Photo Credit: Chaim Goldberg/FLASH90
A heart seen painted on the Israeli flag, in Jerusalem. December 25, 2023.

Over the past few weeks we have heard the rhetoric from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, that even if Israel has to fight alone, receiving no aid or armaments from any allied countries, we would continue to do so. Indeed, we’ve seen Israel be isolated in various ways on the political echelon, whether it be by prosecutors in the Hague, or by our closest friend, the United States, withholding armaments. Other Western countries such as Canada, have already stated that they will no longer sell weapons to Israel, and European and Central American countries have come out publicly and stated that they will recognize a Palestinian State, even after October 7th.

In spite of Netanyahi’s rhetoric and political decisions by some Western countries, other friends of Israel have stood by us. The U.K. for example has unequivocally decided to keep selling arms to Israel even though many in the government called for them to stop. Many within the US government including hundreds of members of Congress and the Senate, have continued to push for arms to be sold and delivered to Israel, and even the general public in many European countries voiced their support for Israel during a Eurovision Song Contest where Israel was all but boycotted by national juries.


Yet, there is a feeling of Israel needing to go it alone, perhaps it is a worst-case scenario that the Prime Minister illustrated, or perhaps it is the push that Israel needs in order to gain full independence in the area of military and munition manufacturing. Either way, going it alone can be scary, it would mean a limiting of resources and operational strategies developed in accordance with that limit. It could also mean possible repercussions in the form of sanctions from other countries. South Africa is leading the charge on these sanctions and has already declared that any South African citizen serving in the IDF will be arrested upon return to their home country.

In times when we feel scared at the threat of being politically isolated, it is important to remember what the purpose of the Jewish people and the State of Israel is, and to look back on our tradition and faith for a message of hope.

Permit me a short segue: On Wednesday I was in the foyer at Aish in the old city of Jerusalem when I noticed several large books that were resting on lecterns (shtenders) by the windows. I went over to them and saw that one was a very large and well-decorated edition of Shmot, while another was a large and well-decorated edition of Pirkei Avot. I opened the Pirkei Avot edition to the third chapter, as it was the chapter we studied this past Shabbat. I simply wanted to peruse the artwork inside. The Mishna I opened to, (Avot 3:7) taught me a lesson that struck a significant chord in my mind.

The Mishna describes how Rabbi Halafta Ben Dosa expounded several passages from Tanach to teach us how God is with us when we study the Torah or even simply call out his name. The Mishna gives biblical support/exegesis from psukim to prove Rabbi Halafta’s points and state that God will be with us if we call out his name in groups of 10, 5, 3, 2, and yes, even if only one person who is standing alone and doing so. The passuk brought to support God’s being with even an individual who calls upon his name comes from, you guessed it, Sefer Shmot, and reads: “In any place where I cause my name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you.” (Shmot 20:21). It was the book that lay right next to the one I was reading.

The context of the passuk is about the command to build an altar, upon which sacrifices will be offered and comes directly after the Ten Commandments were given. Sacrifices are not always easy to give, but if the effort is made, and God’s name is called upon, he promises to not only answer but to bless the person who made the effort, even if they have to do it on their own. What is more telling, is that the entire passuk is said in the singular language, using words such as Ta’aseh instead of Ta’asu, lending more strength to this concept of God standing with us when we go it alone, as long as we put in the effort.

Everyone in Israel is putting in the effort. We may not agree on the exact methodology, but we all want the same things, for the war to end in victory with the remaining hostages being returned home safely and the dismantling of Hamas and terror infrastructure in Gaza so that the people living in the region can live in peace.

Of course, there is another understanding of why the passage in Shmot was given in the singular because the Jewish people at the time were unified after receiving the Ten Commandments at Sinai. Throughout history, whenever oppressors have attacked the Jewish people, it has resulted in Jews regaining a sense of purpose, coming closer to one another, and a greater unity than was present before. The same held true after the October 7th attacks. The refrain has been repeated over and over again that ‘united we will win’. The more we fight and bicker amongst ourselves, the more we allow our enemies to break us down and have power over us. The lesson from Shmot and Pirkei Avot that was decoratively illustrated right before my eyes was clear. We can go it alone, even if we are only one voice of reason in a world that has gone crazy. If we follow the ethics set down for us by God, declare what is correct and moral and thereby call upon God’s name, even if it is hard and we have to sacrifice things along the way, we can win. We can do that in a group with a multitude of voices, but if we do that in unison, and call out as one voice, then he will come down to us and bless us. What is greater in this world than to be blessed by God?

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Raphael Poch works as the Senior PR and Marketing Manager at Aish, is a freelance journalist, volunteers as an EMT and lives with his family in Efrat.