My congregants know that I have a “delusion”; I feel that the Parshat HaShavua – the weekly Torah Portion – always has surprising relevance to current events. In the many years that I have been looking for something to say Shabbos morning, I have virtually never been disappointed in finding that the Sidrah can be used to find inspiration or guidance for what we are going through at any particular time. This, of course, makes my job as a Rabbi much easier, for which I am eternally grateful. But sometimes, I am just astounded and sit back in awe. This past Shabbos was one of those times.
This past Shabbos, as we all sat in trepidation over what was going on in the part of Eretz Yisrael known as Gaza, I spoke among other things about Moshe’s exclamation to the tribes of Reuven and Gad. They had proposed to Moshe that they would like to stay in the trans-Jordan, and forgo their share in the land of Israel, a proposal that infuriated Moshe. Besides his astonishment that these tribes would , seemingly, dare to repeat the sin of the Spies, who had rejected Eretz Yisrael and caused the entire generation to perish, he had another complaint: האחיכם יבואו למלחמה ואתם תשבו פה
Will Your brothers go to war, while you sit (in peace) here? (Bamidbar 32:6)
Where is your sense of duty? Where is your sense of responsibility for all of Klal Yisrael? Where is your willingness to put the needs of the Nation above your personal needs?
This exhortation certainly applies to us, who live in the relative safety of America, when we think of not only the soldiers who are bravely going into that extremely dangerous hellhole, but also of the population as a whole who are absorbing a constant barrage of thousands of rockets raining down, protected only by Hashem’s miraculous Hand and His help in the amazing efficacy of the Iron Dome. I asked my audience to think of how this applies to them, and what each of us can do to take part in this national effort. Whether it means traveling to Israel at this time, bringing chizuk and much needed tourist dollars, whether it means doing our best to advocate for Israel with our elected representatives, whether it means contributing to the many organizations that are bringing help and relief to the soldiers, their families, and the families who live in the areas of the Negev and Ashdod, and most certainly by increasing our kavannah and quantity of Teffilah and Torah , even if it might interfere with our summer vacation plans.
But then, at Seudah Shlishit, we had Rabbi Chaim Sendic as a guest speaker, who pointed out a fascinating Midrash. Earlier in the Sidrah, we read of the war with Midian. There is a dispute in the Midrash as to how many soldiers were actually drafted for the battle. One opinion reads the statement One thousand for each tribe, One thousand for each tribe” (Bamidbar 31:4) to say that each tribe gave two thousand for the war effort. Another opinion, however, says that there were actually three thousand from each tribe: One thousand to fight, one thousand as a rear guard, and one thousand to pray. Rabbi Sendic asked, “Why was it necessary for the one thousand who prayed to go out to the battlefield? Surely all of Klal Yisrael joined in prayer at such a time – why was it necessary for there to be a group that prayed right at the battle?” The answer, fairly obviously, is that one cannot compare the prayers said far from the battle, in relative safety, to those said right near the front. How much more kavannah and feeling would certainly be infused into those prayers, with the rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air all around them!
About the Author: Rabbi Yehuda Leonard Oppenheimer is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Forest Hills, and a practicing attorney. He has an extensive background in Jewish Outreach, and is particularly grateful to have been the Rav of Kesser Israel in Portland, Oregon for ten years. He has long and deep connections with the land of Israel, where he lived for many years and where most of his family and children reside, and thus blogs at http://libibamizrach.blogspot.com/
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