Yom Kippur Heroes

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This past Yom Kippur Israeli security forces averted a major disaster when they uncovered a fully prepared explosive belt in the heart of Tel Aviv at the last moment.

The drama worthy of a Hollywood thriller began about a week before the planned attack, when security forces, presumably acting on intelligence information, rounded up 40 Hamas operatives in the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp. Among those captured were a suicide bomber, his recruiter, and the driver who was to smuggle him into Tel Aviv.

While their capture was a set back for those behind the operation, they still had plenty of time to recruit another bomber and driver. They had already succeeded in smuggling an explosive belt in three separate parts into Tel Aviv and in assembling it there. Not until early Friday morning, less than 24 hours prior to the onset of Yom Kippur, did security forces capture Nihad Sahkirat, the planner of the operation, in a refugee camp in Nablus.

The details of Shakirat’s interrogation are not fully known, but we can be confident it was not a pleasant one from his point of view, as the security forces confronted the classic “ticking bomb” situation. For once common sense prevailed, and the Israeli Supreme Court did not intervene to protect the “rights” of Shakirat.

In the course of his questioning, Shakirat revealed the name and address of a Palestinian accomplice who illegally rents an apartment in South Tel Aviv. Not until leil Yom Kippur, did police arrest the accomplice in Nablus, and he revealed the hiding place of the explosive belt. At 4:30 a.m., just hours before worshippers would have been crowding into Tel Aviv shuls, police raided the apartment and found the explosive belt, along with a number of Palestinians living there illegally.

The narrowly averted tragedy serves to remind us of how many of our fellow Jews give up their Shabbosos and Yamim Tovm so that we can daven in peace and security. Somewhere deep in the back of our minds we may all know this, but we tend not to think about it too much.

Indeed we are too often wary of expressing the proper hakoras hatov to the defense forces. I have had many discussions with highly intelligent friends who when discussing whether or not they receive a fair share of their taxpayer’s dollar from the Israeli government completely ignore the defense budget – as if defense were something only relevant to the rest of the population.

Perhaps we imagine that all those who perform guard duty or are engaged in active operations on Shabbos or Yom Tov are non-religious. As a pure factual matter, that is far from the case. And even if it were, it would not lessen our obligations of hakoras hatov one iota. (Nor does the fact that the secular population does not acknowledge the role of Torah learning in protecting all of us justify any diminution in the obligation on our part to show the proper hakaros hatov..)

Western governments may suspend hostilities against Moslems in Ramadan as a sign of respect for Islam. But as the Yom Kippur War and the Seder Night bombing in Netanya make clear, we can expect no such reciprocity from our Arab enemies. Indeed they delight in showing their contempt for our holiest days. The narrowly averted suicide bombing in a Tel Aviv shul on Yom Kippur just reinforces this point, and reminds us of all those who must sacrifice so that we can daven with kavannah on Shabbos and Yom Tov, without worrying about terrorists invading our shuls.

ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES were not the only ones to give up a something of their Yom Kippur for the sake of their fellow Jews. Ayalet HaShachar, a kiruv organization that places couples on secular kibbutzim and smaller communities, arranged 25 minyanim this past Rosh Hashanah and 11 on Yom Kippur in places where there had never before been minyamim on these holy days. That is in addition to the minyanim in the 50 or so communities in which the organization has already placed couples.

In each location, that meant bringing in at least a minyan of yeshiva bochurim and in many cases entire families to make sure there would always be a proper minyan during the davening. In short, hundreds of frum Jews gave up their Yamim Noraim in their familiar settings to try to bring a taste of these days to their fellow Jews.

In a similar fashion, Tzohar, a group of young national religious rabbis, has been leading Yamim Noraim minyamin in community centers around the country in recent years.

Most of us rely on being together with hundreds of like-minded Jews and joining in the familiar niggunim to intensify our yearnings for teshuva during the Yamim Noraim. For that reason, hundreds of avreichim return to their former yeshivos – Mirrer, Chevron, Ponevezh – to share in the same atmosphere of spiritual arousal that they remember from their days as bochurim.

