The Torah makes for a lousy history book. Oftentimes significant historical events are completely omitted, whereas seemingly trivial incidents are related at length. To make matters a bit more confusing, the Torah has a penchant for recounting events out of chronological sequence.

This is because the Torah, although presented in story form, is not a history book at all. Every biblical episode is actually “current events,” applicable to our daily lives. Thus the Torah relates only stories whose messages are timeless, and even those stories are “edited”—leaving only the details which are germane to its eternal messages, and presented in a manner which will bring across the message in an optimal manner.

To study Torah without exploring the text for its contemporary messages is to ignore the Torah’s soulThus, to study Torah without exploring the text for its pertinent messages is to ignore the Torah’s soul. For example, when we feel overwhelmed and flooded by life’s troubles, we look to Noah for inspiration. When we are locked in combat with evil—temptations from within, or opposition from without—we read the story of Jacob and Esau, and learn how to react. The story of the Exodus teaches us how to deal with our enslavement to our impulses, nature and/or addictions.

The Book of Deuteronomy is replete with Moses’ descriptions of the upcoming conquest of the land of Canaan, and his assurances that the Israelites will be successful in battle. The following, taken from this week’s Torah reading, is one of Moses’ many statements on this subject:

Will you say to yourself, “These nations are more numerous than I; how will I be able to drive them out?” You shall not fear them . . . You shall not be terrified of them, for the L‑rd, your G‑d, who is in your midst, is a great and awesome G‑d. (Deuteronomy 7:17–21)

Moses was addressing a nation that was as accustomed to miracles as we are to nature. With Moses at their helm, the Israelites had just conquered the two mighty kingdoms of the Emorites and Bashanites. Their daily diet consisted of heavenly manna and water which spewed forth from a rock. Yet Moses sensed their dread and trepidation, and felt the need to reassure them. They were keenly aware that once they entered Canaan they were on their own. G‑d wouldn’t send ten plagues upon the Canaanites, nor would Moses be there to manipulate nature at whim. And facing the 31 Canaanite kings in battle on an even playing field was a frightening prospect.

And Moses didn’t deny that the foe was formidable. But he reassured them that while G‑d’s hand would not be patent in their impending war, it would nevertheless be behind the scenes, ensuring the Israelites’ victory. Recognizing the importance of morale, Moses infused the Israelites with confidence, reassuring them that they need only do their part on the battlefield, and G‑d will arrange the favorable outcome.

G‑d wants us to struggle and toil, but when we do so, He personally guarantees our victoryWe, too, face a battle every day. And often the foe seems formidable and unconquerable. The chassidic master Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev once addressed G‑d: “Master of the Universe, You have placed all the earthly temptations before our eyes, while the spiritual benefits and rewards for following Your will are relegated to the books we study. That is quite unfair! Reverse the situation. Serenade our senses with an appreciation for spirituality, and consign all material benefits and pleasures to the library shelves. See, then how many people will sin!”

It would be foolhardy to underestimate the battle which we face daily, and we may not have the wherewithal to succeed merely on our own powers. Yet, Moses enjoins us to remember that we are not alone on the battlefield. G‑d wants us to struggle and toil, but when we do so, He personally guarantees our victory.

“The L‑rd, your G‑d, will drive out those nations from before you, little by little . . .” (Deuteronomy 7:22)

The battle is slow; we do not become spiritual people overnight. But with persistence, determination and help from Above, we will eventually become the spiritual and refined individuals we so yearn to be.