Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students and Senior Lecturer at Diaspora Yeshiva, is not only a popular speaker and teacher, but also a dynamic thinker and writer. A student of Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky and Harav Gedalia Schorr, Rabbi Sprecher was granted smicha (rabbinical ordination) by Torah Vodaath Yeshiva. Prior to his current position, Rabbi Sprecher was a professor of Judaic studies at Touro College in New York. In addition to his duties at Diaspora Yeshiva, Rabbi Sprecher writes a regular column on various Judaic topics in the Jewish Press, and lectures regularly at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem.
An Educational Magic Moment Lost
Published: Monday, March 10, 2014 05:58:18 PM
Number of views: 3011

The recent prayer rally in Jerusalem was one of the largest gatherings of Jews praying since the Mount Sinai revelation where over 600,000 Jews came together in prayer and supplication. There was even a special blessing recited for a gathering of 600,000 Jews. This was a golden opportunity for the Chareidi public to communicate directly with their secular brethren, allay their fears, and overcome the growing disunity that threatens to tear our nation and people apart.

After the huge prayer rally was over, the prayer Mi Shebeirach, (prayers and blessings for the IDF) should have been recited as a gesture of concern and compassion for our heroic and holy soldiers, who risk their lives to protect us and allow us to study Torah in security.  Proverbs 3 says, "For the ways of Torah are sweet and pleasant, and all of its paths lead to peace." This prayer rally was a great opportunity to reach out and make peace with our secular brethren in Israel. How come this simple gesture of compassion and kindness was not taken? Where is the love and concern for all Jews, especially for those who risk their lives on a daily basis to protect us from our implacable enemies? What a wasted opportunity this was for Kiddush Hashem, a lost teachable magic moment of reconciliation, gone down the drain.

Rabbenu Bachye and the Sefer Hahinuch both state that expressing appreciation and gratitude (Hakarat Hatov) is the essence and foundation of Judaism. In fact, the Midrash in Vayikra Rabba 9 states, "Derech Eretz kadma laTorah", which means, "Courtesy, decency, and concern for others precedes the Torah." Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz Zatzal, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Charedi Mirrer Yeshiva Jerusalem, referred to IDF soldiers killed in battle as "Harugei Lod" (martyrs of Lod) of whom the Talmud in Bava Basra 10 states that no Tzaddik can ever reach their level in Olam Haba. Rabbi Shmuelevitz also wept and spoke every Yom Kippur about the need to empathize with the dangers that the IDF soldiers face on a daily basis. We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude and appreciation (Hakarat Hatov) to our IDF, and therefore we should express it by saying the special prayers and blessings for the IDF in all our Shuls.

There is an amazing Baal Haturim on Vayikra 6:3, "The Cohen shall wear his uniform to remove the ash from the Altar." The same word for uniform," Mido", is also used in reference to the soldiers of King David's army. Why? The Baal Haturim comments, "The priestly garments are like the uniform of the Israeli combat soldier." Based on this Baal Haturim, Rav Tzvi Yehdah Kook Zatzal states that the IDF uniform of today has the Kedushah of the Bigdei Kehunah (the priestly garments). Thus, Rav Kook rules that the first time an IDF soldier puts on his uniform, he should recite a Shehecheyanu blessing. The Rebbe of Chabad explains that the IDF soldier is engaged in the Mitzvah of protecting the People of Israel and the Land of Israel, "a Milchemet Mitzvah" (a halachically obligated war) on a 24/7 basis.

Thus, all of us have a Torah obligation of "Hakarat Hatov and Noseh b'Ol Im Chaveiro", ("sharing the burdens and appreciating the personal sacrifices of our fellow Jews in the IDF").

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