Those who spent their Yamim Noraim in unfamiliar settings, among those with little or no knowledge of the day, willingly sacrificed their own spiritual aliyah for their fellow Jews. And like the sacrifices of the soldiers who prevented a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on Yom Kippur, theirs were rewarded. (Not that I wish to equate different forms of sacrifice or belabor the comparison.)

Rabbi Shlomo Ra’anan, director of Ayelet HaShachar spent Yom Kippur at Kibbutz Geva. One kibbutz member asked him whether he could hear the bones of the founders of kibbutz turning in their graves over the advent of Yom Kippur davening on the kibbutz.

Two hundred men and women attended Kol Nidre and Neilah , and 30 men in their kibbutz shorts spent the entire day in tefillah. Many men and women fasted for the first time. At least one woman commented towards the end of the fast that she barely felt it. And a pledge was made that there will be a Beit Knesset on the kibbutz in time for Yom Kippur next year.

A letter from a member of Kibbut Geva to Ayelet HaShachar pretty much says it all: “Thanks and blessing to all of you . . . for having created for us a ‘Mikdash Me’at’ in the midst of our everyday lives and secular existence, and for having made it possible for us to touch the holiness, the elevation of this unique day – Yom HaKippurim. The emotions during the prayers broke down all the barriers, and enabled us to touch every link in the common chain of our shared tradition, reaching back to the roots of our common existence . . . . I believe that the prayers opened many hearts to love of their fellow man . . . . Looking forward to seeing you next year, b’ezras Hashem, on the same day in the same place.

This article appeared in Mishpacha on October 17.

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24 Responses

  1. Sarah Elias says:

    Kudos to JR and Mishpacha for publishing this column. My husband has been wondering for years why chareidi MKs can’t get up once in a while in the Knesset and express hakoras hatov to the IDF for their mesirus nefesh in protecting all of Israel’s residents.

  2. mnuez says:

    Wow. Has Mishpacha changed so drastically in the few years since I lived in Jerusalem that they would now print articles like this? Or has Mishpacha always been printing articles along these lines and I just hadn’t noticed?

    Anyhow, I doubt that my powers of perception were so diminished back when I was familiar with this paper that such articles were commonplace but somehow slipped under my radar so I suppose this is either a very uncommon article for Mishpacha or the chareidi community in the Holy Land has gone through similar changes (though slower no doubt) to the ones I see occurring (in no small part thanks to the internet) in the American Chareidi community.

    Anyhow, I’d certainly be curious to know ~

    mnuez
    http://www.mnuez.blogspot.com

  3. Mark says:

    Isadore,

    You are correct. You didn’t – others did – and I got confused.

    The gist of my response still applies however. Just because you believe something is appropriate doesn’t mean others are bound to it, nor should it be held against them. There’s no halachah supporting your position [nor theirs] so it’s merely a matter of what you feel vs. what they feel. Hardly compelling.

  4. Isidore Kaufman says:

    Re#18
    I never stated Haredim “dont have Hakoros Hatov” (your quotes). What I did imply was that soldiers’ sacrifices should be acknowledged publicly.Besides being a moral booster it may also help to heal the terrible rift between the various groups in our society.

  5. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Seth Gordon, to get information out of a torture victim you have to correlate it with known information. Once you convinced him (or her, but it’s usually him) that lying brings more torture, he would be highly motivated to tell the truth. It worked on many Israeli POWs in Syria, so I suspect it’s effective.

    Whether Halacha allows it is a different matter. I suspect that Shakirat was a Rodef and that it was allowed – but since I it’s not my neck in the noose, not my synagogue in Austin that will be blown up, I’d rather leave this to those whose lives are at risk.

  6. Chaim Wolfson says:

    “It might be useful if you could bring a source in the torah or shas
    that establishes the ‘fact’ that “Torah learning in protecting all of us” (Comment by nachumj — October 21, 2007 @ 11:38 am).

