In this week’s Haftorah, King David spoke of his gratitude to G-d for the victories in his struggles and battles. We will do something very different this week, dear Friends of Belz who learn with us every week. Know that the entire world is here just to teach us to connect with G-d. You can learn G-dliness from the ant, from the cat, from the forces of nature. And, this week, we will learn our mission well from a war lord of China. Sun Tzu was a warrior in China about two thousand years ago. A successful warrior, I might add. He wrote a treatise on war, how to wage it, how to win it, how to prepare for it and why you must do so.
According to Sun Tzu, battles are crucial for the world for without conflict, there is no growth. The conflict can be internal or external, but it must be there. Think of a grass seed, fighting it out with the cement block of sidewalk. Conflict resolved by growth, by the stalk displacing the concrete. The waves bashing against a shore. The fight of the wild dogs over territory. Nature abounds with struggle and battle.
From those physical conflicts and battles, we glean insight into the fact that in spirituality there must be some sense of conflict and warring. Within a ruchniyos outlook, we often hear of the spiritual struggle as being one between dark and light, the warring of good and bad.
In fact, if you look at physics and all science you will see opposing forces keeping the world together. Think of the magnetic field, as well as the charges of the atoms. The pro and anti within the world is always in complete balance, equal pull and push, equal good and bad, equal positive and negative.
Hashem set up a world where even in nature we see that warring must take place. So, too, in spirituality. We must vanquish our baser desires, trap the evil inclination, wipe out Amalek. There are battles that must be fought. There are always equal opportunity to be good or be bad. King David and Esau had identical personalities at birth. The pull to bad for both was enormous, as was the pull to greatness. Esau tilted toward the bad magnetic field; King David fought that pull and pushed himself to the good magnetic field. The greater the person, the greater his evil inclination. Just as in boxing the opponents are evenly matched, G-d created our souls with exactly equal elements of greatness and baseness.
When dealing with struggles in life, know that some battles, Hashem will fight for you. But there is one battle that you must fight – and that is the fight against your baser side. If the foes are on the outside, you can call out and cry to G-d and let Him step in and save you. Yet, He expects, when the battle is on the inside, in your soul, that you do battle. As the Rambam puts it, “Hakol beeyeday shamayim, chutz mee’yiras shamayim – Everything is in the hands of Heaven, EXCEPT FOR awe of Heaven.” That battle is what your soul was sent to wage in this world.
Using Sun Tzu’s knowledge, we will take worldly battle strategy and use it for spiritual strategies.
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Or, as Sun Tzu says it bluntly, it is dumb to fight a war you can’t win, and you can’t win a war without being prepared.
Preparation means knowing your what and why – you are here in this world for what purpose?
Know your timing – is this the right time to go about this mission. Sometimes in life we are called upon to speak up, sometimes to be quiet. Know the timing of your missions.
Know your cohorts – who is on your side and who is on the enemy side.
Did you locate your resources – how will you use resources and how will you replenish them? Yaakov our forefather went back for some bottles, not because he was cheap. But because he realized resources were given for spiritual growth, and he must safeguard those resources.
Think three steps ahead – what happens, if plans change, if you are left standing alone, if your plan A doesn’t work.
2. Never go into the field unless your own house is in order.
King David didn’t start out being King. He started out putting his own soul in order, before being tasked with leading an entire nation. Too often, we are out there, trying to decry everyone else’s observance, fight for stranger’s wrong-doing, without getting our own “house in order”.
3. Insult the enemy, but know his strength
Some of our desires are ridiculous. Poke fun at it to delegitimize it; but never underestimate it.
4. Let the enemy kill himself
Let some desires roil and coil and die out on their own, rather than engage it head on in battle.
5. The most amazing victories are ones where no force was needed to be used
6. Capture territory that you can hold.
Don’t take on more than you can handle in spirituality or you will burn up and get dejected, losing ground.