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Nov 19, 2012

What Really Protects Israel From Rockets

There are various possibilities of what is protecting Israel from harm, despite the onslaught of rockets being shot out of Gaza by Hamas. Obviously we know Hashem protects us, and we do our physical hishtadlus to effect that protection. The physical hishtadlus consists of having an army and mobilizing it as necessary, defense systems similar to Iron Dome, and others. But sometimes one wonders what, of all the various actions we take, has more of a direct affect on matters.

Let's go through the options (in no particular order):

1. Iron Dome. Iron Dome has done a tremendous job knocking rockets out of the air. It is not perfect, it has missed some, but it has done a tremendous job with a very high percentage of success. To that end, we'd have to include Amir Peretz (as Ynet has started a campaign to thank him, probably reviving a possible political comeback) for being the man behind the original creation and promoting it into reality. As well, RAFAEL, the defense contractor who actually created it. Of course add to the list the army, the politicians and the people of the USA who largely fund it.

2. Prayer. Prayer is, perhaps, a spiritual version of the Iron Dome. We have so many people around the country davening, whether personally saying tehillim, or shuls saying tehillim, or special prayer sessions like the mass prayer yesterday at the Kotel.

3. Kabbalistic activity. Perhaps this should be categorized as part of prayer, but it is not prayer that the average person bombards the heavens with. It is a unique form of prayer and activity, thus qualifying for its own category. A group of Kabbalists went to Meron to say special prayers, then on to Kever Rachel, Hebron and the conclusion of the series of special prayers for a time of war that were said in Beer Sheva.

According to Ladaat, the special tefillot that were said in Beer Sheva were said by Rav Kaduri at the time of the Gulf War, and prior to that they had been said by mekubalim as the Germans were preparing to invade the Holy Land.

4. Torah learning. Torah learning can be such a strong protective force that Rav Chaim Kanievsky said the safest place to be is in Bnei Braq due to the high amount of Torah learning done there. Rav Kanievsky said that the Chazon Ish had promised that Bnei Braq would not have explosions, and the Chazon Ish is great enough that we can rely on him and his promise today as well. (source: Kikar)

While Rav Kanievsky recently said that residents (yeshiva students) from the south should go to Bnei Braq for safety, perhaps Bnei Braq should prepare to receive residents from the south until as north as Tel Aviv and Gush Dan and provide them with safe harbor..

Rav Shteinman is also being flooded with questions from people concerned and looking for answers as to what they should do. According to Bechadrei, Rav Shteinman, though considering each question anew is generally telling people that learning Torah is the best form of protection. Rav Shteinman said that if there should be a siren during davening, during shmoneh esrei, or during learning, they should run for cover. On the issue of Bnei Braq, it doesn't seem, to me, that Rav Shteinman is quite as definitive as Rav Kanievsky is. Rav Shteinman said there is no chazaka that rockets will not fall there, as there is no chazaka on the future. Chazaka only defines the past. Bnei Braq has a chazaka that rockets have not fallen there, but there is no such chazaka that rockets will not fall there in the future.

5. Tzaddikim. A few months ago Rav Chaim Pinto, the rav of Kiryat Malachi, according to Mynet, said that Kiryat Malachi is protected by the special graves of tzadikkim that are buried there.

Rav Pinto has been saying that special, very powerful, tzadikkim are buried in Kiryat Malachi. Some of them (or maybe all of them) are buried in his office (below his office? I am not sure what exactly his claim is, but that is what he said). These tzadikkim provide protection to the city to the point that there is no need to even take cover, if one is in the middle of davening, when the sirens blare announcing an incoming rocket. In other places like Ashdod, one should interrupt his tefilla and take cover, even though we have the protection of Iron Dome (making a direct hit unlikely), but in Kiryat Malachi one should not interrupt his prayers.

Rav Pinto has not revealed the identity of of the tzadikkim buried there, but he hinted that Rav Chaim Vital is buried there, among others including the grave of Rav Chaim Pinto (presumably his own ancestor).

Rav Chaim Vital was buried in Syria, though rumors have persisted for a long time that Rav Pinto secretly moved Rav Chaim Vital's grave to Kiryat Malachi many years ago. The same rumor also claims other graves of ancient tzadikkim were moved as well. The only other name I have ever heard in reference to this rumor was that of Rebbe Nachman of Breslav.

At the time Rav Pinto pointed to the fact that despite a series of escalations no rocket had falled in kiryat Malachi to indicate that he was correct that the tzadikkim buried there provide protection. If he was correct at the time, one must wonder what changed, considering the recent rockets that fell in Kiryat Malachi, including one that killed three people (and they were not mechalelei shabbos, as is explained in Bnei Braq when explaining how a rocket did fall in Bnei Braq despite the promises that no rockets fall there).

So, I don't know which of the above do a better or worse job. Maybe it is a combination of all five, and only together does the protection work most effectively.

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  1. If the Torah of Bnei Brak is such a strong protective force, why don't the residents of Bnei Brak go to the South? And why do talmidim in the yeshivos in the South have to leave, if their Torah is a protective force?

    1. Torah is a protective force. There are clear sources for this in the Talmud. However, if young yeshivah students are afraid and distressed about the sirens and booms, and they're breaking into excited groups to discuss the post-mortem of each missile attack, then we can undertand why their rabbis would want to move them to a calmer place, for the sake of their studies.
      Yes, it is a contradiction in human behavior. These young men should have the clarity of thought not to folow their emotions, the emunah and bitachon to study even harder while under attack, like the Chazon Ish in Vilna during WWI, or Rav Shach during the 1948 War of Independence in Jerusalem. But human nature being what it is, the rabbis therefore deem it necessary to send them elsewhere.

  2. I think honest business dealings, love thy neighbor, and general Torah observance and acting in a way that shows that we believe God is watching and judging our actions, should have a place on the list somewhere. Not taking anything away from prayer, Torah study, and the Iron Dome, but I think a careful reading of Tanach indicates that the factors listed above have some bearing on summoning God's protection. At any rate, I think they're worth an honorable mention.

  3. Nice roundup, Rafi. I wrote about these graves a couple months ago, and someone commented there that one of them was indeed Rav Hayim Vital ZTVK"L. I don't have an answer to your question, though.

    Re: interrupting your prayers, at least according to the Mynet article, this was not stated by Rav Pinto, but rather, the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Ashdod - Rav Yosef Sheinin, and he said that before Iron Dome, we had to be concerned about ונשמרתם מאד לנפשתיכם, but now that we have Iron Dome, we aren't as concerned - especially in the middle of Shemoneh Esrei, so therefore, finish up your Shemoneh Esrei before running for cover.

  4. Humility. It binds all the efforts together.

  5. Whether or how "spiritual" defenses such as learning, praying etc. protect us, it is the height of foolishness, at best, for anyone to advocate specific actions as a result. The 3 people who died in Kiryat Malachi stand as a testament to this.

    Also, I thought of something very irksome about this. The standard reason (or excuse, depending on your point view) that Chareidi leadership gives for the Yeshiva exemption from the army is that learning is just as important in protecting the nation as is the army. The implication here however, is that the "protection" from learning is quite parochial, ie only "protecting" the actual places where the learning is taking place and NOT the whole nation. So basically, even according to one of their own "Gedolim" the idea of IDF-Yeshiva parity is a farce.


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