Is it a battle or a war?

Friday, 27 November, 2020 - 7:35 am

 I may be wrong. Maybe I’m just imagining things, but for a long time I’ve had the feeling that in recent years the human struggle between good and bad, between urges and ambitions, between Tohu and tikkun takes place in the form of “He redeemed my soul in peace.”

“He redeemed my soul in peace from battles against me.” That is the passuk in Tehillim that is quoted in every Chassidic essay this week. It is the passuk that speaks of the battle or the war that takes place within us between the good inclination and the evil inclination, between our egoistic animal-like soul and the altruistic, G-dly soul. And when we say “He redeemed in peace” we mean that it is good and right for this struggle to take place peaceably and not as a war.

I assume that every person wants to grow spiritually. Some are more involved in this quest and some less, but it is an aspiration of every human being.

In the past – and I’m talking about even twenty or thirty years ago – the struggle took the form of out-and-out war, in other words, the way to cope with our problems was to ignore them completely, grit our teeth and move forward no matter what. The common expression in a Chassidic hitva’adut was (and still it – though to a lesser degree) “Azoy un nit andersh -This is the way, no other.”

The answer “Because” was suitable and even accepted.

But in recent years there has been a change – a change coming from the grassroots of society. People have stopped accepting “Because” as an answer, and “This is the way, no other” does not satisfy questioners. We say, “The young people today want answers”, and the truth is that not only the young people; rather, all of us, or at least most of us, want to understand more, to know more.

Perhaps – and everything I’m writing today is “perhaps”, because I’m somewhat afraid to write this – it is not answers we are looking for, but acknowledgment. To simply acknowledge our weaknesses, our faults. Acknowledging that we are not perfect. Acknowledging that we sometimes feel broken, feel that we have falling apart. Acknowledging that often our animalistic, materialistic urges and wishes overpower us and we might fall.

This acknowledgement, this looking straight at our weaknesses, brings with it wonderful healing. It enables us to go forward with our heads up, without gritting our teeth, without expending energy in a way that leaves us exhausted and drained.

The word “battle” describes a hand-to-hand fight, with direct contact between the two sides. The two sides see each other from up clos Battle – krav – related to close – karov.

The word “war” describes a struggle from afar, where the two sides do not see each other. Rather, they ignore each other, in a way.

Redemption in peace is successful when we wage a battle and not a war – “He redeemed my soul in peace from battles against me.”

But, perhaps this is not so?

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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