Walking the streets of Israel, one of the most common expressions you’ll hear is “B’seder.” This is generally equivalent to the way we would say, “OK.” However, in Israel, this expression has taken on a panoply of different meanings.
“Would you like to meet for coffee at 10?” “B’seder.”
“How are you feeling today?” “B’seder.”
“You cut my place in line – that’s NOT b’seder.”
Sometimes someone will even say, “B’seder gamur,” which means something along the lines of “Very OK.”
Literally, the translation of b’seder is closer to “in order,” as in, things are anticipated to proceed according to plan or the expected result. Which brings us to our parashah, which begins, “When you go out to war against your enemy…” (Deuteronomy 21:20).
Each of us goes out to war every day. Wars are fought when two parties each have their own idea or desire regarding how a particular issue should proceed or be resolved. We experience this kind of confrontation in our dealings with others, and also with ourselves.
For example, we plan our day around working through a spiritual or business issue and resolving it a certain way, and then against our will, issues come up. “Dad – the bus never came.” Oy, vey! The result is that we experience inner turmoil, a mental war of sorts.
What’s the solution? How can I make peace with my situation? The verse continues, “…and God your Lord delivers them into your hands…” When is this? When “…you take them captive” (ibid.).
Baseball players often say, “I have no arm.” This is because a limb, even if it’s still whole and attached to the body, is considered missing if it no longer receives proper vitality from the rest of the body. So too, human beings often feel like things just aren’t going their way. This is because they are lacking their life-force and vitality.
Our life-force and vitality are derived from the intellect, just as a brain-dead body is no longer considered to be alive. The Hebrew word for intellect is ChoKhMaH, which can be further broken down to KoaCh MaH (the power of “What”). This alludes to something we ask every day at the beginning of the Morning Prayers as we humble ourselves before our Creator: “MeH chayeinu – What is our life? MaH kocheinu – What is our strength?”
We get into trouble by thinking that we’re the ones in control. We become like that limb that, while still physically whole, is essentially dead. The ultimate source of intellect and vitality is God alone. When we humble ourselves and our minds in submission to Him, saying, “What is my strength?” we receive the ultimate wisdom and vitality that makes our lives complete and worth living.
King Solomon said, “The King, bound in ReHaTim (chains)” (Song of Songs 7:6). The Zohar explains that these are the RaHeTei (rafters) of our minds (Tikkuney Zohar #6). By binding His Godliness in our thoughts, we take God captive, so to speak, and bring about absolute unity.
As we engage in teshuvah (returning to God) during Elul, every day is another war consisting of many battles. We set out to change our lives and plan accordingly, but things always seem to take place against our will. Don’t despair! By humbling ourselves and following God’s script, we can win the war and merit living a full life with ultimate connection to God.
Based on Likutey Moharan I, 82