    Nachum, Sanhedrin 99b and Makkos 10a, for starters. Berachos 64a, Pesachim 68b and Avos 1:2 (as explained by Rashi) are also relevant sources. I am sure you could come up with dozens of other sources if you spend some time on it.

  7. Mark says:

    Isadore,
    “I believe individual prayer by various yechidim(to the extent that it exists) is not sufficient in this matter.”

    You’re welcome to believe as you wish obviously and you may even have a strong point. Others however, are welcome to believe otherwise and they may be correct. Either way, you cannot assume improper motives of people who don’t believe as you do. To state that Hareidim “don’t have Hakaros Hatov” toward soldiers because they don’t recite a public Mi Shebeirach on Shabbos is absurd.

  8. Isadore Kaufman says:

    To #14&#15
    Regardless of what RCS or Rav Shach zt”l did many years ago the question is what are we doing now to publicly show Hakoros Hatov.I believe individual prayer by various yechidim(to the extent that it exists) is not sufficient in this matter. The soldiers should see that we all are actively and consistently being misspalel for them.

  9. Seth Gordon says:

    The details of Shakirat’s interrogation are not fully known, but we can be confident it was not a pleasant one from his point of view, as the security forces confronted the classic “ticking bomb” situation.

    In a “ticking bomb” situation, an unpleasant interrogation is extremely unlikely to be effective, since the captive can send the police on wild-goose chases until the bomb goes off.

    Oh, and if “not … pleasant” is a coy euphemism for torture, please see Rabbi Aryeh Klapper’s remarks in response to a Tradition article on torture in wartime.

  10. Mark says:

    “Both. RCS did his 30 + years ago; and RJR, nobly, is reinforcing and reviving that traditional torah-true hashkafa.”

    Actually – neither is the correct answer.

    RCS did not break “new” ground when he prayed on behalf of the IDF soldiers or thanked them for risking their lives. It’s something that almost every single yeshivaman in EY did and continues to do. Rav Shach zt”lgave a long drashah in Ponoveizh just prior to the Six-Day war expressing the need to daven for the welfare of the soldiers who would be entering battle…

    Only the Neturei Karta faction has ever refused to do that and they’re not very popular or numerous if you hadn’t noticed.

  11. Jewish Observer says:

    “Did RJR forge new ground or is it old hat for Chareidim as evidenced by RCS”

    Both. RCS did his 30 + years ago; and RJR, nobly, is reinforcing and reviving that traditional torah-true hashkafa.

  12. Isidore Kaufman says:

    We can begin to show Hakoros Hatov by having all shuls ( even the Charedi
    ones) institute a Mishaberech for the soldiers in the Tzhal.Im sure it can be modified in such a manner as not offend the sensibilities of those who can’t bear to to give a brocha to Medinas Yisroel.While were at it ,perhaps all shuls in the US (again even the Chareidi) should also include a Mishaberech for our own(US) soldiers and for Sholom Malchis as well.

  13. Mark says:

    JO,
    “it is not axiomatic that people commonly referred to as secular, discount, across the board, the value that the religious segment brings to society.”

    You’re right. It may not be “axiomatic”, but no one would deny that respect among the broader secular public for the religious contributions to society via Torah study, is less than impressive. On a daily basis, one can find articles decrying the Hareidi lack of one thing or another in the secular press. Surely, you’re not unaware of this phenomenon, are you?

  14. Mark says:

    HM,

    “Once again Jonatahan Rosenblum has crossed barriers and shown that one can be Charedi and have … indeed should have … public Hakaras HaTov for the Israeli Defnese Forces…Hakaras HaTov for the IDF is not new. R. Chaim Shmuelevitz famously did the same thing many teasr ago”

    Harry – which one is it? Did RJR forge new ground or is it old hat for Chareidim as evidenced by RCS?

  15. joel rich says:

    Generally well said and I hope the 1st step in a campaign to see that this hakarat hatov is institutionalized.

