Photo Credit: Flash 90

For the last month and a half, nobody I know has slept through the night. Certainly, those in Israel, especially those married to soldiers, and those who are parents or siblings of soldiers are perpetually restless, on edge, anxious, and concerned. But in truth, all of us, the Jewish people around the world, can’t rest comfortably, we can’t settle into a deep sleep while our people are at war, while our family members, direct and extended, are on the front lines, risking their lives, fighting an evil enemy, laying it all on the line to protect the Jewish people and the Jewish homeland. We are comforted by the knowledge that our soldiers’ faith, resolve, tenacity, determination, moral clarity, and sense of mission are unparalleled, but it is only natural to remain concerned and worried nonetheless.

These ordinary soldiers and reservists are in fact extraordinary and special people. They are motivated and inspired not by simple patriotism and nationalism, but by a deep sense of conviction that we are a people of an illustrious history and a distinct destiny. The IDF’s soldiers are well- trained, well-armed, and well informed. They are skilled professionals with a military superiority, but the images, videos and reports from the front lines tell of soldiers who know that the secret to their victory is not in their weapons or intelligence. In fact, it is not in their hands, but it is in their hearts, their souls, and pouring out of their mouths. The clips of IDF bombings and operations are powerful, but they pale in comparison to the power of the clips of soldiers putting on Tefillin, asking for tzitzis, praying, singing, dancing, and proclaiming al tirah Yisrael, don’t be afraid Israel, ein lanu al mi l’hishaein elah al Avinu She’bashamayim, we have nobody to lean on other than our Father in Heaven, anachnu ma’aminim b’nei ma’aminim, we are believers the children of believers.


Our soldiers know and feel that the wind at their backs, the spiritual iron dome over their heads, are the heartfelt prayers on their behalf being uttered nonstop by all of us, their brothers and sisters around the world who love them, cherish them, admire them, and feel boundless gratitude to them.

To deny the potency, power, and effectiveness of Torah and Tefilla as an indispensable part of any military victory is to deny a basic foundation of our faith. Ultimately, every area of our lives, certainly our national safety and well-being is dictated from Above and is in the hands of Hashem. There must be no doubt that our davening, our learning, our merits have meaning, they matter, they make a difference. Just as we know it is not the doctor nor the surgeon who heals, but it is Hashem. It is not the lawyer who makes the winning argument or the earthly judge who decides, but true justice is served by the Heavenly Judge. It is not the businessperson or entrepreneur who closes the deal, but it is the Senior Partner of every endeavor, Hashem. And it is not the soldier who wins the war, but the true General, the Master of all Legions, the Ribono Shel Olam. Living with Emunah and Bitachon, tenets of our faith, means recognizing and living this axiomatic truth, recognizing that we live in a matrix of illusion, while the reality of everything comes from Hashem.

Of course, simultaneously, it is also true that we don’t passively wait to be healed, we don’t sit on the couch waiting for money to fall from the sky, we search out the best doctor and we take initiative to earn an income. Excessive effort with no faith in Hashem is heresy, but claiming to rely on faith without making any legitimate effort is not genuine faith.

Chazal say harbei sheluchim l’Makom, Hashem has many agents and messengers. We must always remember that He is guiding their hand and outcome. But, while Hashem gives the talent and strength, the shliach, the agent still puts in the effort and energy to use it and is deserving of our most basic hakaras ha’tov, our gratitude and appreciation. During a loved one’s surgery we daven and pour out our heart to Hashem. And when it is a success we thank Him, but we have never been concerned that showing appropriate appreciation to the doctor is a contradiction to knowing that Hashem is the one who guided his hand. Just the opposite, failing to recognize the doctor’s critical role is its own denial of Hashem’s hand. We daven that the lawyer find the right words and that the judge come to a favorable conclusion. But we have never felt finding the best representation or preparing diligently for a case somehow contradicts the reality and truth that Hashem is the real Judge whose opinion and conclusion is the one that truly matters. In every area of our lives, we seek to strike the balance between hishtadlus, our initiative and effort, with bitachon, trust and faith. We see them not as a contradiction or source of confusion, but two complementary, critical elements of a Jew’s life.

During this urgent time, with Am Yisroel at war, it is no different. The brave soldiers of the IDF represent our people’s initiative, they are the shlichei Hashem fighting this milchemes mitzvah to defend the Jewish people. Remarkably, overwhelmingly, they practice their initiative powered by profound emunah and bitachon, both theirs and ours.

