Messages From the War – Oct 22

Anyone who is not here is missing out on an experience of Biblical proportions. You keep seeing more evidence of it, and you are all probably contributing towards it as well. This is a nation acting in concert, ignoring its differences, and facing an existential threat to its survival. It translates into the tangible, like the almost innumerable projects of support to the soldiers, to the hundreds of displaced families, and to the households laboring to function while one of its members is on the front.

But it also translates into something that cannot be measured, but only felt. The spirit, the feeling, of purpose and unity. You feel it when any conversation of the most mundane nature still ends, not with a perfunctory goodbye, but with a heartfelt “besorot tovot.” (Unless it’s with someone from the Edot HaMizrach, in which case it is five times as long, and several decibels louder.) The good tidings they wish are all about the captives and the soldiers. I haven’t heard a single one focusing on revenge – although I can’t say that we wouldn’t cheer it.

You can sense it from a distance, but you have to be here to really experience it. I feel sorry for those who left, all for good reason, I’m sure. But they are missing out on something special.

For the curious, who are living vicariously through us: As the saying goes, “Besides the assassination, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?” Three thoughts are overwhelming and all-consuming – which means we are all on overload. The first is an unrelenting miasma brought on by the size and cruelty of the Simchas Torah massacre. Second is the constant concern for the captives and the soldiers. The third – and easiest one to deal with – is the realization that some Hezbollah missile might snuff us out in an instant.

As far as the mundane details of daily living – the new normal is livable (at least Yerushalayim, unlike other parts of the country that have to deal with daily rocket attacks), despite silly media descriptions to the contrary. Items missing from the shelves a week ago – eggs, bottled water, bread – have returned. Services are back to near-normal. The streets are not empty at all, but traffic is still very light. You can’t take 370000 men out of the workforce and expect the economy to fully function. We don’t see the crowds passing time at the cafes and restaurants that are open; people don’t seem to have much interest in aspects of life that seem more trivial. It is also difficult to write, since incessant click-bait about the war constantly interrupts focus.

If anything, the ease with which we live (punctuated from time to time to a hurried trip to a shelter) is a problem for some of us in the charedi world. No matter how many projects we involve ourselves in, its just not the same as for the rest of the country, who have far more skin in the game. Outside of the charedi world, it is hard to imagine anyone who does not have a friend or family member among the murdered, the captives, or on the front-lines. This is much less so in charedi communities. One does not have to be a prophet to realize that charedi attitudes are going to shift concerning military (and other) service to the country, beyond the all-important learning of those who really have revved it up to 100% efficiency. The IDF reports that they have already received 2000 charedi requests to enlist, and hope to have an intake process in place by tomorrow.

Returning to the warm embrace of unity. Many centuries ago, Maharal was challenged by a local church figure to explain why Jews treat each other more shabbily than the non-Jews around them. (See Netzach Yisrael, chap. 25 for his amazing answer.) For years, I’ve had to deal with the same question from friendly Christians. They were too polite to voice it, but the question was there, and it was prudent to deal with it, rather than ignore it. What I told them then was something that I firmly believed – but for which I could offer no evidence. Today, I have the evidence.

This is what I told them. Yirmiyahu 11:17 has Hashem calling Klal Yisrael a “flourishing olive tree.” We can think of more attractive comparisons. A fragrant rose wouldn’t be so bad. Why an olive tree? The gemara (Menachos 53b) offers two reasons. It can take many years before an olive tree bears its fruit; the olive gives its oil only after it is beaten and crushed. (I added a variation on the first theme. An olive tree can go dormant for many years, and suddenly yield its fruit again. When I spoke about this in shul on Shabbos, one of the attendees said that he had a tree that was several hundred years old, and had never produced olives in the years he lived there – until that day, when it dropped its first fruits!) I told my friends – who often have an inflated, unreasonable view of how righteous Jews are expected to be – that they should not be confused by the disconnect between what they sometimes see and the idealized version they have been taught about. Jews indeed sometimes do not behave the way the Torah expects them to. But, I tell them, don’t count them out. G-d Himself calls them olive trees, who will still bear precious fruit.

