The battle in Israel is raging. And you are searching for things you can do to help. You are glued to the news and feeling worried, agitated…helpless.
Take a break and learn Torah.
A few weeks ago, in the first week of the war, I was asked to make a special delivery to an Israeli army base in southern Israel – 100 copies of tractate Kiddushin – for soldiers who were anxious to continue their study of the daf yomi, the daily page of study from the Babylonian Talmud, as they prepared to go to war.
In fact, learning Torah at a time of war is a long-standing Jewish tradition.
The battle for the city of Jericho was the very first battles that we, as a Jewish nation, engaged in, more than 3300 years ago. There were challenges, and concerns. The Book of Joshua tells us that at some point during that operation, in the darkness of night, Joshua, leader of the people and leader of the battle, was approached by a threatening stranger. He looked up and saw a figure standing before him, drawn sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and asked him, “Are you one of us or of our enemies?” He replied, “No, I am captain of GOD’s host. Now I have come!” Joshua threw himself face down to the ground and, prostrating himself, said to him, “What does my lord command his servant?” (Joshua 5:13-14).
The Talmud elaborates on this exchange, and suggests the following conversation took place between the angel and Joshua:
The angel said to Joshua: Yesterday, in the afternoon, you neglected sacrificing the daily afternoon offering because you were engaged in warfare, and now, when it is dark, you neglected Torah study…Joshua immediately acted to rectify the matter by deciding that he must devote more time to Torah study.(Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 44a)
The destiny of the Jewish people has been inextricably bound to our study of the Torah from the very beginning. In fact, the opening chapter of the Book of Joshua spelled out very clearly:
Be strong, be bold; for you will cause this people to inherit the land I swore to their fathers I would give them. Only be strong and very bold in taking care to follow all the Torah which Moses my servant ordered you to follow; do not turn from it either to the right or to the left; then you will succeed wherever you go. Yes, keep this book of the Torah on your lips, and meditate on it day and night, so that you will take care to act according to everything written in it. Then your undertakings will prosper, and you will succeed. (Joshua 1:6-8)
In the recent words of Israel’s Prime Minister, Israel is engaged in “It’s Second War of Independence.” Every Jew in the world can contribute to this effort. Not only through your donations to the endless list of needs – for the soldiers, for the homeless, for the inured, for the bereaved, but also through dedicating time every day to the study of Torah.
Do it for yourself – to give yourself a spiritual lift. And do it for the Jewish people – more than anything else, our connection to the teachings of our Torah is what inspires our vision for the future and what defines us a people.
Take a break and learn. Now more than ever, engage in the study of Torah.