This combination, the relationship of initiative and faith, has always been evident in our attitude to war. Commenting on the words, וְלִזְבוּלֻ֣ן אָמַ֔ר שְׂמַ֥ח זְבוּלֻ֖ן בְּצֵאתֶ֑ךָ וְיִשָּׂשכָ֖ר בְּאֹהָלֶֽיךָ׃ עַמִּים֙ הַר־יִקְרָ֔אוּ שָׁ֖ם יִזְבְּח֣וּ זִבְחֵי־צֶ֑דֶק, “And of Zebulun he said: rejoice, O Zevulun, on your journeys, And Yissachar, in your tents, they invite their kin to the mountain, where they offer sacrifices of success,” the Chassam Sofer (Toras Moshe) comments: It can be explained that we find that Shmuel and Shaul, when they went out to war, before going out, they would offer a sacrifice for protection… And when it says, ‘Rejoice, Zevulun, in your going out to war, for Yissachar in your tents,’ it means Zevulun’s success at war will come in the merit of Yissachar’s learning in the tents.”

Soldiers who fight absent Am Yisroel davening and learning cannot be successful. But it is also true that Am Yisroel learning and davening without soldiers fighting and protecting them cannot survive. Yaakov Avinu prepared in three ways to defeat Esav, including diplomacy, preparing militarily, and davening. Dovid HaMelech, the very author of the Tehillim we passionately recite, also led an army with generals and soldiers, as did the Jewish Kings we find throughout Tanach.

The Chiddushei HaRim of Ger, Rav Yitzchak Meir Alter, points out that we are called Yehudim after Yehudah specifically because we as a nation are to be characterized by an ever-present sense of gratitude, by an appreciation first and foremost of Hashem, but also of His loyal agents and emissaries who carry out His will. There must be enough room in our hearts and on our lips to express gratitude to all. We must be grateful to those making spiritual contributions, to those storming the Heavens, and certainly to those making extreme sacrifices, our incredible soldiers who take the ultimate risks and an army who are moseir nefesh for our people.

Loving soldiers, davening for them, showing appreciating to them has always been the Torah way, it is the example our gedolim have set, and it is the responsibility we bear at this time, something that should be obvious and intuitive. In 2005, Rav Simcha HaKohen Kook and the Bostoner Rebbe of Yerushalayim made an urgent call to have every active soldier partnered in solidarity with someone davening for their safety. They launched the “Elef Lamateh, Elef Lamateh” campaign based on a Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah) that says for every thousand Jewish soldiers that went to fight, one thousand who remained behind matched with them and davened and learned on their behalf.

In the introduction to the third volume of Tzitz Eliezer, Rav Waldenberg writes:

A shudder runs through my entire body when I think about that terrible period of the birth of the state…We the residents of Jerusalem in particular were cut off without any connection with the other cities and surrounded by enemies in the soul, who are passionate and busy as we were driven out to swallow us…There wasn’t a neighborhood that wasn’t hit and there wasn’t a street where victims didn’t fall… Glory and praise to our heroic soldiers who sacrificed their lives to fight like lions for the conquest of our holy land from foreigners and for the establishment of our state with the face of a lion, their face like deer on the mountains to hurry and with God’s help were the messengers of the Supreme Providence to carry out This historic mission, God will remember those who fell in the fulfillment of their holy mission and will enshrine in memory the glory and eternity of those who are alive with us today.

Rav Shach, during a visit with soldiers to his home, expressed gratitude to them, emphasizing “that you are esteemed, important people and you provide excellent protection of the Land of Israel.” He thanked them for their actions and acknowledged their contribution, stating that he stands before them in great appreciation.

Rav Chaim Shmulevitz (1912-1979), the Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir once said: “The Gemara (Bava Basra 10b) says about those that gave their lives defending Lod, no creature can stand in their place. It is because they sacrificed their lives for Israel. I say the same about those who sacrifice themselves for our salvation. The entire world cannot stand in their place. The obligation upon us to pray for them is boundless because, as our Sages said, ‘One who opens for his friend, his soul is obligated to him.’ All the more so for one who sacrifices his life for us. The obligation upon us is boundless.” Rav Yitzchak Brand described that during the Six Day War, he witnessed Rav Chaim Shmulevitz stand before each soldier he saw in appreciation for their mesirus nefesh to save the Jewish people. And Rav Yisroel Lau relates how no less a Gadol Hador than Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach z”l, when asked about traveling to daven at Kivrei Tzadikim, would respond,“In order to pray at the graves of tzadikim, one doesn’t have to travel up to the Galil. Whenever I feel the need to pray at the graves of tzadikim, I go to Mount Herzl, [the national cemetery for fallen IDF soliders in Jerusalem], to the graves of the soliders…who fell ‘Al Kiddush Hashem’ for the sanctification of G-d.”

In 1980, at the 6th Knessiah Gedolah of Agudas Yisroel, a special Kayl Maleh was recited for Chayalei Tzahal, the soldiers of the IDF who gave their lives al Kiddush Hashem.  It was said in the presence of Rav Shach, The Gerrer Rebbe, Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky, Rav Ruderman, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, the Slonimer Rebbe, the Modzitzer Rebbe, and the Biala Rebbe who all stood and honored the fallen soldiers.

