B'Yachad

For the week ending 5 July 2014 / 7 Tammuz 5774

Protective Edge

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
Reflections on the Current Situation
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Israel is now actively fighting a war. Yes, a war. Let’s call it what it is. The war has been named “Protective Edge” and its goal is to stop the missiles and other threats coming from the Hamas terrorists in Gaza. At this point we don’t know how long it will last, what will occur, or what the outcome will be. But there is a famous Israeli answer to these and other similar questions: “Yihiyeh tov” — “It will be good”. When things look less than rosy this is the traditional answer an Israeli gives when asked, “What will be?” “It will be good.” An answer stemming from optimism, faith, pride — or a mix of all of the above.

But this time I sense that I am hearing a different tune. No one in Israel doubts the military might of the Israel Defense Force or the resolve of the nation of Israel to do whatever necessary (in an ethical way) to win the war. The technology that intercepts and shoots down in mid-air the Syrian-made missiles heading for Tel Aviv and other cities in virtually all parts of Israel is wondrous. The first night when I heard the air-raid siren, followed two minutes later by the sound of a missile landing within Jerusalem, I was somewhat surprised. Don’t the Hamas worry that their missiles might strike the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock? Apparently not. The rules have changed.

It’s been less than two years since we were in a similar war with these terrorists in Gaza. Then, IDF ground forces entered Gaza and pursued known terrorist targets there. It was largely felt that Gaza would be a quiet front for a long, long time following the crushing Israeli victory. But it seems we were mistaken. The threat has returned with weaponry more sophisticated than ever.

So will it really be good?

Today I was sitting in a sports club with some secular friends in Jerusalem and for the first time they had doubts. These are people who are quite intelligent, have experienced the battles of Israel through the years, and are successful members of the Israeli socio-political elite. “What will be?” they asked, and, it seemed, didn’t feel comfortable to say or hear the standard: “It will be good.”

Being the only rabbi in the group, they asked me, from a Jewish religious perspective, how do we see it? - “Will it be good?”

Looking at them I said “I’m not a prophet, but that we are all descended from prophets and have as a joint “inheritance” the words of the Torah and the Prophets. These words and teachings define who we are as individuals and as a nation. And for us, that is how we deal with your question.”

“I will provide peace in the Land of Israel", promises G-d to His people, "if you will follow My decrees and observe My commandments and perform them. (Vayikra 26:6)."

This Divine promise that we received in the Torah is the only reliable formula for peace in the Land that G-d gave to the Jewish nation. After so much has been tried, and is being tried, shouldn’t we also revisit our time-honored formula?

With everything else that we are doing, should we not consider adding to our spiritual arsenal? What have our grandparents and great-grandparents done from time immemorial in such moments of crisis? In fact, isn’t there a case to be made that the fact that we are all here today is a testimony to this strategy?

In addition, I said that David was not only the author of Tehillim through Divine inspiration and the king of the Jewish nation. He was also a mighty warrior, from his youth when he slew the Philistine giant Goliath, to his role as general and commander-in-chief who won every war he waged.

In Psalm 122:2 King David revealed the secret of the success of his military career. "Our feet stood in the gates of Jerusalem," sings David, and our Talmudic Sages (Mesechta Maccot 10a) explain his words in the following way: "Who enabled our feet to stand triumphant in battle? The Gates of Jerusalem where Torah was studied!"

Doesn’t it deserve a greater awareness and appreciation of the spiritual and inspirational needs of our people and the contribution of the yeshivot?

My friends told me they were already more optimistic that “It will be good” and asked me to teach them more.

We conclude with the traditional prayer said at such times as the present: “Our brothers, the entire family of Israel, who are delivered into distress and captivity, whether they are on sea or dry land – may G-d have mercy on them and remove them from stress to relief, from darkness to light, from subjugation to redemption now, speedily and soon.”

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