The Talmud (Yevamos 79a) states that there are three distinguishing marks of the Jewish people. They are merciful, they are shamefaced, and they perform acts of kindness.
The Mareh Yechezkel comments that these traits are part of our exalted lineage. Avraham Avinu was known as a man of chesed; the middah of fear and awe of Hashem – for which Yitzchak was known – is a recognition that doing wrong is shameful; and Yaakov Avinu who suffered greatly raising his children, was a man of mercy.
These past few weeks have been very challenging for the Jewish nation; we are being tested. We read in Tehillim (113:3), “From the rising of the sun to its setting, Hashem’s Name is praised.” There are periods in our nation’s existence when the sun shines brightly, i.e., we are at peace and times are good so to speak. We praise Hashem during those times. But there are periods when the sun sets; there is darkness and confusion, as we are currently experiencing. Then, too, we praise Hashem. We are a nation that perseveres even in the most difficult times.
In Yeshaya (42:6) the Jewish nation is defined as “a light unto the nations.” We fill the world with the glory of Hashem by spreading love and generosity. We are a nation whose kindness and compassion for human life is unparalleled.
Who do we see coming to the aid of earthquake victims buried underneath rubble and crumbled buildings in all corners of the world? The little nation of Israel is the first to send assistance and personnel.
In a matter of hours following the horrendous terrorist attacks in Israel on October 7th we mobilized across the nation and around the globe. Whether it be food, drinks, medical supplies, electronics, clothing or other provisions needed for the soldiers or civilians, we stepped up with commitment and responsibility. When the Jewish community in Los Angeles heard that a certain unit of soldiers liked a specific energy drink, they immediately purchased hundreds of boxes of energy drinks and shipped them off to Israel! That describes the Jewish people: brotherhood, love and peace.
Many soldiers have accepted to begin wearing tzitzis, and there was an urgent need for thousands of pairs of tzitzis. A campaign was organized globally to make tzitzis and ship them out immediately to Israel. Likewise, a movement was coordinated to provide a free pair of tefillin to any soldier who made such a request. A storeowner offered a free appliance that keeps food warm halachically on Shabbos to any family who had resolved to begin observing the Shabbos.
Acts of great kindness are being performed every minute of the day to bring more merit for all our IDF soldiers and the people of Israel. Boys in yeshiva and girls in the high schools and seminaries have strengthened their adherence to specific mitzvos.
People around the world have been pouring out their hearts to Hashem with the powerful weapon of prayer. People have stopped their regular schedules in the middle of the day and joined in communal prayer. Special Tehillim groups have been organized, and specific chapters are recited every single day.
Only in Israel do you see soldiers, away from their families, who gather to recite the Friday night prayers. One soldier keeps watch, crouched with his gun pointed outward from the wall to protect against any attack, as he sings along the Lecha Dodi with his unit.
When the Israelis surrounded Gaza City on Friday, they seized the public address system that could be heard for miles and broadcast the Kabbalas Shabbos services, in the hope that the hostages – wherever they might be – would be able to hear it.
Klal Yisrael is a resilient nation, as demonstrated by the weddings that have taken place on military bases in Israel. The nation is at war, yet couples are getting married, as their friends rejoice with them, singing and dancing. In many instances, the chosson will be returning immediately to active duty. Some soldiers have missed the birth of their child as they have been called up to duty.
Before embarking on a mission, IDF commanders gather their troops to pray. A clip has been circulating of hundreds of soldiers crying out Shema Yisrael and Hashem Hu Ha’Elokim, accepting the yoke of the Heavenly Kingdom.
The Navi Yeshayahu tells us (Yeshaya 2:4), “They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift sword against nation and they will no longer learn the art of war.” We are a nation who seeks only peace, not war. Unwillingly, we have been thrust into a war, which is contrary to our nature. We must intensify our self-awareness and improve our spiritual selves. We need to connect to the IDF soldiers and become better people. Rav Avigdor Miller, zt”l, often said that when one does something in New York, it can affect somebody in California, someone in Australia, someone in London, someone in New Mexico, someone in Afghanistan, and someone in the Holy Land of Israel.
It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for war is milchama, with a numerical value of 123. The words “am echad” (one nation) also equal 123. During a time of war, we set aside our differences, we bond together, and our hearts beat as one nation. We seek the commonality and goodness in each other, and in this way, we are able to destroy the power of evil in the world. Every individual can be an ambassador of peace. Likewise, every person in the world from among all the nations can do the same.
May Hashem bless His nation with peace, and may we hear of the imminent release of every hostage returning home safe and sound. May the Al-mighty bless and protect all the members of the IDF from all harm, grant them victory, and may we celebrate their homecoming b’karov.