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How a can coward become courageous - Shoftim

Wednesday, 4 September, 2019 - 6:58 am

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My friend is very scared of dogs. But when she was a counselor in camp and had to walk near a dog with the children, she kept calm and even managed to calm down those kids who were scared and help them continue their way.

How did she do it?

In this week’s Parasha, the Torah speaks about wars and fixes some moral rules which apply even on the battlefront. We also read about the conditions under which a soldier can leave the battle. One of those situations is if someone is scared. Then, he shall leave the battlefield in order not to spread his fear and deject the others, and participate in the war effort in a different way.

What is interesting is that this only applies to “optional wars”, meaning those wars that take place for political purposes or to expand the land. But when it is a “Mitzvah war”, where the Torah commands us to fight, for instance in order to defend ourselves or to conquer the Land of Israel, then everyone must fight.

Why? If the problem is that the coward will deject the other fighters, then this is a given. What difference is there if the war was decided by G-d or by the Jewish leaders of this period? The coward will always fear the war, won’t he?

The Rambam (Maimonides), explains the deep logic that is found in this rule. Our fear and anxiety grow when we have more than one choice. Since there is a possibility for the war not to happen and it doesn’t come from an absolute command of G-d, then there is a space for fear and worry to influence and dishearten the fighters. But if the war is an absolute and clear order of G-d that is not about to change, then it is an obligation and not a choice, and then even the biggest coward can become courageous.

Like my friend who is very scared of dogs. When she knew that she had a responsibility for her team and that they must walk near the dog, then she suddenly became brave.

Like the religious smokers. Even those who on a weekday cannot manage one hour without a cigarette, when Shabbat comes, they manage not to smoke for 25 hours! This is because in their mind, keeping the Shabbat is an obligation which must be kept. There is no choice.

This rule applies to religion, to work and generally to all the areas of life. If we are absolutely certain that something must happen, then we will find the strength and the way to achieve it, no matter how difficult it is.

In this way, even a coward can become courageous.

Shabbat Shalom,


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