Today, I see before me the merging of the different explanations in the gemara. Through being beaten and crushed on Simchas Torah, the tree has borne the exquisite fruit of unity, there for all to see. The quality of the Jewish neshama is on display. Some people are bound to get it.

You may also like...

54 Responses

  1. Bob Miller says:

    Lest we place any trust in the US, as opposed to HaShem:

    With all our unity achieved under fire, we’ll still need in time to solve the problem of atheists leading Israel. Is the idea of PM Netanyahu consulting with Gedolim on big or small matters a pipe dream? If so, why?

    • william l gewirtz says:

      Referring to Israeli leaders as atheists, particularly at a time when unity with all of Kenesset Yisroel is so critical, is in my opinion reprehensible. Many leaders are not observant, but hardly atheists.

      Additionally, your assumptions about the domains where daas toreh apply is an opinion not shared by all. To many traditional Jews, it is entirely antinomian.

      • Bob Miller says:

        I’ve noticed that, at key moments of decision, Religious Zionist leaders and other believing officials in the present government are pushed off to the side. Ben-Gvir’s perfectly logical security suggestions have been brushed off, and that’s only an example. While we await a successful offensive against Hamas, the customary bombastic declarations by high officials are deafening and laughable. Call a spade a spade. Secular is not the proper word for these legends in their own minds. We can all humble ourselves before HaShem in our own way. That’s what true Jewish unity is about. Gedolim are at the very least a resource for chizuk, and at most a resource for pertinent Torah wisdom.

      • william l gewirtz says:

        Bob Miller, using Ben Gvir and logical in the same sentence strains credulity. Many DL no longer identify with religious parties; many Kenneset members of general parties are traditional Jews.

        Imagine you want to give confidence to soldiers; It may be halakhically mandated to be positive.

        Real gedolim are giving chizuk 24/7 to those who come to them and those who do not.

        I suggest you read (at least) the first sections of Kol Dodi Dofek and try to internalize 2 points: 1) Jews of faith versus Jews of fate and 2) an approach to how to respond to tzaddik ve’rah loh.

      • Bob Miller says:

        The strongest positive message for soldiers, from the top of the chain of command, would be that HaShem has their back. Netanyahu doesn’t economize on words. Where are those words? Give us a good excuse if you will.

      • William Lawrence Gewirtz says:

        We do not assert anything! We fervently pray that God has their back.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Both. Pray and assert. Some prayers also assert.

  2. Yisroel Miller says:

    If a zayde is allowed to brag: my grandson came back from Yeshiva in Yerushalayim for bein hazemanim, and flew back last Tuesday. Besides learning, he spends time encouraging chaverim to stay in Eretz Yisroel. I told him that I’m proud of him, and more, that I envy him.

    • Steven Brizel says:

      I saw elsewhere that Mir Yerushalayim is urging all talmidim and avrechim to return to Yerushalayiim

  3. rkz says:

    Very well said.
    I do hear a lot of calls for nekama, ב”ה.
    (Perhaps it depends where you live)

    • Reb Yid says:

      Settlers in the West Bank are doing a lot more than just asking for revenge, and the army is not stopping them, either.

      • Mark says:

        Nor should it. As a deterrent factor, it’s very valuable. They can do things that the regular army cannot and that’s often the only language the barbarians understand.

      • Steven Brizel says:

        Spare us the moral equivalence-Settlers have a legitimate complaint that the IDF was more interested in preserving the so called peace process than in protecting the lives of settlers

      • Reb Yid says:

        They are taking pot shots at anyone they happen to see who is not Jewish.

        And after one such murder, they then turned up at the funeral to murder others, including children.

        This is not accidental given some of the extremist leaders in Israel’s Cabinet who are aiding and abetting this. This began happening more and more since the beginning of the new government, but in the past few weeks has increased dramatically.

