Sunday, 25 March 2018

The Rebbe's Stand on entering the Israeli Army

The Gemara states:[1]

Rabbi Abba bar Kahana said: Were it not for David, Yoav would not have done battle, and were it not for Yoav, David would not have engaged in Torah. As it is written, “David performed justice and righteousness for all his people, and Yoav ben Tzeruya was in charge of the army.” What does it meant that “David performed justice and righteousness for all his people?” [He was able to,] because Yoav was taking care of the army. And what is the meaning of “Yoav was in charge of the army?” So that David could perform justice and righteousness for all his people.

Yoav and David HaMelech were partners who each valued the other’s contribution. David HaMelech knew that since the Jewish people had enemies, and since Torah instructs us “We do not rely on a miracle,”[2] he needed an army of soldiers led by a mighty general to lead the battles against the enemies of the Jewish people. This general was Yoav.

But David HaMelech himself did not go to war, although he was fully capable of doing so. He chose, instead, to remain behind in order to study Torah and teach it to the people.

Yet Yoav had no complaints. He knew that David HaMelech’s contribution was indispensable. “Were it not for David, Yoav would not have done battle.” He did not view David HaMelech’s choice as shirking responsibility, never mind as cowardice, G–d forbid. He knew that most fundamental principle of the Jewish faith: Success at any endeavor comes not from one’s efforts, intelligence, and strength, but from divine blessings—“it is the blessing of Hashem that gives us wealth.”[3]

Yes, accomplishment require a human investment, for Hashem created the natural order and desires that we follow its laws. But one who relies on his own power and does not combine reasonable efforts with prayers for divine assistance denies the existence of Hashem as “the One Who sustains the entire world with His goodness, grace, kindness, and compassion”[4]—as the Provider of all our needs. The Torah warns us against this: “And you may come to say in your heart that your strength and the might of your hand made you this wealth, but remember that it is Hashem, your G–d Who endows you with strength to perform deeds of valor.”[5] In particular, “war does not belong to the mighty.”[6]

So Yoav knew that in order to triumph over his foes, he needed divine blessings, and that this depends upon Torah study. But not the Torah study of the soldiers, for a soldier must focus his attention on the technicalities of warfare and cannot simultaneously analyze intricate Talmudic debates. Rather, the material efforts of the soldiers must be complemented by the spiritual efforts of the full-time Torah scholars, for “Torah protects and saves”[7]—Torah study brings protection and safety not only to those who study it, but to the Jewish people as a whole, and therefore to its protectors in particular.

Foolish Bravery

An analogy for this division of roles can be drawn from the army itself. Consider the chief general who sits calmly in his protected headquarters, poring over one classified intelligence report after another, calculating how the war ought to be fought—with what tactics, with which weapons, when to attack, how many soldiers to deploy, and countless other complex considerations. In the course of his duties, he instructs that others be dispatched to the battlefront, while he remains hard at work.

One day, his son and best friend approach him in outrage and accuse him of hypocrisy and cowardice: “How can you do this?! You send us and many others to face mortal danger, while you remain far from harm’s way in your cushy office chair, reading all day? Shame on you! As the verse puts it, ‘Will your brothers go to war while you sit here?’”[8]

Filled with guilt, the general concedes to the pressure, considering himself guilty of reprehensible double standards. He bows his head, clears away all the classified documents, closes down the headquarters, dons army fatigues and a gun, goes to the front, and fights.

Not only would no one benefit from this “sacrifice,” but it would lead to certain defeat and horrendous loss of life, may G–d save us, for both the soldiers and the civilians whom they are protecting.

So, too, on the broader, national level, in order for the army, the general, and everyone else involved in the material war effort to succeed, spiritual war efforts are necessary—devoted, full-time, G–d-fearing Torah scholars.

Spiritual Desertion

But when the Torah scholar lacks fear of Hashem and forgets what his Torah study accomplishes, he can become so captivated with awe for the heroic soldier that he desires to quit learning. He wants to let everyone know that he, too, can wield a gun, earn a medal, and perform daring feats of military prowess.

Just as one who is assigned to the front and abandons it is termed a deserter, so are Torah scholars assigned with the mission of studying Torah day and night who abandon their post, don army fatigues and a gun, and go to fight, are also deserters. Since Jewish military victory depends upon the merit of Torah study, instead of benefiting the war effort, these young men jeopardize it and bring disaster upon the Jewish people, may G–d save us.

Unsung Heroism

In a sense, the Torah scholar is faced with a more difficult challenge than the soldier. Soldiers are lionized. They are given honorable mentions in the newspaper, awarded with marks of distinction, and their exploits and victories are publicly recounted and rhapsodized. They are national heroes.

But far away from the action of the battlefield, the Torah scholar sits and learns without fanfare. His efforts to protect the Jewish people (studying Torah all day is very difficult, as anyone who has done so, or attempted to do so, can testify) confer upon him no elevated status and glory; he goes unknown.

If anything, he is punished for his choice, subjected to constant insults and condemnation by his less religious brethren, who scream at him in self-righteous indignation: “Will your brothers go to war while you sit here?” And not only doesn’t his vital contribution not earn him an honorable mention in the media, but the media regularly spews vitriol against the full-time Torah scholar and incites the populace to despise him, branding him a leech and a drain upon society, one who selfishly refuses to “share the burden.”

An Invisible Lifeline

There is a response to their complaint, albeit one that some don’t appreciate because they don’t want to.

The Torah is a “Torah of light”[9] in which Hashem reveals sublime, perfect teachings that illuminate our daily lives with moral clarity and direction. The Torah tells us: Look beneath the material reality.

