Michael Rainsbury
Jewish Educator
Featured Post

Why was last night different from all other nights?

This time, we were prepared for the attack, we had hours to get settled in our shelters, and our allies joined us in the skies
A picture released by the Israel Air Force showing planes having returned from intercepting the direct attack from Iran, April 14, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
A picture released by the Israel Air Force showing planes having returned from intercepting the direct attack from Iran, April 14, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Why was last night different from all other nights?

We have always known that the day would come when Iran would try to attack Israel. The day didn’t come. The night came. And here is our story of that night, different from all other nights of our lives, yet similar to “that night” experienced by our ancestors generations ago, and told every year since.

Kadesh, Urchatz…We know the drill. We’ve been here before.

Shabbat goes out, I’m reading stories to my children before bed. My wife tells me to come in the other room. We need to tell the children there is no gan tomorrow. Things are happening.

Kadesh. We make Havdala, distinguish between sacred and secular, light and darkness, Israel and the nations. All the nations? We will see.

In Havdala we say: “Behold, God is my salvation. I will trust and be not afraid…May the King answer us on the day we call.” We are now calling.

We try and continue as normal. I go for a run around the neighborhood, but checking my phone every so often. Breaking News: Iran has launched an attack on Israel. I run home as fast I can, expecting sirens any moment. But none came.

Urchatz. Is there time to shower? To wash the dishes? To continue as normal or to prepare for the worst?

Karpas. Time to eat. Not a big meal, just something light to keep us going throughout the night.

Yachatz. Perhaps we should re-stock the safe room supplies, known in our home as the Lebanon Fund (now renamed). Let’s put some water bottles in the room and leave some outside. Eat some food now, save some for later.


Everyone around us has enough food that I don’t need to invite anyone hungry for a meal. But is there someone we can help or reach out to? Let’s ask.

We are hooked to the news. So many questions to ask. Luckily all our children are asleep.

Why is this night different from all other nights?

On other nights, we have no warning when our enemies attack us, but for this night we have been preparing for years.

On other nights, we have seconds to go to the safe room, but on this night we have hours.

On other nights, we alone repel our enemies’ rockets, but on this night we are joined by our allies.

On other nights, Iron Dome is a mere footnote in world news, but on this night the whole world is watching the skies of the Middle East.

How do we make sense of all this?

We once were defenseless citizens of many monarchs, dictators and empires. But the Lord God took us out from there with the mighty hand of the IDF and the outstretched arm of friendly allies. If God had not taken out our ancestors from Europe and the Arab countries, then we, our children and grandchildren, would still be defenseless in the face of our enemies who have the intent and means to kill us. And even if we are all wise, perceptive, experienced, and knowledgeable in all the minutiae of Torah, we still have a duty to tell the story of how God took us out of Europe and the Arab countries to give us a sovereign Jewish state. And the more one tells this story, the more they are praiseworthy.

In a WhatsApp conversation, I say to a friend, “Hope we will make it.” He responds, “I’m not worried, Hashem is with us.” V’hi She’amda… In every generation they rise up to destroy us. But the Holy One, Blessed be God, saves us from their hands.

Dayenu. Enough worrying, and being addicted to the news. It is time to sleep – who knows if we will get much? We all sleep in the safe room, as ready as we can be.

In the night I wake up. The USA, UK, France and Jordan have all used their air forces to protect us. Our air force have defended our air space and prevented any major hits. No-one has been killed.

How many miracles have we experienced tonight?

Was it 5? The number of air forces that protected us?

Was it 320? The number of drones and missiles that failed to harm us?

Was it 9,842,000? The number of Israelis who survived?

Is it time to say Hallel? Who knows if this is the end, or just the beginning? Surely when our ancestors left Egypt, they knew the Egyptian army would be back – but at that moment, they had been saved by a miracle. Can we not say Hallel?

And then we remember: My hostages are languishing in the tunnels of Gaza and you wish to sing shira (praise)?

No Hallel, no Tachanun. The rabbi of our community suggests we focus on “Mizmor l’Todah,” a psalm of thanksgiving.

So, what was this night? It was another part of the promise God made to us over 3,000 years ago, in Exouds 12:42, referring to the night of 14 Nisan, but plausibly applied to 6 Nisan 5784.

“All that night, the Lord watched over them to bring them out of Egypt; and still this night is kept as one of watchfulness for the Lord throughout the generations of Israel.”

We wake up and start another day where our children don’t go to gan (kindergarten and childcare). Instead of work, we’ll be singing children’s songs, playing games involving numbers and maybe we’ll read them a funny story about a stick that beat the dog that bit the cat that was bought for two zuzim.

Because this year, and next year, we will still be in the rebuilt Jerusalem.

About the Author
Michael Rainsbury is the Head of Adult Education at the London School of Jewish Studies and a Sacks Scholar. He created the first dedicated English language tours of the Israeli President’s Residence in Jerusalem and leads Jewish heritage tours with JRoots. All articles are written in a personal capacity.
Related Topics
Related Posts