Jonathan Muskat

Two Miracle Stories in Gaza

This past Saturday night our Oceanside community had the privilege of hearing Mickey Flomenhaft describe his army service in Gaza during the current war. Mickey lives in Teaneck with his wife and their four children and he recently returned to the United States from twelve weeks of miluim, or reserve duty, in Gaza. During his presentation, he provided us with a better understanding of the challenging work of the IDF in trying to eliminate Hamas terrorists and terror tunnels in the safest way possible. He also told us a “miracle story” that happened to his unit.

His unit set up camp in Gaza and unbeknownst to the unit, there was a terror tunnel shaft in the middle of the camp. During the ceasefire with Hamas when many hostages were released, Hamas operatives secretly infiltrated the camp through the tunnel shaft, took pictures of the camp and they were planning an attack after the ceasefire was over. The unit, however, received an intelligence report that an attack on an army camp through a tunnel shaft would likely occur that night and the unit was likely Mickey’s unit. There were many intelligence reports and they didn’t know whether this report was true. Nevertheless, that night, the entire unit took their personal belongings and went to a nearby location and they left four soldiers to guard the camp. At around 4:20 am, one of the soldiers on guard spotted someone whom he thought was a terrorist and shot him. Seconds later, there was a massive explosion. The entire camp was destroyed, but nobody was hurt. The soldiers all said that what happened was nothing short of a miracle. It was a miracle that the unit received the intelligence report about the attack and it was a miracle that the soldier shot the terrorist dead in the middle of the camp before he could do any further damage.

Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch wrote that the shulchan in the mishkan was the source of God’s material blessings. It was the place where “lechem ha-panim,” loaves of bread were placed. The gemara (Yoma 39a) explains that the bread itself was a blessing because a small amount of bread would satiate the kohanim. The shulchan tells us that we partner with God to create, conquer and dominate the world. We realize that God is the source of our blessings in this world, even those blessings in which we are actively involved. Yes, it was the military intelligence, the preparedness of the unit and especially the soldier who shot the terrorist, but it was also God.

Mickey told us a different story, as well, which was another “miracle story.” His commander was completely secular. The commander had a girlfriend and he told Mickey that he was never planning on getting married and starting a Jewish family. It wasn’t for him. He had no connection with rabbis or religion at all and didn’t want to deal with this. Mickey told his commander that if he ever changed his mind, Mickey would take care of the entire wedding. After this miracle and after Mickey was released from service, he received a call from his commander. His commander told him that he and his girlfriend wanted a Jewish wedding. Baruch Hashem, Mickey found a rabbi, Rabbi Shalom Hammer, and a hall in Zichron Yaakov and made all the arrangements. His commander is now married according to Jewish law.

We are forever indebted to our brothers and sisters in Israel who fulfill their halachic obligation and put their lives on the line to serve in the IDF to defend our nation from our enemies. However, service in the IDF is often more than just an obligation. As Mickey demonstrated to our community last Saturday night, the IDF can be a place where we witness the hand of God, where we witness miracles, like the kind Mickey and his unit experienced in Gaza. Additionally, the IDF is a place of religious opportunity. Each young man and woman who serves in the IDF has the opportunity to be a kiddush Hashem in the IDF and positively spread Jewish spirit, Jewish tradition and Jewish pride to secular Israelis. On Saturday night, we were fortunate to hear one story of a young man acting as a kiddush Hashem which led to a halachic union of a Jewish man and a Jewish woman, k’dat Moshe v’Yisrael.

About the Author
Jonathan Muskat is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Oceanside.
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