For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land… where you will lack
nothing…. Take care, lest you forget the Lord your God… and lest your heart
become conceited… and you say in your heart, “It is my own strength and the
might of my hand that have made me all this success.” But you shall remember the
Lord your God, that it is He who gives you the strength to succeed, in order
[that He] fulfill His covenant, which He swore unto your forefathers, as this
very day. Deuteronomy 8:7-18)
If God will not guard a city, in vain does
the watchman toil. (Psalms 127:1)
I have put my trust in You, hence my heart
shall rejoice in Your salvation; I shall sing unto God when he has granted me
[His salvation]. (Psalms 13:6)
In a recent column in this magazine (“The
gathering storm,” August 24), Naomi Ragen wrote all too realistically about the
threat of utter annihilation that faces us in the Land of Israel. She told us
where her faith lies: “Some have faith in our army. Some in our government. Some
in God. Some, like myself, in all three.”
Her message to our enemies
followed: “[They] would do well to remember this: They are not facing the
unarmed Jews of Europe 70 years ago. This time, they will be at the center of
any hell they unleash.”
Great comfort. You may annihilate us, but we will
annihilate you too (or, actually, a small portion of you). How
But, in fact, this is not the monotheistic faith taught us
by our millennial tradition and experience. And make no mistake: The question of
where we place our faith is neither theoretical nor semantic. It is absolutely
existential, for God looks out for those who put their trust in Him (see, for
example, Psalms 33:18-22). The very essence of the peculiar belief that we
inherit from Abraham, from Moses, from King David and from all of the prophets
and sages, and which has gripped the fascination of all monotheistic religions,
is that we put our trust in God alone. True, indeed, God empowers us and summons
us to act humanly within His world with all our ingenuity and dedication, but we
are emphatically enjoined to remember – with humility – that the primary force
is His alone and that He retains overall control.
Hence, in times of
trouble, we have always turned, above all else, to Him. Indeed, as His people,
we have an eternal, mutual covenant with Him, by dint of which we have survived
all the treacherous vicissitudes of 4,000 years of history.
consider this: Within living memory, the Jews in the Land of Israel have been
astoundingly spared time after time from the threat of imminent destruction by
murderous enemies. Sometimes it was through dazzling military victories, defying
the usual norms of warfare, with God’s hand perhaps concealed behind inspired
human action. At least twice – when Nazi Field Marshal Erwin Rommel swept across
North Africa in the course of World War II, engendering “200 days of dread” in
this land in 1942; and, most dramatically, when Saddam Hussein actually attacked
our cities with 39 massive Scud missiles in the Gulf War of 1991 – there was
nothing at all we could humanly do, but God’s protection was stunningly
This, then, must be the source of our encouragement, as the
terrifying specter of conventional and non-conventional warfare is raised
against us as never before: faith in the God of Israel and in the extraordinary
providence He has consistently evidenced toward us in the Land of Israel in our
times. Only He can! Clearly, we must pray with utmost fervor that the government
and the army be granted at this time the highest degrees of wisdom and
integrity, strength and success.
But at the same time, we must make sure
that our spiritual fortifications are of the highest order. And if we can muster
the national will to project to our enemies that this is the faith we bring to
the field, then maybe we will need no miracle to protect us. Maybe, just maybe,
they will tremble before attempting to attack us again. For this is a language
they can understand.
FROM THE perspective of the Torah world, the
defining challenge of our momentous era is that we, the Jewish People, must not
be misled into believing in the supremacy and independence of man generally, or
in the insolent ethos of the New Jews that “now we are the masters of our own
The sheer immensity of the present existential danger, with no
one truly confident that this time we can overcome through human means, must
shake us free of these illusions and back to our core belief.
appraise the historical record with a little more scrutiny.
I was but 16
years old and still living in New York at the time of the Six Day War. Yet I
vividly remember the fantastic euphoria which swept the entire Jewish world at
the outcome of that war, a euphoria which was still intact here when I arrived
on these shores a few months later. Something powerfully transcendent had
occurred. And indeed, for a long time our enemies trembled; an “intifada” was
totally unthinkable. Some, of course, continued to think of that astounding
victory as miraculous. But, as time went on, the inclination to conceitedness
set in and many preferred to speak in terms of “our own strength and the might
of our hand.”
Then came the shock of the Yom Kippur War – as though
verily designed from Above to teach us the lesson of humility before the God of
Israel. In the Gulf War, the lesson was dramatically sharpened. One Scud claimed
28 victims in Saudi Arabia but 39 Scuds, many of them falling in the thick of
Israeli cities, killed no more than one – while the IDF was restrained by the US
from doing anything at all to protect our people.
As it were, God played
solo, and the performance was absolutely stunning.
But there was no
euphoria. It was as though the frustration of not being allowed to demonstrate
“our strength and the might of our hand” had nullified any desire to celebrate.
If one does not place one’s faith in God beforehand, one does not rejoice in His
salvation afterwards. In fact, it was painful, even chilling, to note that even
in religious circles, no one was dancing in the streets in response to God’s
wondrous salvation. And then came the sobering Second Lebanon War, in which we
were again not beaten, but were badly bruised.
Such has been the contest
to date, unleashed by the creation of the Jewish state, over the fundamental
question of where we place our faith. Now that we are facing the threat of all
threats, is it unrealistic to call out to our people everywhere, observant and
non-observant alike, to join together in recapturing the essence of our faith?
This time, we must get it right! And then, when we once again witness God’s
salvation, whether through the agency of the government and the army or
otherwise, we will indeed dance in the streets and sing His praises for all the
world to hear.
The writer is dean of The Harav Lord Jakobovits Torah
Institute of Contemporary Issues (JICI) in Jerusalem and author of Jewish
Antidote to Assimilation. email@example.com
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