Rav Aharon Lichtenstein related that once when he returned to America and was visiting with his father-in-law, Rav Soloveitchik, he posed a series of questions from students who were serving in the IDF. One student worked in the tanks division and his job was cleaning out and maintaining the tanks. Often his uniform got covered in oil and grime and he wanted to know if he needed to change before davening Mincha, something that would be terribly inconvenient and difficult. The Rav looked at Rav Lichtenstein and wondered out loud, “Why would he need to change? He is wearing bigdei kodesh (holy clothing).”

Rav Yitzchak Yosef, the current Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, said, “One must express gratitude that we are here in Eretz Yisroel, that we can sit and fulfill mitzvos, each as they want. If we didn’t have security forces, if we didn’t have soldiers could we sit in quiet and study Torah, could we educate our children?! What was here before eighty years, there was nothing, Hashem helps through them, they are shlichim of Hashem and in their merit do we sit and fulfill mitzvos and study Torah. We must be grateful.”

During the Yom Kippur War, a soldier approached the holy rebbe, the Bais Yisroel of Ger z”l and shared that the soldiers are extremely cold during the night in the north. The Bais Yisroel wished him well and gave him a bracha that he should return whole. That Sukkos, the young Gerrer student appointed to help the Rebbe heard the Bais Yisroel knocking on the door to his own home, unable to get in. The “hoiz buchir” unlocked the door and the rebbe apologized to him and explained, “The key is metal and my hands are extremely cold. I tried lifting it but I just couldn’t.” The Sukkos weather was actually rather pleasant to so the young man asked why the Rebbe’s hand was cold. The Rebbe explained, ever since the soldier told me it’s cold in the north and the soldiers are freezing, I have been feeling so cold.

When the First Lebanon War broke out, Rabbi Yisroel Zev Gustman declared that it was a milchemes mitzvah and later announced that since Jews were fighting on the front, every yeshiva student must sleep at night like soldiers, meaning a few hours and with shoes as if they were on the front lines, and not to waste even a minute.

Klal Yisroel has children literally putting their lives on the line every day to protect all of us. Their service involves sleepless nights, stormy weather, parents who don’t hear from their children for days, wives who have no idea if their husband will ever make it home, children who yearn for their fathers and live in constant fear, loss of life, severe injuries, and the strong risk of all of it. This is what faces our soldiers and their families daily and it is frightening.

If we want those whose service to the Klal right now is through learning Torah to understand the urgency of the moment and how essential their role is to Klal Yisrael’s protection, now is the time for yeshivas to consider a call for no more off shabbosim until the war is over. Maybe those who can should eliminate bein hasdorim, breaks during the day, and all should limit their breaks for coffee. Of course the yeshiva students are diligent and are no doubt having proper intentions in learning as a merit for the safety and security of the IDF and the people of Israel. But what are they doing, what are we doing, to really feel עמו אנכי בצרה, we feel the pain of our brothers?

Our soldiers and their families are being moseir nefesh for our cause, are we doing our part to leave our comfort zone, push ourselves, maximize our time and efforts to make our contribution? Our soldiers are living in unimaginably limited ways, are we minimally adopting limitations on our lives to at least be nosei b’ol, feel the plight and pain and discomfort of our brothers and sisters?

I was talking to a friend from our community this week and he mentioned in passing that he hasn’t had chocolate since the war started. Each time he has a craving and is tempted to indulge, he reminds himself of the conditions the soldiers are living in and decides he can forgo a pleasure as a small way of feeling their pain.

What adjustments are we making to our lives and routines to reflect that for so many of our people, nothing is normal? Will we really indulge in an elaborate vacation during Yeshiva Week this year while a war rages for our people, or will we mute our vacation and recreation as a way of demonstrating a connection with those who haven’t had a moment off since this began? Do our simchas reflect our condition or do they carry on as if no existential threat faces our people? Can we complain about petty discomforts or inconveniences while members of our family are sleeping on the floor, outdoors under trees, fighting not only our enemies, but the elements like bitter cold and rain?

Passing up on a piece of chocolate or forgoing an elaborate vacation or business-as-usual simcha may not directly eliminate Hamas, but it does connect us to our people, helps us resonate with their conditions, and powers us to pour it into heartfelt tefillos, and that makes all the difference in the world. Nothing gets a parent’s attention or response more than children caring about one another and feeling each other’s pain.

The lives of our precious soldiers and of all our brothers and sisters in Israel have been interrupted and severely disrupted. Those contributing from within the walls of the Beis Medrash, and all of us wherever we are with whatever we have to offer, must push ourselves to the limit as well. We cannot carry on in ordinary ways during these extraordinary times.
{Repsoterd from the Rabbi’s site}

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Rabbi Efrem Goldberg is the Senior Rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue (BRS), a rapidly-growing congregation of over 950 families and over 1,000 children in Boca Raton, Florida. BRS is the largest Orthodox Synagogue in the Southeast United States. Rabbi Goldberg’s warm and welcoming personality has helped attract people of diverse backgrounds and ages to feel part of the BRS community, reinforcing the BRS credo of “Valuing Diversity and Celebrating Unity.” For more information, please visit