Keep Your Enemies at a Distance

“…He drove out the enemy from before you, and said, ‘destroy!’…your enemies will deny [their identities] to you, but you will tread upon their heights…” – Devarim 33:27-29

וַיְגָרֶשׁ מִפָּנֶיךָ אוֹיֵב וַיֹּאמֶר הַשְׁמֵד . . וְיִכָּחֲשׁוּ אֹיְבֶיךָ לָךְ וְאַתָּה עַל בָּמוֹתֵימוֹ תִדְרֹךְ – דברים לג, כז-כט

In Moshe’s blessings to the Jewish people, we find two distinct attitudes toward the enemies of the Jews. At first, Moshe says that G-d drives away the enemies entirely, and likewise instructs  us to destroy them.  Later, however, the verse implies that the enemies will exist but they will hide in fear, and will ultimately serve as platforms by which the Jewish people ascend to great heights. So which is it? Are enemies to be expelled and eradicated, or to be subdued and serve as assistance to the Jewish people?

Keep Your Enemies at a Distance

The answer is that these two approaches apply to two different environments, one in which the enemy must be totally expelled and destroyed, and the other in which the enemy must be subdued and utilized for the good.

The second verse refers to the enemies—the obstructions to G-dliness and holiness—that are in the world at large. One cannot be in denial of their existence, nor should he fool himself to believe that he does not interact with them or that he is incapable of effecting them. Therefore, it is the Jew’s duty to influence the “enemy”: to bring justice and morality to the world and to remove the concealment of G-dliness that the mundane and material world naturally poses.

The first verse, in contrast, refers to the enemies found at home. A Jewish home is no place for influences that are not manifestly Jewish and holy. Therefore, regarding the Jewish home the Torah says, “He drove out the enemy before you and said, ‘Destroy!’”In order to succeed in transforming the enemies outside the home, you must first “Destroy!” —eradicate any enemies, any trace of unholy influences from the Jewish home, and allow it to be a perfectly holy temple for G-d.

—Toras Menachem 5742, vol. 1, pp. 179-180


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