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The Sanctity of War and Its Victims

War today, unlike when we were exiled, must be like the heroism of King David’s wars – with humility before God, but striving for total victory * What can we learn from the timing of the tragedy occurring specifically on the Shabbat of Simchat Torah * The irresponsible conduct of the media even during these days * The sanctity of the fallen, and the comfort they will have in the future

The Great Challenge

A great challenge faces us during these days, to strengthen with heroism for a defensive and forceful war, for the sake of the nation and Land. In times of milchemet mitzvah (an obligatory war), the entire nation must participate in the war. The soldiers must go out with valor to the front, to strike a crushing blow against the enemy. And those who remain at home must also gird themselves with valor, for their tranquil heroism at home is what the soldiers at the front line, rely upon. The state and military leadership also relies on their heroism.

Types of Prayers in Exile vs. Today

During the long, difficult days of exile, the heroism required of us was to survive despite everything. And the type of prayers expressed pleadings of the poverty of the remnants of Israel, not to be destroyed. However, today, in God’s kindness we have merited returning to our Land, and the prayers must be like those of King David when he went out to war. He prayed intensely, and humbly asked God to help him and his soldiers be valiant and skilled in warfare, so they could vigorously pursue their enemies, and not return until they were destroyed.

King David’s Prayers

An example of his prayer is in Psalms 144:

“Of David. Blessed is the Lord, my Rock, Who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war. My kindness and my fortress, my high tower and my deliverer, my shield in Whom I take refuge, Who flattens peoples beneath me.”

But this is not the arrogance of an impetuous hero, but rather a hero who knows he is mortal.

“O Lord, what is man that You should know him, the son of man, that You should consider him? Man is like a breath; his days are as a fleeting shadow.”

His prayer in Psalms 18 is also an example. David first turns humbly to God – recognizing that everything comes from Him. And through this, acknowledges that with God’s help, he and his soldiers defeat the enemy battalions.

“For by You I run upon a troop, and by my God, I scale a wall” – in order to conquer the enemy. “He trains my hands for war, so that a copper bow is bent by my arms. You have given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has supported me, and You have treated me with great humility. You have broadened my steps beneath me, and my ankles have not slipped. I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them, never turning back until they were consumed. I have crushed them so that they cannot rise, they fall beneath my feet. You have girded me with strength for battle; You have subdued my besiegers beneath me. And of my enemies, You have given me the back of their necks; those that hate me, I have destroyed. They cry out, but no one saves them, even to God, but He does not answer them (for they are the wicked who rose against Israel).”Then I ground them as dust before the wind, like mud in the streets, I emptied them out”. And the victory would be great and known throughout the world, to the point that through it: “You make me head of nations, a people I knew not, served me. At the mere hearing of the ear they obeyed me” (they will obey my demands); foreigners (the enemies) shall lie to me; foreigners shall wither, and shall fear their imprisonments” (they will flee the places they thought to take cover against Israel’s army). And in merit of this, we will thank God: “Hashem lives and blessed is my Rock, and exalted is my God, the God of my salvation. The Almighty One who grants me vengeance, and destroys peoples instead of me. My shelter from enemies, even those who rise against me, You raise me above; from the violent man, You deliver me. Therefore, I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the nations, and to Your name I will sing praises”. And in the merit of this, the kingdom of Israel will grow greater: “He gives great salvations to His king, and performs kindness to His anointed; to David, and his offspring forever”.

Total Victory

Throughout the generations, the Philistines were the bitter, formidable enemies of Israel. However, after David’s wars with them we no longer hear of them. King David of Israel, alive and enduring, totally vanquished them, and the land rested from them for four hundred years. May it be God’s will that our soldiers fight with valor, ingenuity, and professionalism, and with God’s help, our brave soldiers’ strike the enemy a crushing blow, resounding throughout the world. So all earth’s inhabitants will know the words of the Bible are being fulfilled, the People of Israel are returning to their Land, and all who support them are blessed, while those who rise against them, are cursed.

Awakening to Repentance amidst War

This war began on Simchat Torah which fell on Shabbat. On account of this, it is incumbent upon us to awaken in regards to two fundamental, inter-connected matters: 1. to strengthen the observance of Torah study on Shabbatot and Holidays. 2. To understand the blessing contained in Torah study, and rejoice in it.

More specifically: Our Sages said:

“The Sabbaths and Holidays were given to Israel in order that they might study Torah” (Jerusalem Talmud, Shabbat 15:3). Meaning, one should divide Shabbat and Holiday time – half for Torah study, and half for Shabbat pleasure of meals and family (Pesachim 68b). It is impossible to describe the tremendous importance of Torah study on Shabbatot and Holidays, through which enlightenment, guidance and blessing flows to all the deeds we perform on weekdays. Understanding this, one rejoices in study with exceptional joy.

As our Sages said:

“God said to Israel: “My children, did I not write to you in My Torah ‘Let not this book of the Torah cease from your mouths, but recite it day and night’? (Joshua 1:8). Even though you labor for six days, you shall dedicate Shabbat to Torah alone. Therefore they said, a person should always rise early and study on Shabbat, and go to the synagogue and study hall, read the Torah and study the Prophets, and afterwards, go home, eat and drink, to fulfill that which is stated (Kohelet 9:7): ‘Go, eat your bread joyfully, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart’” (Tana D’Vei Eliyahu Rabbah 1).

