Rabbi Sendic then quoted Rav Sosevsky of Ohr Yerushalayim in arguing that every Shul and Bet Hamidrash is, in effect, a spiritual “embassy” of Israel, and when we come to daven together in a shul, it is as if we now stand on Israeli soil, that much closer to being among those who are davening on the battlefield.
I wanted to extend this beautiful idea just a little bit. Certainly one the reasons for the efficacy of this prayer was due to the shared sense of mission between those who fought and those who prayed. They were equal parts of a whole – Elef Lamateh, Elef Lamateh – the same exact words repeated twice, underscoring the unity in spirit and mission between them.
In our Jewish world today, some of our young men go to fight the wars in the IDF, and some learn Torah full time. This ought to hold true for ALL parts of Klal Yisroel. Rashi on Bamidbar 31:4 takes pains to point out “לרבות שבט לוי”, that the tribe of Levi, who normally were exempted from many communal responsibilities, were equally called upon to fight when it was a Milchemes Mitzva, an obligatory war, which unquestionably applies to wars to defend the Jewish people. The tribe of Levi also gave their three thousand finest young men, together with the rest of Klal Yisrael. * When a severe crisis threatens all of Israel, all of Israel needs to contribute equally in Torah, Tefillah, and fighting.
In our world today, such elementary thinking is not practical, I will be told. Many parts of Klal Yisrael are not engaged in Tefillah or Torah, so other parts must compensate and provide the Torah and Tefillah for those who are not engaged in such. While this is most certainly true in regard to Torah, I am less convinced that Tefilah is not shared very widely, even by those who perhaps do not pray in the traditional way. (I note that the quoted Midrash says nothing about “One thousand for Torah study”, but surely there are other sources that speak of the importance of Limud HaTorah for the protection of Klal Yisroel. Reasons for the omission here are beyond the scope of this essay, but the omission is certainly interesting). Clearly, however, all factions ought to feel a shared sense of mission and purpose at such a time.
Our shul, and many other shuls, feel that the prayer for Tzahal is crucially important in expressing this unified mission. Many other shuls, for a variety of reasons – some reasonable and some to this writer’s mind inexcusable – omit this prayer. Let us hope, however, that no matter what form that prayer takes, we show our appreciation for the soldiers who are courageously doing their part in this mission, and find ways to assure them that we are so very grateful to them, and offer our fervent and incessant prayer for their success in battle and safe return home.
* The Imrei Emes provides a beautiful explanation of how the tribe of Levi is counted if the next verse refers to only 12,000 being given over. He says that all the tribes were hesitant in coming for the draft, because they knew that Moshe would die soon after the war. Shevet Levi, however, as they did at the Golden Calf, ignored their personal feelings and relationships (they were the closest to Moshe) and with a מי לה’ אלי spirit, came forward immediately. That is why it says in the next verse – about the other twelve tribes – וימסרו מאלפי בנ”י that they were “given over” or had to be coerced, שנים עשרה אלף the remaining 12,000, besides the 1,000 (x3) of Shevet Levi.