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Jan 16, 2009

a Kiddush Hashem by the IDF Rabbinate

The following inspirational article appeared on the local community email list, along with being printed in the Torah Mi'Tzion newsletter....

RBS resident, Rabbi Zev Roness, serves as a Military Rabbi. This story about him appeared in the Torah Mitzion newsletter.

Amihai Bannett


A Kiddush HaShem!

Written by Avi Roness, as told to him by his brother Zev Roness, printed with permission of the Roness family. Zev served as a shaliach at the Memphis kollel in one of its first years.

This evening, my brother [Zev], who serves as a career military rabbi, told me the following story, which took place 2 Shabbatot ago, when the IDF entered Gaza—by foot.

He was one of three rabbis who spent Shabbat on a base not too far away from the border, together with a few hundred soldiers who were preparing for the ground incursion. After spending the day delivering shiurim and motivational speeches, the rabbis wondered if they should perhaps travel with the soldiers from the base to the staging location, in order to boost the soldiers' morale.

They deliberated and finally decided – with some hesitation – to go along with the soldiers.

Hoping to arrange a minchah prayer service, the rabbis took a Sefer Torah with them. When it was time to get off the bus, my brother asked someone to pass the Torah to him (in order to mitigate the halachic issue of bringing something into a karmelit). However, when he got off the bus, the Torah stayed behind. He looked back into the bus to see what the delay is and saw that the soldiers were passing the Torah from hand to hand –each soldier took the opportunity to embrace it tightly.

Afterwards, a group of soldiers approached two of the rabbis. (The bearded rabbis stood out: one was holding the Sefer Torah, and the other was wearing his talit!) The soldiers asked the rabbis for a blessing. Since giving blessings isn't included in a military rabbi's standard job description, my brother told the soldiers that he would recite the blessing he uses for his sons on Leil Shabbat. To his amazement, more and more soldiers began approaching him. (According to him, most of them were traditional – i.e. not outwardly observant.) Soon, so many soldiers had amassed that the rabbis could no longer give personal blessings.

Instead, they spread out a talit – as is customary on Simchat Torah – over the crowd's heads and blessed everyone in unison.

With great emotion, several soldiers exclaimed that the rabbis' presence gave them strength and boosted their spirits. One soldier even added that the rabbis' blessing was more significant and meaningful for him than all the training sessions he had heard in the period leading up to the operation.

As the sun began to set, the long infantry columns set out towards the Strip. Meanwhile, the rabbis stood near the crossing with the Sefer Torah in their hands and called out words of encouragement and blessing to the soldiers. ("May Hashem be with you," "may Hashem bless you," and other phrases inspired by the Rambam's writings on fear during a battle.) The soldiers, in turn, kissed the Sefer Torah as they marched along.

Ashreichem Yisrael! (How fortunate are you, O Israel!)

- - -

As a footnote, we can tell that the same story—with the same strength and more, was later related by the soldiers themselves—about the special feeling they experienced before entering the battle zone.

On a related issue, there has been a huge demand from hundreds of [non-religious] soldiers, to have the military rabbis obtain Tzitzit for them— which are usually only produced [in army colors] in small numbers, for the religious soldiers. The demand was so much greater than the army was able to supply, that the army rabbis had to launch a campaign outside of the army, with assistance from one of the religious radio stations. Dozens mobilized: many people donated Tzitzit, others donated money and still others spent many hours driving around the country to collect the donations and get them down to where the soldiers were located. Within days thousands of pairs were obtained and handed out to the soldiers in the field. One soldier, a Golani combat soldier, commented “this is more effective than our protective vests!”.

One of the rabbis mentioned that on that Erev Shabbat, before entering the ground phase, it was clear that the small synagogue in the base would not house the participants: The minyan moved to daven at the soccer field, until virtually the entire Golani brigade was present, singing, answering Kaddish and davening Kabbalat Shabbat. “If not for the time, the place, and the color of the uniform,” he told, “it could have been Tfillat Ne’ila at any one of the large Yeshivas”.

Before entering the Strip on Motzai Shabbat, one of the top officers read out the special prayer before entering battle, and the hundreds of soldiers answered “Ana HaShem Hoshi’ya Na…”, after which the Shofar was blown: mamash like when Bnei Yisrael entered the Land.

5 comments:

  1. Wow. This is so moving and inspiring. Thanks for posting this.

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  2. Wonderful!

    I wonder what has changed? When we went into battle in the 80s, nothing quite like this happened. Sure, the Hesder guys davenned together in large numbers; but for the rest it was a lot more of an effort to even make a minyan! Aside from opportunity (the large staging areas make this a bit more possible this time), what is substantially different? Something, it seems...

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  3. How can Israel capitalize on this war? we have more religious interest, increased zionist feelings, and more unity than the last 10+ years. What can we do? we have a small window. Soon all will forget and the old politics will emerge.

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  4. There's actually a little bit more to this incredible story, as I posted a week and a half ago:
    http://ourshiputzim.blogspot.com/2009/01/kiddush-hashem-english-translation.html

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  5. Mrs. S. - thanks. I wonder why that part did not make it into the story that spread around....

    ReplyDelete

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