Lamentably, when wars break out, all-too-often soldiers give free reign to their lower and animalistic drives. In the absence of law enforcement, in the mayhem of the battlefields, terrible crimes are committed against helpless victims, including defenseless women.
The opening mitzvah of our parashah commands a Jew who captured a female POW to let her spend an entire month mourning her dead relatives. The idea is that during this month the man will come to see this woman’s suffering and pain, and recognize her full humanity. After that month comes to an end, this man must marry his captive, support her and honor her, or set her free unconditionally. What an amazing thing it is that millennia ago, when the Torah came to the world, we were already commanded to stay away from the kind of unspeakable barbarism which we are witnessing today in the Middle East.
Our sages also teach in a midrash (rabbinic teaching,) that the Torah discusses here the monumental inner battle that we humans launch against our lower, animalistic, instinctual self: לא דיברה תורה אלא כנגד יצר הרע (The Torah addresses here the evil inclination).
The idea is that our ultimate spiritual battle is internal, rather than geo-political. In this battle we labor hard to strengthen our civilized and refined self, our Godly soul, such that it can reign in, and also keep in check, the subterranean impulses of our physiological self. Millennia after our sages stressed the importance of this awesome inner struggle, Sigmund Freud came to also formulate it, in his own psychoanalytic writings. According to Freud, in the economy of the libido:“Where id (the instinctual self) is, ego (a moderating evolved self) shall be”.
As we approach the High Holy Days, let us endeavor to resist the potential evil from within us, and also, to do our modest part in protesting and combatting the political evil pervasive in the external world around us.