrative of “aishes yefas toar,” we wonder if there is more here than meets the eye. And there is. While the course of action for a man who went to war, emerged victorious, and then chanced upon a yefas toar is applicable and contains many directions and actions to follow, there is also a message for all of us, especially during the month of Elul.
Kadmonim and mekubolim raise the curtain and provide an understanding of the pesukim that describe the parsha of yefas toar and how she goes about adapting to a new life.
The parsha begins, “Ki seitzei lamilchomah al oyvecha – When you will go out and wage war with your enemy” (21:10). The Ohr Hachaim (ibid.) explains that the posuk refers to the battle for which man was placed in this world. The soul is dispatched to withstand tests.
And she shall remove the garment of captivity from upon herself: This will be through ridding oneself of sin, teshuvah and submission to Hashem. Then be misvadeh and cry for the betrayal from your father and mother and detachment from them.
She will weep for her father. This is Hakadosh Boruch Hu.
She will weep for her mother. This is Knesses Yisroel.
For one month. This is the month of Elul, the period of teshuvah.
The Ohr Hachaim’s source is the Zohar Chodosh (Ki Seitzei 72:1), which is also quoted in Yesod Veshoresh Ha’avodah (Shaar Hamayim).
The Arizal (Likkutei Torah, in this week’s parsha) offers a similar explanation. He says that “Ki seitzei lamilchomah” refers to a person who has decided to do teshuvah. He is setting out to do battle with his enemies, namely his yeitzer hora and the limbs that betrayed him and caused him to sin.
Unesano Hashem Elokecha b’yodecha. Hashem will cause you to beat the yeitzer hora.
Vera’isa bashivyah aishes yefas toar. This refers to the neshomah.
Vegilcha es roshah. He should remove bad beliefs from within himself.
Ve’asisah es tziporneha. He should cut out luxuries.
Vehaisirah simlas shivyah. The covering that is fashioned by sin should be removed.
Uvochsa es aviha. This refers to Hakadosh Boruch Hu.
V’es imah. This is Knesses Yisroel.
Yerach yomim. This is Elul.
Rav Tzadok Hakohein of Lublin (Pri Tzaddik, Ki Seitzei 2) quotes Rav Simcha Bunim of Peshischa, who commented that understanding that this parsha refers to man’s eternal battle with the yeitzer hora is not homiletic drush and remez, but actual p’shat poshut, the simple explanation of thepesukim.
So, as we study Parshas Ki Seitzei and read it aloud this week, it should be clear that these pesukim are meant to help usher us into the sacred portals of avodas yemei Elul. We read about a man doing battle for Am Yisroel and a woman mourning her old home, but, essentially, on a different level, we are reading about teshuvah and Elul.
Elul is everywhere. You just have to know how to find it.