      • David says:

        My God, is there ever a post to which you don’t respond with knee-jerk thoughts worthy only of Ha’aretz or The Guardian? Overwhelmingly, it is the “settlers” (in Judea and Samaria, not the settlers in pre-1967 Israel) who are attacked daily.

      • Gershon BenKalman says:

        As a settler, you are offensive and I pity you.

        At a time of achdut, you still see me, a Zionist Orthodox Jew, as an “other.”

        Get help.

      • Reb Yid says:


        My first post in this thread was in response to those questioning the author’s claim that there were no calls for revenge.

        There has been far, far more than that–that’s all I am saying. And not making any claims about moral equivalency, just stating the facts.

        Like these:

      • Steven Brizel says:

        Perhaps you should talk to any one who has lost a ramily member or a friend due to Arab terror .I guess you haven’t seen or attempting to rationalize what happened on 10.7.23-Anti Semitism that is shared by the PA, Islamic Jihad and Hamas is part of their charter , ideology and educational system and the cause of all anti Semitism-as opposed to Jews settling in their ancestral homeland Spare us moral equivalence that is rooted in your narrative as opposed to the facts on the ground.

      • Reb Yid says:

        Mr. Brizel:

        On the contrary. It has been very difficult to concentrate on work or get much sleep. I have Hebrew media on every day.

        The American-Israeli couple whose son was at the party and got taken hostage, and who were on the cover of Time magazine? I was ahead of them in school by a couple of years. I know them, they know me. My brother who made aliya is very good friends with the father’s brother. Many others in my extended family have been called up and I worry about them each day.

        I was especially worried about one of my Israeli nieces who is an artist, who normally goes to trance festivals. Fortunately she did not go to this one but two of her friends did. One escaped while another is still missing.

      • rkz says:

        בעזרת השם I do hope that we will have נקמה soon

      • David says:

        Reb Yid, relying on Yesh Din is just like relying on the Guardian and Haaretz, as I wrote. Stating that “settlers” are doing more than asking for revenge is along the same old lines of dehumanization of Jews who live in the heart of Israel, a strategy which unfortunately has largely succeeded. The word “settler” has become identical to “terrorist” in some circles. 99% of those who lives in Judea and Samaria are not involved in revenge attacks. and it is comments like yours which tar hem with the same brush. Lefties like you who used to be careful about generalizations suddenly stop when it comes to certain groups of people. Saying that you’re just stating the facts is just an act. Looking at the whole situation from a bird’s eye view, the residents of Judea and Samaria have been extremely gentle in their reaction to the murderers around them.

      • Reb Yid says:

        To David:

        It is indisputable what is happening right now in the territories. Ben Gvir and Smotrich have encouraged this. Under the cover of war, settlers have been forcing Palestinians to leave their homes and the settlers are establishing new communities, with the hashgacha of the army.

        One can talk all one wants to about Gaza, but this naked land grab in the West Bank is outrageous. There are plenty of receipts–don’t blame the media for this.

    • Chana Siegel says:

      I have a daughter who is not religious who works in hi tech in greater TA. She says that the leftists she knows were profoundly affected by watching the flood of Tiktoks and Instagrams from the pogrom in real time.
      “At this rate, there won’t be any Left in Israel at all. Their whole political outlook changed overnight when they saw their friends slaughtered. They want revenge. Things will never go back to the way they were.”

      • Mark says:

        If only it were that simple. They’ll always be there and louder than before. The rot is particularly acute in the universities which are infested with rabid Palestinian loving leftists and they will indoctrinate the next round of students with their falsehoods. Their tenure protects them and allows them to behave with abandon.
        Just as the Palestinian hatred is directly related to their education, leftism does the same thing to many generations of our youth.
        Pogrom or no pogrom, the left is unfortunately here to stay and will claim many more victims in the future.

  4. William Lawrence Gewirtz says:

    I largely agree. However, the community of Anglo olim in the ultra-Hareidi camp are still a source of personal annoyance. Many have chosen not to become citizens of Israel, largely to exempt their children from service. As permanent residents, like in the US, they can receive significant benefits from the State of Israel. IMHO, this constitutes a poraish min ha-tzibbur in the extreme.

