15 Cheshvan, 5780
Nov. 13, 2019
To be a Free People in Our Land
Rav Shachar Butzchak
Rav, Moshav Mivtachim
At this moment, I am sitting in our Beit Midrash in the Yeshiva of Sderot, preparing a shiur. And a siren suddenly calls out the phrase that is too familiar “Red Alert!”, “RedAlert!”. After a few seconds the warning siren sounds again with those same words.
This means that 5 seconds ago, some savages have fired 2 missiles at us, and in 5-10vseconds they will fall somewhere very close to us. A few hundred meters from where I sit, the Iron Dome Battery is firing 2 salvos into the sky to intercept these missiles whose intent is to take as many Jewish lives as possible, simply because they live in the land of Israel. Or perhaps simply because they live.
(By the time I finished writing those words another 4 missiles were fired, besides the 2 I was writing about).
While I am in the Yeshiva, my wife and 5 children are in our home in Moshav Mivtachim, very close to Gaza. Already this morning, they too have had a number of sirens and it is only 11 am. Since yesterday 250 missiles have been fired at our region.
Beside me here in the Beit Midrash, the Yeshiva boys, from age 18 and up, are preparing the material I gave them for the shiur. Their homes are all across Israel. North, Centre, South. But they are here. They did not travel to their quiet homes, far from the missile range. Because they know that their learning provides added protection for the Jewish people.
In these tense times, we live anew the words of the Talmud, Brachot 5a. Rav Shimon Bar Yochai says that there are 3 gifts that the Holy One Blessed be He gave to the Jewish people, but these gifts come with suffering: the Torah, the land of Israel and the world to come.
Many people call the region we live in “Otef Aza – the envelop, the region of Gaza”. But my view is that the real name is “Otef Yisrael – the envelop of Israel”. We don’t envelop Gaza, we envelop the Jewish people living in the Land of Israel. We envelop it like a shield of human armor. We envelop it with love and warmth, with our bodies and our homes. We choose every day to live here, both during run of the mill days and in times of emergency.
No day passes without a call from our family in the North offering us some respite with them until things quiet down. But our response is always the same: our home is here. Our evil enemies will not get the satisfaction of seeing ghost towns empty of residents.
In particular, I, as Rav of the community and a member of the Emergency Squad, feel I shoulder responsibility for my community. Most of the year my focus is on the spiritual life. But now the emphasis is on people’s physical and mental well being. The Friday night drasha in shul becomes a motivational address, expressing our privilege in being here to protect the Land of Israel. It was only a few decades ago that our families were slaughtered just for being Jews – and with none to protect them.
But today we have a military, a true military power. Even the greatest military power has its front line. We are fortunate to be that front line, G-d’s warriors 365 days of the year: we, our wives and children.
At times like this, as a Rav in this area, I deal with unique questions: Women afraid to go to the Mikveh at night, since most mortars are fired in the cover of night as it is harder to intercept these smaller weapons at night than during the day. Or the Bride and Groom who have been told by the army not to have a large gathering and that the wedding hall has been closed – and now have to find any shul or yeshiva that is fortified to allow a small wedding, while still trying not to spoil their simcha.
A fundamental question we deal with is whether it is permissible for people to leave their home to attend minyan when there is a fear of missiles. One is more vulnerable outside than when at home. And many shuls do not have safe rooms that can protect the attendees if there is an attack.
But even with all the difficulties and the complexities, it does not even cross our mind for a moment that perhaps we are in the wrong place. This is our place. This is our purpose. We are soldiers in G-d’s army.
You the readers, the Jewish people who are not on the front line, you too need to ask yourselves: “What is our purpose?” No Jew is without a purpose – that just couldn’t be. Wherever I am, wherever I decide to live with my family, I must grapple with this fundamental question: “What can I give to the Jewish people, to the Land of Israel and to the Torah?”. We don’t need you to appreciate our heroism while watching the never ending TV coverage of the hundreds of murderous missiles aimed to kill us. We
need you to take that appreciation and to translate it to action, to give it a purpose. To give as much of yourselves as you can to be G-d’s messenger in the world. We have a principle : the person’s messenger is as him. So if we are His messengers …..
The eternal people are not afraid of a circuitous path!
With love and respect,
From the front line,
and with prayer for a true peace,
Rav Shachar Butzchak
Rav, Moshav Mivtachim, the Envelop of Israel.