Even the soldier himself depends upon others whose involvement is not visible. For the soldier to stand and shoot, many other army personnel and others are required to assist the war effort from the sidelines by providing food, technical know how, logistical direction, discipline, funding, and so on.

Likewise, the soldier needs spiritual help from behind the scenes in order to be alive. After all, all his training and weaponry will be of no avail if he is not alive. And the true source of life and safety is Hashem, Who grants us life through His holy Torah, which is “our life and the length of our days.”[10] So for the soldier to be alive, he must be infused with life through the life-giving studies of the Torah scholar.

Rebbe’s sicha of 6 Tishrei 5728.
Translation by Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver by kind permission.


[1] Sanhedrin 49a.
[2] Toras Kohanim on Vayikra 22:32.
[3] Mishlei 10: 22.
[4] Grace After Meals liturgy.
[5] Devarim 8:17,18.
[6] Koheles 9:11.
[7] Sotah 21a.
[8] Bamidbar 32:6.
[9] Mishlei 6:23.
[10] Evening prayer liturgy.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Menorah lighting at the Western Wall this evening.


When the Jewish People overwhelmed the Greek secular infiltrators in the Holy Land. Miracles in those days and in our times!

Friday, 15 December 2017

Government of Israel to the Rebbe: Send several hundred families to live in Hebron.

A Story:
Heard three days ago from Rabbi Yehuda Leib Groner, assistant to the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Member of Knesset, Uzi Landau: I am coming as emissary of the Prime Minister of Israel, requesting that the Rebbe send several hundred families to live in Hebron.

The Rebbe: I am prepared to do that on one condition: that the Prime Minister promise me that these families will not be evacuated and not be told to go back home. I am not prepared to uproot hundreds of families unless I receive a firm assurance that this will not happen.

MK Landau: I cannot assure that.

The Rebbe: As long as I do not receive this assurance from the prime minister, I cannot request families to move.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The Holy city of Jerusalem, is the eternal capital of the Jewish Nation

Letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe to the organization Bnei Brith.

Since the time of King David, Jerusalem has been the eternal capital of the Land [of Israel], much before the birth of any single world capital in our times. With the exception of the break of 70 years – the exile of Babylon, our nation had always dwelt in the Land for a period of 1340 years [2488 – 3828 since the time of the Creation].

Also, after G-d sent his People into exile, the current dispersion, there was always,even until this time, the presence of Jewish people living in our Land.

Throughout the time Jewish people lived in the lands of the dispersion, did they yearn and pray [three times a day] for our return to the Land of our birth, and to our eternal inheritance, - with these words – “ May our eyes perceive Your return to Zion in mercy”.

Monday, 4 December 2017

It happened: Israel P.M. Shamir phones the Lubavitcher Rebbe for a blessing to avert a multiple PLO terror attack

On the 28th of Nissan, 5750 (April 23, 1990) the Rebbe was notified that P.L.O. terrorists were threatening to attack various targets throughout the world.

Rabbi Binyomin Klein A”H, secretary of the Rebbe

                                                                   Former Israel P.M. Yitzchk Shamir A”H

Rabbi Binyomin Klein A”H, secretary of the Rebbe, tells the following story.

It was before Mincha prayers at 2 pm, the telephone in the Rebbe’s office rings, I pick up the telephone, Eliakim Rubenshtein is on the line who passed on the phone to Shamir, and says that PM Shamir wishes to speak to me. He tells me that information has filtered through that the PLO intends to carry out targeted terror attacks to multiple locations; not one location when protective action can be taken, but for multiple locations world-wide, so he is requesting a blessing.

I went and knocked on the Rebbe’s door, the Rebbe opened the door for me, I repeated the story, and the Rebbe showed no reaction whatsoever. I had carried out my duty by informing the Rebbe.

Mincha time came. No-body knew of this call, because no-one was in the office at 2 pm. After Mincha the Rebbe turned towards those present and began talking about the issue at hand.

The Rebbe: We received information about one hour before Mincha that the PLO has given out instructions to their cells around the world to attack targets G-d forbid to deadly harm which we will not elaborate. Therefore it is understood that we must increase all matters of holiness – since the power of the Jewish People lies in their words, beginning with increasing Torah study with great diligence; this will uproot all unwished for issues, and to the contrary, we will transform these so that greatly increased light will beam forth from the darkness, as wisdom overcomes folly.

Rabbi Klein continues: Everybody starts looking around, some gaze at me; “is this a private issue which the Rebbe is making public?” That’s what took place.

The Rebbe had spoken.  The plans were foiled.

The New York Times did not connect the foiled outcome with the Rebbe. The story in the NYT was only in the news the following day that there was a bomb threat which somehow can to naught, not mentioning the Rebbe [who had spoken of this publicly already the previous day at the time of the threat and who had given the spiritual preventive guidelines to prevent the attack].

The Rebbe continued: Since it is not the appropriate way in Chabad to call for fasting even when halachically one could suggest fasting, rather to increase in Tzedaka which will break the decree, and we have the rule ‘think positive and there will be a positive outcome’, but not to reduce the amount or quality of Tzedaka; rather one should give the value of three meals and to recite three additional chapters of Psalms, adding the last chapter which ends with the words ‘Every Soul should praise G-d, together that each of such should assess what one can contribute spiritually, in this direction and spirit, this, by men women and children, certainly not to cause fear to those around one, but to increase in both Torah and Mitzvos, amidst comfort and true trust in G-d.