The Celebrate Israel Festival on May 31 at Pier 94, slated to be the largest gathering to date of Israeli-Americans in New York.
Let me tell you how special it is to live in Eretz Yisrael. The other day I decided it was time for me to say the entire Book of Psalms – Tehillim. I’m the father of ten children and fifteen grandchildren (b’li ayin hara), so the power of Tehillim is where I turn, for my family’s needs.
But I decided that before I could start reading the Tehillim I needed to cancel my extra Bezek telephone line, which I no longer needed.
So I called Bezek. I got some recordings, but finally a women came on the line and asked me why I wanted to cancel the line. “Please,” I said, “I need to read the whole book of Tehillim, it’s a six-hour job, so just cancel my line.”
Then I asked her what her name was and she replied, “Tehila.”
“Tehila?” I gasped. “And I just told you that I’m going to say the whole Book of Tehillim!”
“And I was named after the book,” she said.
“So was my oldest daughter,” I told her.
“My wife was having our first child,” I explained, “and we had a mean-looking doctor, from the old school, and he said to her, ‘If the baby doesn’t turn around in a half hour, we’re going to have to cut you open with a caesarian section.’
“My wife started crying, ‘Why me, why me?’ and I said, sternly, ‘It’s not up to the doctor, it’s up to Hashem.’
“Then I opened the Tehillim and insisted that she repeat each verse after me, and she did.
“Ten minutes later the doctor came to check her again and said, ‘She’s ready for a normal birth.’ And that’s why we named her after the book – Tehila.”
“Wow!” the operator said. “What a beautiful story!”
“Now tell me your story,” I asked.
She told me her mother was nine months pregnant during the 1991 Gulf War. Her parents lived in the center of the country, where some 39 Scuds from Iraq were exploding. Their large building was rattled by a direct hit, and an entire wall of the tenement came crashing down, but as with all the Scuds, no one was directly injured.
“But from the shock, my mother immediately started having contractions. She was rushed to the hospital and I was born, and I was named after the Book of Tehillim.”
“What a story!” I said. “But do you know why you were named after the book?”
“I guess my parents read Tehillim then also,” she responded.
“No, it’s more than that,” I told her. “All over Israel there was a popular poster on billboards reading, ‘Say Tehillim [to protect us] against the Tillim [meaning Scuds or missiles].”
And so now, after my conversation with the phone company operator named Tehila, I was ready to read Tehillim. But let me add that this was the morning after our seventh prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, a tiny but mighty man, died at the ripe old age of 96.
So it’s apropos to tell you it was the Gulf War – with the gas masks and the 39 Scuds and the amazing miracles and the dictate of President Bush and his secretary of state, James Baker, that Israel not react but rather sit back and do nothing while the Scuds came crashing down – that caused our prime minister to really come of age, to change, so to speak.
Let me explain: Shamir was a great lover of Israel but he refused to be a “hostage” to “religious coercion.” So when he won the election in 1988 and had a clear majority of 63, counting the religious parties, he signed an agreement with head of the Agudas Yisrael party, Rav Menachem Porush, zt”l, giving into all of the party’s religious demands.
Then, suddenly, he approached the Labor Party and said, “Let’s form a national unity government, and to heck with these small haredi bench warmers. Who needs them to blackmail us, with their power to bring down the government with one vote?”
Labor accepted the offer. And Rav Porush, seeing how he’d been used and tricked, screamed, “What about the agreement we just signed? You must honor it and have Agudah in the government too!”
Shamir smiled and said, “Save the paper I signed – it’ll be worth a lot of money one day; it will be a museum piece!”
Rav Porush never forgave him, and in 1990, when Shimon Peres’s no-confidence motion brought down the government, Rav Porush was ready join the new leftist government that was about to be formed.
Only Rav Shach and the Rebbe of Lubavitch saved Shamir and he again formed a government, this time with all the small parties and the religious ones too.
And then in the Gulf War the following year, Shamir recognized that Tehillim is indeed more powerful than Tillim. He, along with everyone else, witnessed the attack of the 39 Scuds – the precise amount of the 39 forbidden laws of Shabbos. And he heard reports that the one person who died succumbed to a heart attack of a heart attack and that this man had fought Shabbat road closures.
And we witnessed this after the war. Bush pressured Shamir into having the Madrid conference, to trade land for peace with the people that were whistling on the rooftops, as the deadly scuds were shooting towards Tel Aviv!
Shamir refused to send his foreign minister, David Levy. He wanted no mistakes. He wanted to talk but not to give. He proclaimed publicly, in no uncertain terms, “There is no room on this side of the Jordan for two states!”
But to talk? Farvos nit? – why not? – and with only talk in mind, he himself went to the Madrid talks.
And on the first Erev Shabbos in Madrid, he showed how the miracles of the Gulf War affected him when he declared in front of the cameras of the world media, “It’s Erev Shabbos, I’m a Jew, so I’m going home for Shabbos.”
I was so impressed with this Kiddush Hashem that I praised him in a six-inch display ad in the Jerusalem Post and invited him to my home in Jerusalem’s Old City for a Shabbos meal.
He didn’t come, but who cares? Now, with his honored burial on Mount Herzl, his soul will be where it’s Shabbos forever, and he will be there for the reading of Parshas Balak, where Bilam declares, “He [God] sees no inequity in Jacob……”
Rest in Peace, Tiny Mighty Man, and be an upright spokesperson for your Charming Nation Israel, so that we may live in peace in all of our land. Shalom, Chaver.
Dov Shurin is a popular radio personality and the composer and producer of several albums of original composition. He lives with his family in Israel and can be contacted at email@example.com. His column appears in The Jewish Press every other week.
About the Author: Dov Shurin is a popular radio personality and the composer and producer of several albums. He lives with his family in Israel and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Jewish Press column appears the third issue of each month.
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