Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Family and friends of Israeli soldier Sgt Elyahu Moshe Zimbalist attend his funeral at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem on June 16. Zimbalist was killed in combat in the southern Gaza Strip.

In Israel, every day waking up in the morning is a challenge. Immediately we check what has happened the night before. Have any of our soldiers been killed? Have we found any of the hostages? Are they still alive? How is the world blaming Israel today? Never has there been a time when right is so clear, yet the world constantly blames Israel.

It is at times like this that every Israeli citizen believes that they too have enlisted in the army, sharing in the joy and the tragedies of this very challenging time. There is no one in Israel who has not been affected in some way by this terrible war. Every day there is another funeral. Every day someone is weeping.


As a kohen, I duchen every day. In reciting the powerful blessings of “Yevarechacha Hashem v’yishmerecha,” the priestly blessing, I have in mind the people who are standing in front of me – the ones who are praying in the shul. But now, during these trying times, I envision my son and my grandchildren who are on active duty in Gaza, and all our brave soldiers, and I pray for their safety. As I recite these holy blessings, my eyes shed a tear as I imagine in my mind their sacrifice and I pray to Almighty G-d to help them win the war and free the hostages.

I remember not so long ago when my wife and I returned from a trip to the United States, we spent a Shabbat with my daughter who lives in Tzur Hadassah. We were both exhausted from the trip, and as a result I overslept the beginning of Shacharit services on Shabbat. When I finally gathered my thoughts, I asked my daughter if there was a late service that I could attend, because I certainly didn’t want to embarrass my son-in-law, the rabbi of the shul, by coming late. My daughter directed me to a later minyan which was comprised mainly of young families davening with their children at their side.

The noise was deafening! I had to find my way to the front of the shul to hear the reading of the Torah, and even then, it was still hard to hear every word. The Mussaf service was no better. Talking, talking, and more talking. It reached a point that the person who was given the honor of opening the Ark at the end of the service for “Anim Z’mirot” left before he closed the Ark. Since I was there, I did it for him.

To say the least, I was angry and disappointed. How can these people, young families, disrespect the shul by making it impossible to daven? Where is the reverence that one is obligated to show when davening in a shul?

But then I realized that these young family men are the ones who put their lives on the line for me. Without them donning their uniforms and going out to that dreadful place, Gaza, facing an enemy that has no respect for life, my very life would be in danger. How dare I criticize them? They are the brave heroes of our time! How can I chastise them? They are the Bar Kochbas and the Rabbi Akivas of our generation – they represent the royalty of our nation. How dare I judge them?

And the wives are equally, if not more so, the heroines. Their husbands leave to war and they must stay back, running the house and facing the terrible possibility that one day they might be confronted with the horrific news that their husband had fallen in battle.

I saw such a woman – a heroine. Before her husband’s funeral, the Chevra Kadisha approached her to make up signs announcing the death of her husband. Normally the signs distributed in Hebrew would state: “It is with extreme sadness that we announce the death of…who was killed during the war, may G-d avenge his blood…” When she saw this, she exclaimed, “This is not what I want the notice to read. Instead, it must read: ‘It is with great honor that we inform the public of the untimely death of a valiant hero… as he died “Al Kiddush Hashem,” sanctifying the name of G-d in protecting our people.’”

These women represent the modern-day version of our heroines from time immemorial, Dvorah, Esther, Avigayil, and Sarah. They are the inner strength – the inextinguishable fire and neshama of our people! How can one criticize such noble people? They all represent “Kodesh Kodashim,” Holy of Holies.

Please Hashem, keep all our soldiers safe and bestow upon this remarkable young generation of ours in Israel, our heroes, victory – and let them be successful in bringing our hostages home soon. Amen.

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Rabbi Mordechai Weiss has been involved in Jewish education for the past forty-six years, serving as principal of various Hebrew day schools. He has received awards for his innovative programs and was chosen to receive the coveted Outstanding Principal award from the National Association of Private Schools. He now resides in Israel and is available for speaking engagements. Contact him at [email protected] or 914-368-5149.