After last year’s War in Gaza, I was speaking to a soldier in the Israel Defense Force (IDF) who served in the elite Golani Battalion.
I asked the soldier if he was scared; and if he was, how did he deal with his fear.
The soldier replied that he was scared during the war. He said that death was all around him and that often times the commanding officers would have the soldiers talk about their feelings of fear to help them cope.
The soldier said that what gave him strength and comfort in the heat of battle was the quality of his relationships.
I pressed him to explain how the quality of his relationships, provided strength and comfort in the hell of combat in an asymmetrical war?
The soldier explained that he knew people were praying for him, that his friends were saying Tehillim for him and that his family was “storming the Heavens” for him. He felt loved, and he knew that there was no way Hashem would turn a deaf ear to those who were interceding on his behalf.
I was (and I still am) stunned. I found the soldier’s answer, mind boggling.
The soldiers in the elite Golani unit are the strongest of the strong, the bravest of the brave, and the toughest of tough. The Golani soldier is physically and psychologically trained to withstand almost every hardship known to mankind and, surprisingly, the brave soldier finds strength because he is loved and cared for.
The IDF soldier taught me that the “Power of Love” is so strong and awesome, that it is even more powerful than the fear of death.
This story underscores the significance of supporting our brothers and sisters who are on the front lines defending Israel.
Simple gestures, such as buying ice cream and soda for an entire platoon at the conclusion of a training hike, and saying “thank you for everything” to those who are defending our country, is profoundly meaningful, because the gesture conveys love and support. These gestures communicate to the soldiers they are not alone, and they are appreciated and loved.
If human love can overcome the fear of death, this week’s Parsha, Parshat Ekev teaches us that G-d’s love is something even more profound and powerful.
Imagine, if we had that absolute confidence and certainty of our relationship with G-d. Imagine if we not just believed, but we experienced G-d’s love, feeling absolutely protected by him. How much better and healthier our lives would be and how fearless we would be in the face of life’s many challenges.
This week’s Parshat Ekev, provides the recipe for feeling that love of G-d.
Hashem, says Vehyah Ekev Tishmeoon, if you listen and adhere to the “small mitzvoth” that we tend to sometimes ignore and metaphorically “walk over”, then G-d will V’ahevcha, love us.
Though the Torah does list concrete ways that Hashem’s love will manifest itself, i.e. bountiful harvests, the blessing of children and good health–I believe that Hashem is telling us V’ahevcha, that the greatest blessing will be to feel G-d’s love.
The reward of V’ahevcha for following the small mitzvoth follows logically because even though we must have a certain level of fear of G-d, it is primarily through loving G-d and protecting our relationship with him, that we can master and fulfill the “small mitzvoth”.
The Torah is teaching us that the consequence of serving G-d in this manner, wanting to get closer to him and trying to scrupulously follow the smallest details of Halacha, will be to unlock the awesome feeling of being loved, cared for and supported by G-d.
There is no greater power or reward than that.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.