Seizing the Moment in Time of Crisis

Rabbi Yakov Haber

I would like to share two “war stories”.

The first concerns a Yeshiva catering to Anglo students studying for their “year in Israel”. There’s an organization called “Grandma’s Packages” ( which sends care packages to Chayalim in Tzahal. Apparently they ran out of funding and couldn’t send any more. The Yeshiva found out about this and asked how much it would cost to send a thousand packages to which the organization replied, “$16,000”. The menaheil of the Yeshiva addressed the students pleading with them to call their parents and raise the necessary funding. Within days, they had the $16,000. Two non-observant soldiers came to the Yeshiva to express gratitude on behalf of the recipients of the students’ families’ generosity. They put on Kippot for Mincha, davened with the boys and then addressed them after Mincha. They said, “what we have seen so far in Azza are ‘nissim v’nifla’ot’! By mistake, the army supply center where the soldiers were equipping themselves was next to an open room where they were preparing hundreds of body bags. Information received was that the Israeli army was anticipating 150 casuaties a day. Although each life lost is an olam malei, the relatively few casualties so far can be described as nothing short of obvious Divine protection. You here in the Yeshiva are our partners in battle. Your Tehillim , your Torah protects us!” The Yeshiva boys then sang and danced with the soldiers who were moved to tears.

The second story concerns an American Oleh of some time ago who is a regular Rav Tz’va’i, an Israeli army Rabbi. As the soldiers got the call for the ground incursion on last Shabbos, the Rav, together with his colleagues debated the halachic permissibility of their riding with them to the embarkation point to provide moral support. They compared this case to a husband traveling with his wife in labor to the hospital which is permitted according to many for similar reasons. They went and took a Seifer Torah with them for Mincha (presumably also for morale boosting purposes). When they arrived, the Rav, after exiting the bus, requested of a soldier to pass him the Seifer Torah from the bus to minimize the prohibition of carrying. After waiting a while with the Torah not coming, the Rav re-entered the bus to find each soldier hugging and kissing the Seifer Torah not wishing to part with it. Finally when they left the bus, one Rav was wrapped in a Tallis, the other held the Seifer Torah, looking like Kohanei M’shuchei Milchama perhaps. The soldiers one by one approached the Rabbanim asking for b’rachot. (Mostly the secular , not the Yeshiva boys!) Due to time constraints and the great demand, the Rabbanim spread the Tallis over a group of soldiers’ heads as on Simchat Torah and blessed them all together. Some soldiers told the Rabbanim that their presence strenghtened them more than all of the professional talks they received from their commanders earlier! As the soldiers entered into Gaza, the Rabbanim, with Torah in hand, called out after them, “Hashem Imachem!” (Hashem is with you) “Y’varech’cha Hashem!” (Bless Hashem) and passages from the Rambam’s directives in the Mishna Torah to Jewish soldiers. The soldiers, in turn, turned back to kiss the Torah as they passed it. Although a higher Rav in the army structure later rebuked them for their actions claiming that the soldiers were “strong enough” without the Rabbis’ accompanying them, they felt thoroughly justified retroactively in their actions.

I leave the formal halachic issues to the Poskim . But these stories indicate an enormous awakening of reliance on Hakodesh Baroch Hu (Hashem – HKB”H). Much has been written of the utter sense of helplessness caused by the disastrous havoc wreaked by the descendants of Yishmael. This in turn should cause a greater sense of reliance on HKB”H by Klal Yisrael. We B’Ezras Hashem (with the help of Hashem) beginning to see this in all segments of Israeli society. Of course, those who are Shomrei Torah U’Mitzvot all the more so must increase their sense of reliance on Hashem.

These two stories I believe also teach us of the ability to “seize the moment”. Times of distress for Klal Yisrael can also serve as occasions for enormous uplifting: in increased Tefilla, in increased Torah study, in increased Chesed and Tzedaka to worthy causes in Eretz Yisrael or in the US.

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