    I will contrast Shabbat, 8 days ago in an Anglo shul on Ma’agalei Ha’rim Levin to yesterday at SIL’s shul in North Woodmere. 8 days ago, 2 perakim of tehillim, one before and one after davening, followed by an elaborate kiddush for the ST chasanim. Not a word from either the shul’s rabbi, a prominent RY and Rosh Kollel or the 2 chassanim. Yesterday, a mishebairach that left not a dry eye, Avinu Malkeinu omitting ki Chatanu ry, and Tehillim. Spare me the presence in EY versus Galut.

    I am aware of the housing of displaced families in the above-mentioned community and for that I am thankful. Unfortunately, that must be balanced by the words spoken/written including by a frequent contributor to this blog.

    I pray that HKBH brings victory to our troops. And I hope that things change dramatically in the war’s aftermath in the direction of a permanent future unity.

    • Steven Brizel says:

      i don’t think that either rehashing critiques of the charedi way of life or second guessing the Israeli defense establishment as to what the IDF Shin Bet or Mossad knew prior to 10/7 contribute to the Achdus that is necessary to prosecute this war to a successful conclusion. OTOH, deciphering the differences between verbal sympathy , policy and the sharing of intelligence and resupply of the IDF from Washington both prior to 1/7 and at the present are critically important subjects that deserve a full discussion at the appropriate time it is important to note that the US had such iinvestigations by Congress during the Civil War, that Lincoln fired generals who would not fight and that intelligence failures before Pearl Harbor and 9-11 were held , but after the conclusion of WW2 and while we were fighting the war in Iraq.

    • Steven Brizel says:

      It is also worth noting that Israeli PMs replaced generals who sustained nervous breakdowns and who had lost the will to fight before the Six Day War and during the YK War

  5. Nachum says:

    I will say that for the charedi world, one group taking it in a big way are the Zaka workers. I saw a picture of one today sitting in front of his ambulance and breaking down. It must be awful for them.

    Related to your point I saw this, I think in the name of the Klausenberger Rebbe:

    “We burn the lulav with the chametz. We turn the etrog into jam. We use the hadassim for besamim. But the aravot we put on top of the aron. Why? Because that which is the most neglected and dismissed, that which dries out the most quickly, that which is beaten mercilessly- that is what Hashem wants close to him.”

    • lacosta says:

      1] and by the aravot you refer to hilonim, and others with neither limud not maasim tovim?

      2] in which a general shows how, al derech hatevah, r”l, one would expect a bloodbath of unspeakable proportions if invasion happens now

      3]chu’l and twitter , unlike israel , are filled [besides gentile jew haters] with horrid jew leftist palestine supporters , apologists, and onestaters –who if anything are more adamant now ….

      • Nachum says:

        “and by the aravot you refer to hilonim, and others with neither limud not maasim tovim?”

        Not at all. I have no idea how you could even read that into what I wrote. Clearly the reference is to the Jewish people as a whole, and anyone undergoing trauma in specific.

    • Mili (Selah) Leinwand says:

      Loved this!
      Thanks for sharing.

  6. Mark says:

    What a beautiful pshat in that Gemara. Thank you for writing and sharing.

  7. mb says:

    Not sure if this adds or subtracts.
    Why is the olive branch a symbol of peace?
    Not because of the Noah narrative with the dove and the twig. that had nothing to do with peace.
    In the ancient world, and even in recent history, scorched earth policies, meant retreating armies burnt their own crops and trees so they would be of no use.
    As stated above, an olive tree can take years to grow and even longer to bear fruit. Therefore standing olive trees in a grove were evidence of a long period of peace.
    Rationalism rules, OK?