Without Torah Study, Great Accusation Arises Against Settling the Land

Our Sages said:

“The Torah said to God: “Master of the Universe, when the Jews enter the land, this one will run to his vineyard and that one to his field; what will become of me?” God responded “I have a partner with whom I will pair you. Its name is Shabbat, on which they do not work, and thus can engross themselves in you” (Tur §290).

The accusation against Yishuv Ha’Aretz (settling the Land of Israel) is grave – seemingly, a continuation of the Sin of the Spies. However, conversely, if, God forbid, Israel abandons the Torah, their hold on the Land will weaken, until, heaven forbid, they could be exiled from it. As the prophet states: “Who is the man so wise that he can understand this? And who is he to whom the mouth of the Lord has spoken, that he may declare it? Why is the land ruined and withered like a wilderness, without anyone passing through? And the Lord said: It is because they have forsaken My Torah, which I set before them, and have not hearkened to My voice, nor walked by it” (Jeremiah 9:11-12).

Even today, the claim arises – you are settling the Land, enlisting in the army, studying science, going to work, but what of the Torah?! And the only response to this monumental question is: Shabbat and Holidays! The day on which we study the Torah of Eretz Yisrael. Just as illumination for the six weekdays extends from Shabbat, so too, the Torah study of Shabbat sheds light on Yishuv Ha’Aretz, military service, science study, and all aspects of work. Thereby, all labor, science, army service, and social and family life become elevated to the level of the Torah’s sanctity, since they are guided by it.

Irresponsible Media

To our great dismay, even during such difficult times, we must painfully tell the truth: We have an irresponsible media. Many spokespeople in the media continue harming national unity and security. Exploiting the terrible agony of the families of the fallen and kidnapped, they spread cowardice. Instead of being awed by the spirit of volunteerism and heroism, and strengthening the desire for victory and morally justified vengeance it warrants, they find faults. When ground forces are putting their lives on the line, every responsible person must speak about only one topic – defeating the enemy, and saving the state!

The Fallen are Holy

Those who sacrifice themselves for the sanctification of God’s name, attain the highest level beyond which there is none higher. In their death, for the sanctification of God’s name, they transcend the individual framework within which every person exists, to the general level of Israel’s sanctity, connecting to God, and becoming sanctified through His sanctity. Therefore, even though they die prematurely in this world, they live very much so in the entirely long World to Come, to the point that “No one can stand in their section” (Bava Batra 10b). In their merit, life in this world continues and intensifies, since through their life in this world, they merited becoming sanctified with supreme sanctity, revealing through this, the supreme point of sanctity in this world.

Even Jews who did not intend to sacrifice their lives, yet were killed merely for being Jewish, like those murdered in the Holocaust, and victims of terror attacks, are considered kedoshim (holy). For throughout the lengthy history, it became clear to all, that Israel embodies monotheistic faith, and by their very identification as Jews, they bear God’s name, which the world’s wicked desire to kill them for. Therefore, already in a person identifying as being Jewish, there is mesirut nefesh (self-sacrifice), and anyone murdered for being Jewish, is considered like a soldier killed sanctifying God’s name in the war of heroism for the continuity of the Jewish people. All the more so, regarding Jews living in Israel, and participating in its building, and all the more so, those who settled with mesirut nefesh in kibbutzim and communities near the border. Their bereaved families, who raised these holy souls – become sanctified with them.

Avenging Their Blood

Our Sages said:

“If you sanctify My name, I too will sanctify My name through you…” (Sifra, Acharei Mot 8:13).

And so great is the sanctification of God’s name accomplished through them, that already at the time they are killed, the revenge God will take against the wicked who killed them, is determined and accomplished. And since for God, past, present and future are seen as one, already when they are killed, there is an illumination of their sanctification of God’s name in the Upper Worlds, and they already stand, as if resurrected. Therefore, when they die, God as it were, says: “Today, I am exalted through them in the eyes of the nations, deniers of the Torah. Today, I take revenge against their enemies. Today, through them, I revive the dead. I am Hashem, I am the faithful Judge to take revenge, and Trustworthy to reward”.

Their Comfort in Israel’s Redemption

Our Sages said God is responsible to avenge their blood, as it states: “He will execute justice upon the nations into a heap of corpses; He crushed the head on a great land” (Psalms 110:6). When Israel is deserving, with God’s help, the revenge comes through the Israel Defense Forces. When Israel is undeserving, the revenge is delayed and comes through indirect ways, but it ultimately comes, and harshly.

Our Sages further said, that in the Upper Worlds, there is an appointed angel for every Jew murdered by non-Jews. He, as it were, inscribes their name on the garment of the Holy One blessed be He, and they will remain inscribed there, until God avenges their blood. And these holy souls do not consent to be comforted until Mashiach himself is revealed, and comes to comfort them. With him, lights and pleasures descend to gladden them, and angels dress them in garments of honor (based on Zohar 1:39:1, 41:1).

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew. Other articles and books by Rabbi Melamed can be found at:

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