I want you to think about a concept that nobody talks about. You won’t hear your rav speak about this on Shabbos. You won’t read an article on this subject in any Jewish magazine, and you certainly won’t hear any politician speak this way. I am referring to the important aspect of fighting the Jewish enemy and, while extremely difficult and painful, how it is an integral – and necessary – part of our national life.
When Hashem told Avraham the famous words, “Lech L’cha” – why did He send Avraham to the busiest place on earth? Ninety percent of the world was uninhabited at that time, yet Hashem sent Avraham to Eretz Yisrael where it immediately says, “And the Canaanites were in the Land” (B’reishis 12:6). Really? Couldn’t Hashem have made a different part of the world holy and send Avraham there… where his descendants wouldn’t have to fight for every inch?
When Hashem spoke to Moshe for the first time, at the burning bush, He said; “I have come to rescue them from Egypt’s power. I will bring them out of that land to a good, spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the territory of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites” (B’reishis 3:8). Really? I like the part about the “good, spacious land,” and I certainly love the part that it’s “flowing with milk and honey (yummy!).” But Hashem Himself said that it’s the territory of six other nations (actually ten other nations – see B’reishis 15:19, where four additional nations are listed!). So, I ask a similar question as the paragraph before: Why didn’t Hashem choose to send am Yisrael to a part of the world that was empty…where we wouldn’t have to battle for our very survival?
When Yehoshua Bin-Nun took over the reign of leadership from Moshe, what is the first thing he did when he crossed the Jordan River with the Nation of Israel? He got the young, fresh, nation ready…for war! He sent trustworthy spies on a reconnaissance mission. He prepared the people to fight for the city of Yericho. “…and they conquered the city. They destroyed everything that was in the city – man and woman, youth and elder, ox and sheep and donkey – by the edge of the sword.” (Yehoshua 6:20-21) Really? That’s the first thing am Yisrael did when they entered Eretz Yisrael: kill every man, woman, and child in Yericho? Allow me to ask the same question as above: Why didn’t Hashem send us to a place where we could just live in peace, with no need for bloodshed? Why the wars and the commandment to wipe out the enemy? We were a new nation, in a new land; shouldn’t we be busy with farming, construction, and finding a way how to support and educate our children? Why a war – and years of wars – from almost day one?
I could give many more examples – just read the Tanach – and you will see that Hashem chose a “bad neighborhood” for His people to live in. Throughout our history, there was almost no quiet in Eretz Yisrael, and many people have struggled with the question of why? Even in our day, we see daily battles on the road, on the border and in the middle of Yerushalayim. In the last month, we have seen terror in Bnei Brak, Tel Aviv, and Elad. Our young men and women are drafted to the IDF and National Service and forced to risk their lives. So again – why?
While I don’t claim to be an expert and certainly don’t have the answers to most troubling questions, I feel I do have the answer to this one: The fight is part of the mitzvah. Hashem did not send us to an empty Australia where we could have lived in peace and harmony with some kangaroos. He purposely sent us to a land that needed to be conquered and “paid for” in Jewish blood. While this is very painful to the families of those heroic fighters, it is an absolute necessity when talking about the Land of Israel.
We are all familiar with the concept “Eretz Yisrael nikneis b’yisurim” (The Land of Israel is acquired through suffering). This concept is stated in Talmud B’rachos 5a and explained by the Vilna Gaon (Kol HaTor, chapter 1, paragraph 13) in four simple words: This is “exactly how it’s acquired.” There are no shortcuts and there is no way to avoid it. The suffering is the acquisition! However, nowhere does it state that we are to be led as lambs to the slaughter. On the contrary! We are to observe the Torah and simultaneously fight the enemy with every weapon available. When we do that, Hashem promises that “You will chase away your enemies and they will fall before your sword. Five of you will chase 100, and 100 of you will defeat 10,000, as your enemies fall before your sword” (VaYikra 26:7-8).
Dearest friends: This is a strong and powerful message and one that we need to focus on – especially during these days of tragedy and terror. To deserve Israel is to fight for her. There will be times when battles will be lost, and holy soldiers will be buried. There will also be times when innocent Yidden sitting in a park will be murdered and we will look for answers. Our Father and King knows what He is doing and, while each drop of Jewish blood comes with oceans of tears, we continue the fight and the goal of wiping out our enemy and conquering the land, exactly as Hashem has commanded.
One final point: While the Talmud states that “the Land of Israel is acquired through suffering,” it does not state that about New York, London, Paris, Melbourne, or Toronto. In those areas, if Jews are in danger – and they are – the commandment is to get out of there as quickly as possible. There is no mitzvah to fight the Canaanites (or whatever they’re called) outside the Land. Therefore, while Jewish blood may be necessary for Eretz Yisrael, it is a complete and utter waste if shed in California, Argentina, Johannesburg, New Jersey, or Montreal. The “fight is part of the mitzvah” is in Israel only. Everywhere else, it’s not the fight that’s important but the flight – out of there and into the Promised Land.
May Hashem bless us with victory over our enemies in His one and only special place on earth.
Am Yisrael Chai!
Shmuel Sackett is a 100% product of Queens. He was born in Middle Village and moved to KGH shortly before his bar-mitzvah. He graduated from YCQ (1975) and YHSQ (1979). He was Havurat Yisrael’s first Youth Director (4 years) and started the first 2 NCSY chapters in Queens. Shmuel made aliyah in 1990 and co-founded Manhigut Yehudit, together with Moshe Feiglin. His website is www.JewishIsrael.org Sackett is married with 6 children and 4 grandchildren. He lives in Herziliya Pituach.