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A Little Light in the Darkness (Lech Lecha 10/28/23)

A Little Light in the Darkness

Since the morning of October 7th, we’ve been thrust into turmoil. We mourn for the 1400 Israelis killed, we cry for the return of the more than 200 people still held hostage, we feel sadness for the innocent in Gaza, and we’re angry with those who deny us the right to defend ourselves. It feels as though the world has quickly turned on us.

With such tumult, it’s easy to lose faith. Therefore, I’d like to share with you a little light. Here’s an account from Israel that affirms our belief that at least God is still with us.

I learned about this story from Jackie Novatt, who heard it from a friend. An Israeli reservist wrote about his experiences of the first few days of the attacks to Jackie’s friend.

“It’s been a couple of weeks, but I have some time now, and I wanted to write about a נס (miracle) that happened to me during those first few days of hell. My unit was called in on Shabbat morning. There was no official order; rather, our brigade commander saw that the south needed a battalion to respond ASAP, and he told us to come in. Four hours later, we got on Humvees and headed straight to Kfar Aza. Our weapons had been handed to us on the spot; We had never shot them, didn’t have time to clean them, had no idea if they worked, and the sights definitely weren’t zeroed in. The weapons in the Reserve units are notorious for being unreliable and usually don’t even shoot properly before a good cleaning or, in some cases, a visit to the armory. That’s how we went into combat. We walked into the yishuv (village)and were engaged by terrorists within the first few minutes of walking. I noticed one hiding in a bush with an AK-47, waiting to ambush us. My rifle worked perfectly, firing every shot, cycling every round, hitting where I aimed. Not a single jam. I thanked God for giving me a rifle that worked right off the bat. After three days of fighting, I had learned to rely on my rifle completely. On Tuesday night, we finished clearing Kfar Aza, were switched out by another battalion, and were sent up to a base to rest, shower, and finally clean and check our weapons. When we went to the range to test our weapons, my gun jammed. Another round, another jam. And another. They were getting worse, and I had to take out the pliers in my utility knife to clear them. Ultimately, I had to take it to the armory so they could switch out all the internal parts for a complete rebuild. The gun just didn’t work; it was a broken rifle. It was broken from the moment it was handed to me on Shabbat morning. But for me, in those few days in Kfar Aza, it had worked perfectly, so we could do what we needed to do. I heard similar stories from many other soldiers in our battalion.

I look forward to the day when I can stand in my shul on Shabbat, at the reading of the Torah, and recite Birkat HaGomel (the blessing of thanks) for this miracle and the countless others that Hashem performed for us.

“הנה לא ינום ולא יישן שומר ישראל”

“Behold the Protector of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.” Psalm 121”

Regrettably, this account raises as many questions as it answers. Yes, God certainly protected and supported this soldier and his mission, yet where was the “Protector of Israel” when so many were taken captive or killed?

We will always be bothered when bad things happen to good people. We have no answers to these questions- it’s just the way things are. The world doesn’t run based on our definitions of fairness, and certainly not, with only good things happening to good people. Perhaps the challenges and lessons of life might be too simple then.

Nonetheless, this is clearly an instance of the miraculous. God wanted this soldier and his rescuees to survive; therefore, the inexplicable happened. Passover, Chanukah, and Purim all declare our belief in Divine care and intervention. Stories like these affirm that a Higher Power not only looks out for us, but also can intervene as well; for this instance of proof, we should be grateful.

Jewish faith is that, ultimately, nothing happens without God’s knowledge and approval. We don’t understand why this one lives and another does not, but on a higher level, there’s a plan. And if we are gifted with life, it means there’s a plan and purpose for us.

Let’s utilize our gift of life to support our Israeli family, by petitioning our government to support Israel, supporting Israel on social media, praying for the welfare of the IDF and the hostages, and donating generously.

May all this turmoil eventually lead to a lasting peace.

R’ Neil

Manetto Hill Jewish Center
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