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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Mordechai Lipskier

How the bachur evaded the draft

“Mother Russia is counting on you to serve in her army!” hollered the interviewing officer to the young bachur in the dreaded office of the draft. To the officer’s surprise, the bachur replied with an emphatic, “I’m ready! In fact, I just know I’ll make a great soldier.”

“And how do you know that?”

“Well, I already have experience.” The officer was intrigued. “When did you last serve?”

“Just this morning I woke up with the plan to pray, but a voice inside of me argued that I need more sleep. Another voice argued right back, insisting that praying would be the best thing for me. It was all-out war. And I’ve been fighting wars like this all day for as long as I can remember.”

“It seems that you’re already extremely busy,” said the officer warily. “We’ll leave you to fight your wars and recruit other soldiers instead.”

The jubilant bachur returned to yeshiva where his friends asked him how he had pulled off an exemption. “It was pretty simple; I taught the officer about the yetzer hara and yetzer tov and he sent me home.”


Our sedra begins, “If you go out to war against your enemies…and you take his captives...” Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say “take them as captives”? The pasuk’s wording implies that we are taking preexisting captives as our own.

The Chasam Sofer [1] writes that he heard the following interpretation:

Every Yid is at war with his yetzer hara. This pasuk provides a strategy for winning the war.

The yetzer hara’s most successful tactic is slow and steady. As Chazal say, “Today he says to do this, tomorrow he says to do a little more, and eventually he’ll tell you to serve avodah zarah.” He knows that a Yid won’t typically desert Torah and mitzvos outright and overnight. But the yetzer hara has time. He puts small ideas into our heads, things that seem insignificant. Over time, he reasons, the Yid will become spiritually desensitized and build a tolerance for bona fide aveiros.

We can take “his” captives, we can adopt his strategy, and we can use it against him. When trying to implement positive changes, let’s not take on too much at once expecting immediate results. Have patience. Look at the long-term plan. One mitzvah at a time, one more kevius in Torah, one more act of kindness will spiritually sensitize us and build intolerance for bona fide aveiros, and then for subtler ones too.

A bachur once expressed his frustration to the Rebbe, saying that he doesn’t see results in his avodas Hashem. The Rebbe explained to the bachur that the problem was that he was aspiring to big changes and expecting immediate results too. The yetzer hara wants you to believe that only great and fast changes are significant. However, if you focus on slow and steady progress in yeshiva, you’ll soon see real results. [2]

It’s not uncommon to think that change for the good must be big and fast. And it’s not surprising that we adopted this way of thinking from the yetzer hara himself. Who else knows that real, long-lasting change only happens with patience, diligence, and time? You can be sure that the designers of impulse buys spend many hours of slow, deliberate, and methodical strategizing in designing their wares. There’s nothing fast or impulsive happening on their end.

By sending us out to war, Hashem also empowers us to win. One battle at a time and, with Hashem’s help, we’ll see success.

Gut Shabbos and a Ksiva V'Chasima Tova,

Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

[1] Toras Moshe.

[2] Igros Kodesh, Vol. 7, pg. 75.


The Flint family l’zecher nishmas Reb Avraham Michoel ben Yaakov Shimon Halevi a"h

The Moshe Group

Moshe and Rivky Majeski


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