Wednesday, October 05, 2022

I received a gift card a few months ago and recently wanted to use the remaining balance on the card. I called the phone number on the back of the card to check on the balance. A voice on the phone first asked me for my name and address, then asked me for my birthday. Really? All this for a gift card?? Now I got suspicious! I looked at the back of the card carefully and saw that the very last number of the telephone number listed was unclear. Was it a six...or an eight? It seems I misinterpreted the number, called an incorrect phone number, and a bunch of hackers were intercepting all the calls to that incorrect number to get private information on the callers, which they would then use for illegitimate purposes.

The end of Parshas Ki Seitzei places an emphasis on interception, as it discusses the mitzvah to remember how Amalek attacked klal Yisrael on their way to receive the Torah. “Remember what Amalek did… asher karecha baderech—that they chanced upon (attacked) you on the path.”

Rav Tzadok HaKohein explains that Amalek, the nemesis of klal Yisrael, had a specific modus operandi: to attack klal Yisrael while they were traveling (“on the derech”), for that’s when they were the most vulnerable. Amalek attacked the “necheshalim acharecha—the weak and weary,” who were trailing in the back of the group.

Our yetzer hara—evil inclination—does the same thing. It finds our weak spot…and pounces! The Alter of Slabodka said the “derech” of klal Yisroel is the path between the mind and the heart. Physically, the heart and the mind are very close, but in practice, they are galaxies apart. Our mind knows what we should do, but that knowledge reaching the heart—and causing the person to act on that knowledge—is another story. Amalek—the manifestation of the yetzer hara—attempts to intercept the mind’s message and provide the heart with a different, malevolent direction.

The Torah describes Amalek’s attack as “karecha.” Rashi brings us three interpretations of the meaning of “karecha.” The first is “mikreh”—it was a chance occurrence: they chanced upon us on the way. The second interpretation is “keri”—a discharge that creates spiritual defilement. Amalek tried to get us to contaminate ourselves with spiritual defilement. The third is “kor”—cold. The Amalekites cooled down the world’s fear of the Jews by being the first to attack klal Yisrael after Yetzias Mitzrayim and Krias Yam Suf. We were no longer seen as untouchable.

Let’s plug these interpretations into the yetzer hara’s attempts to intercept the transmission between our minds and our hearts. When we’re in a transition state—not firmly set in our ways and feeling weak and vulnerable—the yetzer hara attacks the mind, claiming that a positive event was just a “mikreh”—a coincidence—and sows doubt that it came from Hashem. Sometimes, it attacks with “keri”—defilement—which distorts the positive signal of the mind to the heart. Other times, it targets our hearts with feelings of “kor”—coolness and indifference.

However, Hashem has given us a daily mitzvah that ensures a strong and clear transmission from the mind to the heart: the mitzvah of wearing tefillin.

The Rambam says, “Whenever one is wearing the tefillin shel rosh (head) and shel yad (arm), he becomes humble and God fearing and this chases away extraneous and inappropriate thoughts.

The tefillin shel rosh is placed by the brain. The tefillin shel yad is placed on the upper arm across from a person’s heart. Both tefillin are connectors between the mind and heart to carry out what is correct and beneficial. Wearing tefillin helps us bring our connection to Hashem from our minds to our hearts. It adds an element of holiness to our day, helps us recognize that everything occurs with divine providence, and opens our hearts to act based on the proper attitudes.

And what about on Shabbos? On Shabbos we are gifted with a neshamah yeseirah—an extra soul, which allows us to connect to our true purpose; we don’t need tefillin on Shabbos. Women are additionally gifted with binah yeseirah—an extra element of understanding—and they consequently connect more easily to their true purpose in life.

May Hashem help us to strongly transmit correct signals from our minds to our hearts and act upon them to fulfill our greatest potential.

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara-learning program. PTI has attracted adult Jews of all ages from all over northern New Jersey for its learning programs. Fees are not charged but any contributions are always welcome. Beyond PTI, Rabbi Bodenheim conducts a weekly beis midrash program with chavrusa learning in Livingston plus a monthly group in West Caldwell. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected] For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com

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