  8. Avi says:

    Dr Gewritz
    Is 100 correct.
    Did they not have thousands come out against the draft and say horrible thinks re the IDF? In Flatbush they had only 4000 out.
    What are they doing in Ner Yisroel or Toras Moshe. We see RHS everywhere including rallies. Of course I believe he has some family in the IDF. When will the charedi world repent?

    • DK says:

      As much Hakaras HaTov we must have to the soldiers in the IDF for putting their lives on the line to protect Klal Yisroel, if there’s one thing that should be learned out of this tragedy is that without Siyata Dishmaya, even the best army can fail.

      We know that when Klal Yisroel went to war, there was an equal amount of troops davening for their success.
      Everyone has their Tafkid, some are combat soldiers, some are logistics, some focus on the moral of the troops. While others pray and learn so Klal Yisroel will have Hashems help and that He will look over over us and protect us.
      Just as we aren’t upset at the air force pilots for not being a ground combat soldier we should not be upset at those who’s Zchusim are bringing on Shmira from Hashem from going into the army.

      • ChanaRachel says:

        The issue isn’t a particular individual who for whatever reason doesn’t serve, or serves in a non-combat role, or guarding his own Yishuv. Not everyone needs to be a combat soldier in a special unit.
        The problem begins when *entire communities don’t serve*. In my son’s neighborhood, 70 out of 100 adult men were called up on Simchat Torah, in a different community the statistics could be 1 out of 100. In one community 70% of wives or mothers aren’t sleeping at night, while in another community, as active as the residents are helping chayyalim in various ways, and busy and engaged as they may be, no one is living with gut-wrenching fear on a daily basis.

    • Bob Miller says:

      When will you get off your high horse? I rather doubt that Chareidim made the IDF’s planning so faulty of late.

    • William Lawrence Gewirtz says:

      DK, There are many wars described in Tanach (and elsewhere.) Not one describes an equal number of people learning Torah. Israel always needs Siyatah de’Shemayah; but we also need hishtadlut..

      Bob Miller, attacking Israel’s intelligence services at this time, is a bit untoward. Scrutiny will occur after victory, IY’H. Hareidi and other party demands for funding may actually be partially to blame for diverting funds from more critical areas. In the meantime, heed the Hazal’s advice: Lo matzasi la’guf tov mi’shetikah.

      • Bob Miller says:

        In war after war, successful civilian and military leaders have made urgently necessary staff changes an the fly regardless of anybody’s sensibilities, Lincoln went through a slew of generals before getting the right combination. Generals and other officers have been relieved in battle and sent back to the rear. An example of how a staff ought to work smoothly without fanfare:

        Every government has loads of nonessential discretionary spending. Looking at Chareidi concerns as the sole such area to cut today shows unseemly bias.

      • DK says:

        The Mesora we have tells of an equal amount of physical soldiers and their spiritual backup, protecting them from afar.

        There are over 300,000 armed Jewish men and boys at the border waiting to go in to Gaza. The Hishtadlus is ready and rearing to go!
        But there are far fewer men and boys in Kollelim and Yeshivos.
        Why are more troops needed? Should we tell the pilots to leave their cockpits to become a foot soldier?
        If anything, we need more Zechusim to save us from our enemies. In Gaza, Lebanon, Iran, and the rest of the world.
        We need Zechusim that the US and other nations stand behind Israel.
        We need Zechusim that Iran or other groups don’t get their hands on “the bomb”.

      • rkz says:

        WADR that’s not the reason for the failure.

      • William Lawrence Gewirtz says:

        DK, Please cite a reference for “The Mesora we have tells of an equal amount of physical soldiers and their spiritual backup, protecting them from afar.” Perhaps I have an incorrect or incomplete Mesorah but I I am unable to find the word “equal.” This is the second time you mentioned equal, please provide a source.

      • DK says:

        The Pasuk says, “אלף למטה, אלף למטה”.

        The Mesora (i heard this from at least a few sources, but the only 1 I remember was Rav Leff) speaks out that for each soldier in combat there was one soldier in charge of Ruchnius matters (davening, learning).

