Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Physical Strength and Faith, the perfect blend for Yisrael's survival

One of the themes in last week’s Parasha, B’shalach, was the war against Amalek. The Torah tells us that while the Yisraelites were camping in Refidim, they are confronted by Amalek, the eternal enemy of Am Yisrael. The former wages a war against them.

The former slaves, who have not yet become a nation, are still nothing but a mere collection of uneducated and untrained multitude are, naturally, confused, worried and terrified. They have witnessed some of G-d’s powerful wonders, the supernatural ten plagues that were dealt to Egypt, one of the most powerful empires of its time. They saw the splitting of the Red Sea. They tasted the delectable flavour of the Mana. Despite all these manifestations of the glory of G-d, they are still shrouded in uncertainty and ask, “Is there a G-d among us?”

This is the nature of doubt. There is doubt that is based on rational questions. There is doubt that stems from the subjective wishes and intentions of the skeptic; but there is also a pure and simple form of doubt, the irrational kind, an uncertainty that is much more powerful than logic. It is the kind of distrust which neutralizes the most convincing arguments and the inspiring experiences by a simple cynical shrug of the shoulders.

It is this perception of doubt that left the Yisraelites exposed to the imminent attack by Amalek. Spiritually, Amalek is the embodiment of that baseless and illogical indifference.

What the Yisraelites seem to lack is faith. They are also in a need for an army and a military leader to conduct and oversee the war against the ferocious enemy they are about to face. Without these two very essential elements, they will be defeated.
Moshe knows it. He, therefore, appoints Yehoshuah, his student, and instructs him to select able men and go fight Amalek the tangible, the military kind of war. At the same time, he positions himself on top of the hill along with Aharon and Hur. His task is to keep the faith and the belief in the omnipotent and ever presence of G-d among His Chosen People. His role is symbolic albeit vital.

Each time Moshe raises his hands towards heaven, the Yisraelites prevail. When he lowers them, the Amalekites prevail. His hands are getting heavy and relies on the support of Aharon and Hur. Eventually, Amalek is subdued.

Fast forward to the modern state of Yisrael. Last week, I was exposed to an excellent article written in Hebrew by the Yisraeli journalist, playwright and scriptwriter, Tal Gilad which was published in 2015 in Hidabrut. There, Gilad discuses a new law, a law that bears the populist title of, “The Law of Equal Burden,” which Gilad describes as one that forces Hareidi Jews, the guardians of our few millennia old faith, to leave the Yeshiva, leave the spiritual realm and enlist to the IDF solely for “making them dig foxholes and then filling them up again.” (

Reading Gilad’s article resonated, for me, with the recount of the Yisraelites first war ever, the one with Amalek which is described in the Parasha. I am specifically referring to the two facets of that war and thereafter with every war that the Jews have been forced to fight for their survival. Thy first is the military- the physical, the kind that Yehoshua was leading. The second is the spiritual, hanging on to our faith and the belief in the G-d of Yisrael. The two are interrelated and are both essential to Jewish survival.

Now, as then, I believe, Am Yisrael and the Jewish People need to maintain that blend. That should be the optimal “Law of Equal Burden.”

Today’s IDF Chief of staff’s role is akin to that Yehoshua fulfilled in the Amalekite war. The Hareidi, yeshiva members among the citizens of Yisrael, on the other hand, are the Moshe who displayed the need to trust G-d, his unending powers and miraculous deeds.

We need BOTH!

Shabbat Shalom.

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