(Note: this piece was written 3 years ago when Israel was at war with Hamas in Gaza, what was called Operation Protective Edge.. Unfortunately, that war was not finished. If anything, the war has spread around the world. And our most powerful weapon is still waiting to be used.)
I slept a bit later this morning as sometimes happens. After sachris I shmuzed with a friend, comparing notes about our children, work, our general health, just like on any other morning. Of course, we talked about the war and how we would finish it if it were up to us. And then I went on my usual fast walk through the neighborhood. Kids were going to camp, bocherim running from minyan to get to seder on time, cars were driving out to where ever. People rushing in and out of the makolet to grab what they needed for the day. It was just another day.
At the same time in Sderot, in the Gaza envelope, and in Beersheva Code Red sirens are driving people to their shelters. Roads are blocked because the IDF is on search and destroy missions looking for infiltrators who may have slipped into Israel through terror tunnels. People are ordered to remain inside behind locked doors until the missions are completed and an all-clear signal is given.
I don’t hear sirens. I can go shopping or to the gym, or wherever. My family isn’t locked inside our apartment. There is no war here in Har Nof.
Don’t get me wrong. I know there is a war. I listen to the news every hour for new developments. I say tehillim in shul for the safety of all klal yisrael. I carry with me the names of soldiers and look at the list before I daven and learn. My heart feels pain and anguish and fear for those on the front lines. But deep in my heart, in the deepest places I can go at the moment, I am not in a war. It is out there in the news, somewhere in “the South”, across the security fence into Gaza. Somewhere it is real, but not inside me.
(It may be a protective mechanism which Hashem has built into us that we can block out stresses that we believe we cannot do anything about. Like the war.)
It is now day 16 of Operation Protective Edge. We have lost 29 of our sons. Dozens are in hospital, many in serious condition. I feel deep pain at the loss of precious neshamas and the trauma to families whose husbands and sons and brothers are injured or lost. My wife has a dear friend with a son and a son-in-law somewhere in Gaza. I hear our end of my wife’s phone conversations with the friend and I think “I can’t imagine how I would handle their fear.”
I’ll tell you honestly, I want our soldiers to destroy the enemy in Gaza. Completely. Totally. With no chance of returning to threaten us. As much as I am pained by our losses so far, I want the IDF to continue until the job is finished. They are militarily superior to Hamas, and with the help of Hashem I know they will prevail if given enough time to conduct their operations. I want THEM to fight the battle. (How easy it is for me to say that.) Of course, THEY have to fight the battle. Imagine a battalion of English-speaking grandfathers, knees buckling under 50+ kilo backpacks, clutching their blood pressure medicine searching for a terror tunnel. I can’t fight in Gaza, but I am still on the front line.
Hamas regards me, Eliya Stromberg, as their enemy; I am their target. The missiles are aimed at me. I am at risk if I enter East Jerusalem. Hamas is at war with me, but while my saichel reports that a war surrounds me, I barely feel it. I can’t fight back in Gaza. So how do I fight my enemy?
But I know for myself, doing these things won’t make me feel as though I am battling the enemy. It just won’t. (I AM NOT SUGGESTING NOT TO DO THESE THINGS. Do them, they help. A lot.)
I am working at making a reframe. Though it may be more like “Add a Frame”. The war in Gaza does not require reframing. It is real and we each should do whatever we can to support the war effort. But the war is not just being fought in Gaza. It is being fought wherever there are Jews, because it is not only a war of missiles and bombs, a war of gashmius. It is also a war of ruchnius.
Hamas not only wants to remove the Jewish people from its land. That is the war of gashmius. By doing so, it wants to invalidate the truth of Hashem’s Torah. That is the war of ruchnius. Hamas is fighting this war in Paris where firebombs are thrown against synagogues. Throughout Europe where people are chanting slogans last heard in Nazi Germany. In social media where vile images of Jews and Israel go viral. In mainstream media where biased reporting fills the masses with anger and hatred for Jews and Israel. The battlefield of ruchnius is being waged in every place on the planet where there is a Jew. And that war is against me and my family. I am at risk in Har Nof when Jews in Paris are attacked. This is the “Add a Frame” that I am making.
So how do I wage the battle of ruchnius? On two battlefields: in my dalet amos to make it a makom Torah and within klal yisrael to build bridges. We each know (if we are honest with ourselves) what needs work in our dalet amos: in learning, in midos, in our service to Hashem, in controlling our taivas, in eliminating our gaiva; we know all the areas that need work. Now let’s do it.
Enter the battle against Hamas by taking on one change to your dalet amos to make it a greater makom Torah. Tell yourself (and others) that you by making this one change you are battling Hamas.
Within klal yisrael the challenges are less clearly defined, but whatever works to break the barriers between Jews is where the battle against Hamas will be won. If you just say “good morning” to the person with a different head covering than you and you do it consciously to build klal yisrael, you are defeating Hamas. If you are uncertain where to start to build bridges ask your gedolim how to reach other Jews whose view of Torah is not identical to yours. Let’s recognize that there are often many ways to say pshat and, amazingly, they can all be correct. Let’s win the battle against Hamas by finding what connects us to our brothers rather than what separates us.
Even if, G-d willing, the IDF has defeated our enemy in Gaza by the time you read this, Hamas’ war against you and me is raging. I personally cannot fight Hamas on the battlefield of gashmius. But I am as powerful as Dovid Hamelech, Pinchas, the Maccabiim, as the parents of the three young martyrs, as any gadol in our history past or present to defeat Hamas on the battlefield of ruchnius. I will be victorious because Hashem has promised to be with me wherever I create a makom Torah and He has promised never to abandon His people.
It is time now for me to go to war.
By Eliya Stromberg, PhD