The Berditchiver in Gaza
I cannot reveal my source. All I can say is that it happened as he patrolled late at night in a Beit Hanoun street abandoned by its residents, walking a few paces ahead of the rest of his unit. He saw a figure, standing to the side, shrouded in light. “Sholom alechah, my son,” he said. His voice was redolent with peace and tranquility. My friend instantly realized that this figure was not of this world, and responded, “Sholom alechah, rabi u-mori. I presume that you are Eliyahu ha-Navi?” The figure smiled. “Not quite. They used to call me Levi Yitzchok, and I have been watching the events here with keen interest. I had to come back to revise one of my more famous songs – A Din Toyre Mit G-tt.” He handed my friend a handwritten scrap of paper, and vanished into the night.
Good morning to You, Ribbono shel Olam.
I, Levi Yitzchak, son of Sarah Sosho of Berditchev,
I come to you with a Din Torah from Your people, Yisrael.
What do you want of Your people Yisrael?
For everywhere I look it says, “Say to the People of Israel.”
And every other verse says, “Speak to the People of Israel.”
Over and over, “Command the People of Israel.”
Merciful Father! How many nations are there in the world?
Persians, Babylonians, Edomites…
The Scandanavians, what do they say?
That there is no G-d.
The Persians and Arabs, what do they say?
That G-d is a bloodthirsty maniac.
And the English, what do they say?
That G-d is no longer relevant.
But Your people, Yisrael, what do they say?
Ani Ma’amin. Yisrael betach b’Hashem.
These are the songs their sons sing as they march to and from battle with those who scoff at You.
And how I wish they only scoffed! But they rain down their rockets upon your holy Land and its inhabitants, who look to You for protection,
While the enemy sends their sons to burrow through the ground in the hope of slaughtering the innocent.
And those nations look on, and heap scorn and hatred upon us for simply surviving.
After two thousand years of exile, they have learned to tolerate us.
But only if we are dead.
If Yisrael and its Torah and You are all One, Whom do they really malign?
Is it not You they ridicule, not just us?
A few weeks ago, I thought I understood what You wanted.
You have always chastised us, because You care about us, and discipline us for our good.
But You have always warned us first.
You told us that if we would follow You inconsistently – bekeri – You would do the same.
We have been guilty of that.
But surely You have taken note of how this holy nation has lived in the last weeks, steadfastly turning to You – even those who ordinarily don’t bother?
Was it not a special moment when a government official who had not entered a shul since his son’s bar-mitzvah searched his house for his grandfather’s siddur so that he, too, could turn to You with the rest of the country?
Did You not take pleasure in the Shma Yisrael spelled out by the lights of a tower in Tel Aviv, the “secular” city?
How often before did You witness tens of thousands of people gather to beseech you, observant and non-observant together, as they did there when we still thought that the three kedoshim were alive?
(And speaking of the three kedoshim – did You not have to shed a Divine tear over the story of the bar-mitzvah boy, Gilad Shaar, who sought out Rav Yitzchok Dovid Grossman to find out how to merit sanctifying Your Name?)
You warned us again in the gemara that the galus would be prolonged because of sinas chinam.
Have You ever witnessed as much ahavas chinam as in the last week? Thirty-thousand people attending the levaya of someone they did not know?
Lines down the halls of hospitals, strangers waiting patiently to offer words of encouragement to wounded soldiers they never met?
Hordes of people descending on the border (despite the rockets) to offer gifts to the soldiers of Tzahal fighting for Your honor?
You warned us not to fall into the kochi v’otzem yadi trap.
You got us on that one! Close to five decades ago, You granted us a spectacular victory. Some realized it was from You; too many others credited the might of their planes and their prowess.
Years and years went by, and with few exceptions, the Rosh Memshalah did not speak about You.
But this week, praising the accomplishments of our soldiers, the political leader of the country ended his speech with these words: “With the Almighty’s help, and theirs, we will succeed.”
He put You first, where You belong.
You must have noticed how different the mood is this time. With all the success of the technology You have given us the intelligence to design, more people credited the Big Kippah than the Iron Dome for our incredible salvation.
If this is not full, national teshuvah, does it not count at least as a full national chudo shel machat?
Should that not suffice?
What more do you want of Your people Yisrael?
We will gladly do it – so long as You will allow us to come closer to You, and You will continue to show Your love for us.
The others continue to blaspheme You.
But I, Levi Yitzchak son of Sarah of Berditchev, say:
“Yisgadal v’yiskadash sh’mei raboh/Glorified and sanctified be Your great name.”
And I, Levi Yitzchak, son of Sarah Sosho of Berditchev, say:
From my stand I will not waver.
And from my place I shall not move
until there be an end to this exile.
“Yisgadal v’yiskadash sh’mei raboh”