As this week’s parsha comes to a close the Torah teaches us about the judicial and legal system, and then proceeds to describe the pre-war process. Rashi (20:1) wonders why these two topics are placed next to each other; what does the judicial system possibly have to do with war? The answer, Rashi explains, is that the court and legal system has everything to with war: If the courts are conducted properly, and justice is truly pursued and ensured, then a victory at war will be guaranteed by God.
As we continue through the month of Elul, we should be aware that the same truths that apply when we go to war against our physical enemies applies all the same when we do battle with our spiritual enemy, the yetzer harah. Undoubtedly, this internal war is incredibly difficult. If we maintain a proper internal court, however, we can certainly prevail. Just as we must ensure justice to win physical wars, we must ensure justice to win internal wars as well.
An honest self-assessment, without justification or bending the truth, to determine our true strengths and weakness — and which areas we most need to work on — is crucial if we are to truly better ourselves, and win the battle against the yetzer harah.
Ramchal writes in his Mesillas Yesharim that it is the yetzer harah that blinds us from the truth and from acting properly. The Gemara (Sotah 3a) states that we only sin when overcome by a “wind of nonsense.” If we were to really contemplate and understand our actions, we would never sin.
Just as the Jewish people, when standing at the base of Sinai, were absolutely sure of the Truth of the Torah — and had no choice but to accept and follow it due to this realization (Meshech Chochmah) — we, too, should strive for such lucidity in our perception of right and wrong. Once such a clarity is reached, making the wrong choice becomes a lot more difficult, if not altogether impossible.