Recapture the Flag

By Yossi Katz

Recapture the Flag

By Yossi Katz

The Jewish people have never lacked enemies.
Just as we are attacked today by terrorists, so too, in
the days of Moses, our enemies constantly schemed
and planned our destruction. However, in the days of
Moses, our nation was worthy of prophecy: ours was a
nation that witnessed the Ten Plagues in Egypt and the
Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Because of our
elevated spiritual status, our enemies were not brazen
enough to attack us in a conventional way, but were
cunning enough to realize that they must threaten the
spiritual core of our people.
“The God of the Jews despises zima (immorality)”
(Sanhedrin 106a). The Midianites were intelligent. They
understood that the trademark of the Jew – brit milah
– demonstrates the holy nature of our people. We are a
people who cherish life, who use our sensual desires to
promote family life. Sensuality is the strongest drive we
possess; by focusing this in a kosher and dignified way,
we sanctify our greatest passion before God. This area
of holiness is our spiritual battlefield.

The Midianites, like most of our enemies, had little self-
regard for their own. They sent out their daughters as

harlots to seduce Jewish men. Zimri ben Salu, one of the
princes of the Tribe of Simeon, was discovered together
with the king’s daughter, Kozbi. The Midianites’ hatred
was so great that they were willing to use the king’s
daughter to entrap us!
We were deeply wounded in battle; the enemy captured
our flag. But God never abandons us. When we left the
spiritual waste pit of Egypt, we were counted. After the
sin of the golden calf, we were counted. Now, too, God
commanded Moses, “Take a head-count of the entire
assembly of Israel … all of those who go out to the

army of Israel.” God was teaching us how to be inducted
into the army of Israel and how to reclaim our spirit: We
must count every single Jew, we must find what makes
each one of us special.
By reading the Torah, we could mistakenly think that
our ancestors were bad people. God forbid! Generally
speaking, they were great Tzaddikim, much greater than
us – but the Torah is teaching us to realize that we all
err, and we all fall. But we can change and grow; we can
defeat our enemies.
Each of us has tried so many times to change, only to
fall right back down a short time later. The reason we
are stuck is because we judge ourselves negatively. Our
lack of progress and constant retreats confuse us into
seeing our essence as bad and flawed. Our actions and
thoughts are a mixture of good and bad, but our essence,
our neshamah (soul), is completely good and pure.
The secret to change is learning to identify ourselves by
our neshamos. We have to realize who we really are. By
discovering our good points and thanking God for them,
we begin the process of finally transforming ourselves.
Dramatic progress is almost never experienced
immediately. Therefore we need to find the little things,
the things we might make light of, and feel happiness
because of them. That smile that we shared with someone
… those few words of prayer that we concentrated on
saying … that temptation that we pushed away even for a
few seconds. These are reflections of our neshamah. We
must recognize them, identify ourselves with them, and
feel great joy and gratitude for them. Rebbe Nachman
said, “A little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness.” By
connecting to our good and our neshamos, we are
capable of restoring our dignified selves and recapturing
our flag.
Based on Likutey Halakhot, Nesiyat Kapayim 5:14

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