The war against Hamas has now lasted more than three months and we have been told recently that it is going to continue throughout 2024. Fortunately, our successes on the battlefield and our newfound sense of solidarity have strengthened our resiliency and our preparedness for the long haul. But I believe there is another source of our strength: the daily briefings by the IDF spokesman, Daniel Hagari.
While, technically, Hagari is meant to provide information about the developments on the battlefield, we all know that his role is much more than that. In addition to updates and information, we expect him to instill in us trust that the army knows what it is doing, confidence that it is moving in the right direction, faith that the hostage crisis is always on its mind, and pride in its accomplishments thus far. And I think it would be fair to say that Hagari is excelling in all of the above. It is not just because of his choice of words at these briefings but the way in which he conveys them, his intonations and facial expressions, and his ability to display both determination, toughness, and disdain for the enemy along with sensitivity, softness, and a deep-rooted love for his people. Thus, Hagari is not just a military spokesman but also a leader upon whom we can rely, and one who helps us get through these difficult times.
In this sense, Hagari reminds us of another spokesman and leader, about whom we read in the Torah portions at this time, Aaron the priest. God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and asked him to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. Moses, however, had no desire to answer this call and so he presented God with a series of arguments as to why he is unfit for the job. Although God dismissed each and every one of his arguments, Moses persisted: “Please, O Lord, make someone else your agent”. At this point, God began to lose His patience and He suggested a division of labor whereby He would communicate His messages to Moses and then Aaron, his older brother, would communicate them to the people. Thus, the people were to learn of God’s response to their desperate cry, and of His decision to end their slavery and oppression and bring them to the Promised Land, through Moses’ spokesman, Aaron, rather than through Moses himself.
The Torah then tells us that: “Aaron repeated all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses, and he performed the signs in the sight of the people, and the people were convinced. When they heard that the Lord had taken note of the Israelites and that He had seen their plight, they bowed low in homage” (Exodus 4:30-31). In other words, Aaron rose to the challenge and employed His God-given talents as a speaker and leader of the people and, as a result, they now had faith in their imminent redemption. In this sense, Aaron was to the people of Israel then what Daniel Hagari is to the citizens of Israel today.
From the text, however, it appears that Aaron was even more than that. After God instructed Moses to confront Pharaoh and tell him to let the Israelite people go, Moses complained to God yet again: “See, I am of impeded speech; how then should Pharaoh heed me!” (Exodus 6:30). And, once again, God responded by appointing Aaron: “See I place you in the role of God to Pharaoh, with your brother Aaron as your prophet. You shall repeat all that I command to you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh to let the Israelites depart from his land.” But if Aaron was the spokesman to the people, how can he be the spokesman to Pharaoh as well? After all, these two assignments require two completely different skillsets! That would be like asking Daniel Hagari to be the chief spokesman and negotiator with Hamas, not just the IDF spokesman for Israelis!
Now, while it is possible that Aaron was an extraordinarily blessed spokesman, I believe it is more likely that he was not, but that he was willing to do whatever was necessary under the circumstances.
If I am right, then this is Aaron’s greatness and the lesson that he is imparting to Jews in all generations. Sometimes we are called upon to use our God-given talents to help our brethren in need, but sometimes we are called upon to help in ways that we could not have anticipated and that require us to step outside our comfort zones.
Such is the time that we live in now. And in answering this call in the ways that we have since the outbreak of the war, we are showing our greatness as well.