Tehillim K’neged Tillim

04 May 2011

I’m taking a course on Yerushalayim – its history, its people, and, of course, its sites. Today, as part of our studies about the War of Liberation, we toured Har Adar, Latrun and ultimately the Burma road, to see, first hand, how the Palmach, and later on, the newly formed IDF, literally gave up their lives to assure that the Holy City would not be cut off from the rest of the country.

In Latrun, we visited the Armored Corps memorial site and museum. With over a hundred different tanks, it’s largest tank collection in the world. Just down the hill from the display of might is an enormous wall, listing the some three thousand soldiers in the tank brigade that were killed in action, most of them when their machines turned into a death trap.

During the Yom Kippur war, there was a saying, “Tehillim k’neged tillim,” “Psalms to fight the bombs.” Yes, of course, we need the tanks, and yes, of course we need the soldiers, but without Hashem’s divine providence, the war is lost before it even begins.

Yom Atzma’ut prior to the Yom Kippur War, the Israeli Army did something that they had never before, and, hopefully, will never do again. They displayed their might. Rows upon rows of tanks, marching soldiers and jeeps, accompanied by planes in perfect formation, and loud military music paraded through the streets of Jerusalem. Almost all of Israel’s rabbis opposed the arrogant claim of kochi v’otzem yadi asa li es hachayil hazeh” – my power and the strength of my hand accomplished this great feat. Many felt that it was inviting disaster.

Just a few months later, on Yom Kippur afternoon, Israel was attacked from the north, east and south. Syria attacked the Golan Heights with some 1,400 Syrian tanks, against Israel’s 180. Along the Suez Canal, there were less 500 Israeli soldiers against 600,000 Egyptian soldiers, backed by 2,000 tanks and 550 aircraft. Hundreds of Israelis were slaughtered in the first two days, and over 2,800 Israelis lost their lives in the ensuing conflict.

It took days – days! – for the Israeli army to organize themselves for a counter-attack. The rows upon rows of tanks, symbol of Israel’s invincible might, did not work! They were rusty, they needed gasoline, and meanwhile, the entire country was vulnerable. There were not even sufficient machine guns – they army had taken them for training exercises. There was nothing stopping the Arabs from marching into Tiveria, Haifa, Beer Sheva and yes, even Tel Aviv.

But they didn’t. Our enemies stopped and did not continue. No one understand why; there was nothing, absolutely nothing stopping them, except Hashem’s divine providence.

Friends on mine once lived on a small moshav just north of Tiveria. The first night of the Yom Kippur war, soldiers appeared at their door to issue her husband a gun. “The Syrian army is less than half a kilometer away,” they told him. “This is for you to protect your wife and family when they overrun the moshav.” Since he had never held a gun before, they quickly taught him how to use it and instructed him to shoot to kill.

After the soldiers left, my friends just stared at the gun in shock. They felt the same sense of incredibility that I sensed several decades later, during the Gulf War, when we used scotch tape and plastic sheeting to protect ourselves from Sadam’s missiles! Then they sat down and recited Tehillim, praying for a miracle. Thank Hashem, the Syria army stopped their advance, and my friend never had to use the gun to protect his family.

Tanks, guns, scotch tape; we must do what we have to do, and do it to our best of our capabilities, but in reality, that’s not what wins the war. The best armor in the world is not invincible. True humility, both as a nation, as well as in an individual, lies in knowledge of our strengths, using them to the best of our capabilities, while at the same time realizing that without Hashem’s help, it’s all worthless.

Debbie Shapiro is a widely published author and a longtime Jerusalem resident. Her latest book, Women Talk, is a compilation of interviews with great Jewish women — and all Jewish women are great! To read more of her articles or contact her for speaking engagements, please visit her blogspot, Debbie Shapiro of Jerusalem

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.