    KT

  16. Steve Brizel says:

    This is a beuatiful article. I commend RJR for his laudatory words towards the actions of the IDF and NR rabbbanim. We need more examples of mutual recognition between the Charedi and MO/RZ worlds.

  17. dovid says:

    “at Yizkor there is no mentioned of the fallend soldiers?”

    That’s not so. I know at least one person saying Yizkor for the fallen Israeli soldiers. I am sure there are many more. It is an individual decision. Given that today this issue is political which is wrong no matter how you look at it, people are reluctant to admit.

  18. ES says:

    Posting here is like preaching to the choir. If only the Mishpacha article could have influence on its intended audience:

    This is because as bnei torah we have to keep our eye oon our responsibilities and trust g-d to worry about his. This is a key underpinning to the terutz for bochurim being patur from the army now; i.e. we can’t make g-d’s problem’s our problems. One thing we WILL be held accountable for is whether we lived up to our job description. [comment on “Arafat’s Posthumous Victory”]

  19. Jewish Observer says:

    “the fact that the secular population does not acknowledge the role of Torah learning in protecting all of us”

    this is an unfair stereotype of secular Jews. While, as another commenter suggested, none of us knows the metaphysics of how torah plays into the defense equation, it is not axiomatic that people commonly referred to as secular, discount, across the board, the value that the religious segment brings to society.

  20. Harry Maryles says:

    What a wonderful article. I am quite touched by it. Once again Jonatahan Rosenblum has crossed barriers and shown that one can be Charedi and have … indeed should have … public Hakaras HaTov for the Israeli Defnese Forces. Add to that the praise for the wonderful Kiruv work fine by group of young national religious rabbis… What can I say? Very impressive!

    Hakaras HaTov for the IDF is not new. R. Chaim Shmuelevitz famously did the same thing many teasr ago, when Yeshivas Mir narrowly escaped being attacked during (I believe) the Six Day War. In recent times such praise has become unpopular (to say the least) in Charedi circles. Thank God there are people like Jonathan who can remind people where their hearts and minds should be.

  21. BubbyT says:

    Kudos to Rabbi Rosenblum…it bothers me when I see so many in our shul sitting during the tefillah for tzahal. We do owe them hakaras hatov and thank you for pointing it out!!

  22. nachumj says:

    (Nor does the fact that the secular population does not acknowledge the role of Torah learning in protecting all of us justify any diminution in the obligation on our part to show the proper hakaros hatov..)

    considering that the secular population foots the bill for much of the Torah learning, i think that there’s alot of hakaros hatov.
    it might be useful if you could bring a source in the torah or shas
    that establishes the ‘fact’ that “Torah learning in protecting all of us ”
    i don’t spend hours each day learning to protect am yisrael, i do it because i am commanded to do so . no more , no less.

  23. Baruch says:

    Dear Reb Jonathan,
    I am very grateful that the army is on the ball and I am very aware that many soldiers give up their own shabbos and yontoff so that we gave have an uneventful shabbos and yontof. So why is it that so many shuls are opposed to making a Mi Shmereach for the soldiers every week or at Yizkor there is no mentioned of the fallend soldiers? I hope that you will address this.

    May we only share in good news,

    Baruch

  24. ilana says:

    I can’t resist telling a true story that combines both types of mesirut nefesh.

    In 1973, a young hesder soldier named Beni Gal was sent from the Yeshivat Har Etzion, where he was learning, to an outpost in the Sinai to lead the tefillot. He was a remarkable inspiration to all the soldiers, whatever their level of religious commitment. The commander of the base wrote that the merit of the pure shofar blasts Beni blew – not only in the synagogue, but wherever soldiers were on duty – must have had a part in the delivery from danger of all the soldiers there on Yom Kippur, ten days later.

    On that Yom Kippur, Beni should have been in yeshiva but insisted on returning to Sinai, where he could again be with the soldiers. He was sent to a different outpost and was among the first casualties of the YOm Kippur War. The power of his tefillot and his complete emunah surely gave strength and comfort to those who were with him in their last hours.