In this week’s Torah portion, we read that when the people go into battle, God leads them to victory. I trust the literal truth of this statement, but the text that follows makes clear the battles God cares most about our winning.
It’s not so much the battles on the field of war where soldiers from one army face off against soldiers from another. Rather God is most interested in the battles we all face each and every day.
The enemy is often our pride, our greed, our desire for dominion, or our carelessness to duty to others and God. We can prevail over these enemies by constantly remembering that God watches over us, cares for us, and instructs us in how to meet divine expectations in how we live.
Let’s take a look at the text to see how this plays out.
For example, we are taught that when we find property that is another’s, though tempted to keep it, we are duty-bound to find the rightful owner and return it.
When a soldier takes a beautiful woman captive in war, he may be tempted to ravish her. God teaches that the urge be resisted and that respect and propriety be shown.
When the ravenous hunger and power of the hunter drives him to take the mother bird in the nest along with her young, God says no, and insists upon respecting the feelings of the bird and avoiding cruelty.
When a day worker does tasks for us, God helps us resist the temptation to hold on to our money but rather pay the worker the wages he/she needs on the same day the work was delivered.
When we want to strictly enforce the terms of loans we make, God helps us understand to be caring in our actions, especially if they might unduly pinch the poor or the widow.
When workers are working the fields of an owner, God helps both the workers and the owner resist the temptation only to see their own needs and be fair and respectful of the other.
These are some of the elevated ways of living that help us win the battles against internal enemies we face each and every day of our lives. For, as the text teaches, “when you go to war against your enemies, the Lord your God will deliver them into your hands.”