The first verse of this week’s Torah portion, Ki Teitzei, seems to contain a grammatical error. “When you go forth to war against your enemies,” it begins, “and the L-rd your G-d will deliver him into your hands.” Why does the Torah begin the verse with the plural – enemies – and continue in the singular?
Every word in the Torah is exact, every letter conveying a multitude of meanings that teach countless lessons. This verse, which seemingly deals with the subject of conventional warfare, alludes to a different type of war, a spiritual war that is waged by every individual. A Jew may face two types of enemies: one that threatens his physical existence, and one that threatens his special holiness as a member of the Jewish people – his Jewish soul.
The Torah uses the word “enemies” to refer to both of these threats, for the body and soul of the Jew work in tandem, united in their service of G-d. Whatever imperils one’s physical well-being threatens one’s spiritual equilibrium and vice versa.
The Torah tells us how to emerge victorious over both types of enemy: “When you will go forth.” A person must gird himself with the strength that comes from absolute faith in G-d, even before encountering the enemy. Next, one’s approach must be that of ascendancy – “against (literally, ‘over’) your enemies.” Know that G-d Himself stands beside you and assists you in your struggle. Armed in such a manner, victory is assured, not only against conventional enemies, but against the root of all evil – the Evil Inclination, equated in the Talmud with “the Satan (enemy of the soul), and the angel of death (enemy of the physical body).”
When a Jew goes out to “war” fortified with the knowledge that there is no force in the world able to stand in the face of goodness and holiness, not only are external manifestations of evil vanquished, but its spiritual source is defeated as well. The Torah, therefore, uses the singular – enemy – to allude to the Evil Inclination, the origin and prototype of all misfortune.
The verse concludes with the words, “and you shall take captives of them.” If a Jew is not careful and falls prey to the Evil Inclination, all of his higher faculties, given to him by G-d to be utilized for good, also fall into its snare. The Torah teaches that sincere repentance has the power to redeem these captive prisoners, elevating them until even “willful transgressions are considered as merits.” Such warfare brings Moshiach and the Final Redemption closer when the Evil Inclination will be totally vanquished and the victory over sin will be permanent. Moshiach NOW!!!