        [A quick google search came up with this:

  9. Mili (Selah) Leinwand says:

    Dear Rabbi Adlerstein, you just delivered words I needed to hear.
    I can imagine your smile calm, always projecting balance and equanimity. Good to hear from you, blessings from Franklin CANYON!!

  10. Shades of Gray says:

    “I haven’t heard a single one focusing on revenge – although I can’t say that we wouldn’t cheer it.”

    I think hasbara should include the unity of purpose as well as the humanity of the IDF, and of Jews in general, as contrasted with our enemies.

    This is in the spirit of Leah’s naming Reuvein, which the Gemara understands as contrasting his actions with those of Esav:

    רְאוּ מַה בֵּין בְּנִי לְבֶן חָמִי
    “See (ראו) the difference between (בין) my son and my father-in-law’s son.”

    In this vein, NBC had a short video clip , “Band of brothers: 5 American Israeli siblings are fighting for Israel.” It describes Naftali, Bentzi, Chaim, Yochanan and Shuey who are dual citizens of the U.S. and Israel. See excerpt and link below:

    “One brother, Yochanan, traveled from New York, where he was staying with family, to Israel to fight as a tank platoon commander.

    Naftali, 34, the eldest, works as a doctor at a Jerusalem hospital, so he would be in medical scrubs on a normal day. Now, he wears a military uniform.“ I called up my commander and I knew right away I have to tell my wife that I have to go,” Naftali said.

    …Speaking from deep in Israel’s Negev desert, Shuey described his sense of duty: “I feel like it’s the most important thing I ever did in my life.” The five brothers are drawing strength from one another, Shuey said.“ I see my brothers standing in the north, in the south, everywhere,” he said, adding that he tells himself, “Look, you’re not alone.”

  11. Steven Brizel says:

    For those interested see here and here

    • Reb Yid says:

      One of the Kann 11 reporters (himself observant) interviewed some of these men (and their wives, with children in tow) at the registration drop-off spot. It was fascinating listening to their responses–responding pretty much the same as typical Israelis would. Important to actually see this, need to have more of these videos to disseminate so that stereotypes can be shattered.

      • William Lawrence Gewirtz says:

        Hopefully, this is only the beginning of a trend that will eventually shatter stereotypes.

  12. Lara Gedzelman says:

    To expand on Rabbi Adlerstein’s point, being in Israel now is a privilege, as we see things up close. But make no mistake that this is an inflection point for Am Yisrael, wherever they may be.

    Each of us is being called to wake up, to make a choice, from wherever we are standing, physically, emotionally or spiritually. Mi l’H’ elai?

    Whether it is “liberal” Jews who are reassessing the organizations or values they have stood for, whether those who felt tough because the IDF is “invincible”, those who called the chareidim “parasites” and are now watching the incredible maamatzim on behalf of Am Yisrael, those who thought “King Bibi” was the moshiach, those who worshipped the Ivies, those who felt smug with their avodah, and dismissed the collective spirituality of secular Israel, and those who made parades for Trump.

    We are seeing something very pure and real here, and the message is “LOOK UPWARDS”.

    Everyone in chutz l’aretz is also in this battle, and those who hear the call, are also soldiers in this war. All forms of hishtadlus are welcome.

    כולם אהובים, כולם ברורים, כולם גיבורים, כולם קדושים

  13. Zelma Wein says:

    How insensitive – 1400 murdered in one day, 240 taken hostage, 17 soldiers killed in the park week. people injured, entire communities that have lost everything and you’re talking about the wonderful unity. I’m sorry to disappoint – there is no real unity – what’s being done is being done by citizens who know how to step in and step up to replace a crazy, evil, corrupt and incompetent government. You and Bezalel Smotrich – “maybe we needed this calamity to remind us who we are.” No, we really didn’t. I wonder if R. Adlerstein has sons, grandsons at the front. Those of us who do are not sleeping – in between volunteering and trying to work, we are terrified. And no worries, there’s no real unity as to the direction of this country. May we soon be rescued from the messianic jihad that has taken over or government.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This