כי תצא למלחמה על איביך ונתנו ה' אלקיך בידך ושבית שביו.
“When you will go out in war against your enemy and Hashem your G-d will deliver them in your hand, and you will capture their captives.” (Devarim 21:10)
What is the significance of the word “b’yadecha – in your hand”? The verse is teaching us something very important. Let us delve more deeply into the words to understand their meaning.
As long as a person is in a Torah environment, lives in a frum neighborhood, studies in Yeshiva and davens in his community shul, he has an easier time overcoming the yetzer hara. The Gemara says (Kiddushin 30b): “If the yetzer hara confronts you, drag him into the Bais Midrash.” If you face a difficult nisoyon, run to a place of Torah, and there you will have the upper hand in the struggle.
When a person has to leave a sheltered Torah environment, he is in much greater danger of succumbing to his evil inclination. How can the person protect himself from the yetzer hara when he is forced to go out into the world? The Gemara tells us that every mitzvah offers protection (Sotah 21a). When a person performs a mitzvah, or takes upon himself to do a mitzvah, then he is protected by that mitzvah. “An emissary for a mitzvah will not be harmed” (Pesachim 8b).
Although it is certainly true that mitzvos protect the person, there is one important condition. A mitzvah must be performed purely for the sake of Heaven, without any ulterior motives. If the person has any personal considerations in mind when doing the mitzvah, then he cannot be as assured that the mitzvah will protect him from the yetzer hara. However, there is one mitzvah whose value is not diminished even if the person doing it has any ulterior motives; this is the mitzvah of tzedaka – charity. Even if the person gives tzedaka for self-gratification or to receive honor, the mitzvah still protects him, because in the end the recipient benefited.
Therefore, the best segulah for protection from the yetzer hara outside of a Torah environment is to perform mitzvos, especially the mitzvah of tzedaka. He will then merit that “tzedek will go before him,” the power of tzedaka will pave the way for him and protect him from all harm.
This is what the verse is telling us: “When you will go out,” when you leave your Torah environment, you must be prepared for “war against your enemy” – the yetzer hara. How can you overcome him? “Hashem your G-d will give” – by doing the mitzvos given to you by Hashem, “in your hand” – especially the mitzvah of tzedaka which is performed with an open hand. With this form of protection you will be successful “and you will capture their captives” – you will emerge victorious and overcome the yetzer hara. Not only will you be protected from the yetzer hara and you will avoid falling into his trap, but you will even take him captive. This means that you will be able to take back from him what he already took away from you.
The Be’er Heitav says in the name of the Ari Hakadosh that if a person learns Torah and performs mitzvos when he is full of sin, then the evil spirits capture his good deeds and use it for their own benefit. In that case, a person may be learning and praying, but not only will he fail to collect these mitzvos, he will even be empowering the enemy through his deeds. However, if we do the mitzvah of tzedaka with our hand, then the yetzer hara will fall into our hands. The mitzvah of tzedakaremains complete even if the person lacks merits. This mitzvah offers solid protection from the yetzer hara under all circumstances, and through this mitzvah the person can “capture a captive.” He can gain back his mitzvos that the evil spirits captured.
In this merit, may everyone be helped with whatever they need, and may we all be inscribed for a sweet new year. May we all merit greeting Moshiach speedily in our days, Amein.