11 Cheshvan 5781 / Thursday, October 29, 2020 | Torah Reading: Lech Lecha
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The Tyrannical Captain    

The Tyrannical Captain

… Instead, we listen to a tyrannical junior officer – the Yetzer Hara – who is the local commander, commanding our bodies to pursue a variety of...


The Ten Days of Repentance
"Our Father, our King, we have no other King except for you!" ("Avinu Malkeinu," supplemental prayer said on weekdays after the Shacharit and Mincha Shmona Esrei during the Ten Days of Repentance).
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev writes (Kitzur Likutei Moharan I:1) that the Yetzer Tov, or good inclination, incites a person to disdain bodily urges and foreign wisdom, which are all folly, and to cling to the holy light of Divine wisdom that illuminates the brain. The Yetzer Hara, or evil inclination, incites a person to do the opposite, as it is written (Proverbs 18:2), "A fool doesn't desire wisdom". Each person must empower the Yetzer Tov to overcome the Yetzer Hara.
Rebbe Nachman's above teaching explains why we say Avinu Malkeinu every day during the Ten Days of Repentance, and specifically why one of the first verses of the prayer states, "Our Father, our King, we have no other King except for you!" Since the evil inclination - the wicked, scheming, tyrannical and crafty Yetzer Hara - is forever trying to rebel against our Father The King, we utilize the Ten Days of Repentance to repent, thus reinforcing our inclination to do good and to subdue the Yetzer Hara. The Avinu Malkeinu prayer and the declaration that we have no other King except for Hashem remind us twice daily of teshuva– repentance - our crucial task during the interim days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
With Hashem's loving guidance, the following parable will show us the importance of empowering the Yetzer Tov to overcome the Yetzer Hara, before it's too late:
A tyrannical captain commanded Company 365 of the Royal Infantry, the King's best foot soldiers. None of the subordinates, from the platoon and squad commanders down to the simple riflemen with no rank, liked the captain. He was inconsiderate and self-serving. He lacked compassion; even worse, he was downright cruel. Often, in the midst of a difficult maneuver on a hot day, he would deny a drink of water to his soldiers. Yet, for himself, he'd readily indulge in a fine wine or a Havana cigar.
Orders arrived from the Royal Palace: The Royal Infantry Company was to proceed to the Eastern Front, a three-day journey. On the way, prearranged stations with ample food and lodgings awaited the company, which was to report in to the Commander of the Eastern Front within four days.
The tyrannical captain read the telegram from the Royal Palace with disdain. "What does the King understand about combat?" he smirked. "There's no threat in the East! If he wants us to join the fighting, we're needed much more on the Western Front!" The arrogant captain ordered his company to proceed westward, in complete opposite of the King's orders.
With heavy hearts, the company's three platoons packed their belongings and obeyed their evil commander. The platoon commanders shrugged their shoulders and rationalized, "After all, he's our direct commander. We're required to fulfill his commands." The march westward was a disaster; the soldiers received no food, no water, and no lodging on the way. They were forced to sleep in muddy swamplands with no protection from mosquitoes, snakes, and scorpions.
After several days of tortuous marching, two horses speedily approached from the east. Their riders were Royal Couriers, carrying a message from the King himself: "Royal Infantry Company 365, you are rebelling against the King and subject to punishment for treason! Change direction immediately and proceed eastward as ordered!"
The three platoon commanders now understood what they had to do: They seized the tyrannical captain, and bound his feet and hands in chains. "This is the rebellious culprit," they told the couriers. "Take him to the King! Tell His Majesty that Royal Infantry Company 365 remains forever loyal. We hereby proceed eastward according to the King's command!"
* * *
During the course of the year, we sometimes forget that Hashem, our Father and King, is our Supreme Commander whose commandments we must fulfill. Instead, we listen to a tyrannical junior officer – the Yetzer Hara – who is the local commander, commanding our bodies to pursue a variety of detrimental lusts and appetites and our brains to squander time and ability with a number of pointless follies. The Ten Days of Repentance serve as the King's couriers to remind us that we're rebellious and in grave danger of severe accusations. As such, we yell out Avinu Malkeinu, "Our Father, our King, we have no other King except for you!" Our efforts at teshuva reaffirm our allegiance to the King, and assure that we receive the Royal Signature in the Book of Life for a happy and healthy New Year, amen.

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