Thursday, January 3, 2019



Tsachi Sasson served in the Israel Defense Force’s armored corps. He loved others and was always looking to help others.
After his years of service, he married and had two children. On Sunday evening, February 11, 2001, Tsachi was driving from work in Yerushalayim to his home in Gush Etzion. As he was driving through the tunnels leaving the city, he was murdered by Arab terrorists. 
After his death, his family publicized a letter that Tsachi had written to his younger brother Gabi, upon Gabi’s inscription to the army in 1989. The letter is entitled "להיות חייל דתי" – to be a religious solider.
In that letter Tsachi wrote[2]: “To daven shachris after a white night[3], to daven ma’ariv after traveling, when there are a few minutes to learn mishnayos even though you are so tired… at times to forgo on the supper you are so hungry for in order to maintain the laws of not eating dairy after meat, to always know when the deadline is for tefilah, because the commander often forgets to tell you… to be careful to never use foul language, because the kippah upon your heard demands that you always speak pleasantly… to never allow anyone to change you, to always be proud to be a religious Zionist…”
Tsachi concluded by requesting that Gabi reread the letter each week to remind him of his priorities and values.  
I have a professional copy of the letter that I keep in my wallet. It reminds me that we are all soldiers with a mission. We are part of an elite people with an elite mission – to sanctify the name of G-d and to be a moral compass for the world.

Mesillas Yesharim[4] notes that every aspect of life contains struggles and tests: “And if he will be a soldier and he will be victorious in all aspects, he will become the complete person who will merit clinging to his Creator, and he will emerge from this anteroom to enter the great banquet hall where he will bask in the light of eternal life. Commensurate to how much he conquered his evil inclination and his desires, and how much he distanced himself from those things which detract him from the ultimate good, will he achieve it and rejoice in it.”
Every Jewish parent wishes for their child that he be a proud solider in the army of G-d, who fulfills his mission with pride and confidence. 

There are two components of this quest of being a loyal soldier that emerge from parshas Va’era.
During the reign of the wicked king Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had an image erected with his likeness and insisted that everyone bow before it. Chanaya, Mishael, and Azaryah chose to defy the command, although they knew that doing so would likely cost them their lives. They were cast into a fiery furnace, and only miraculously did they emerge unscathed.
The gemara[5] asks how they knew to do so? The gemara quotes ‘Todos the Roman’ who explained that they learned that lesson from the frogs during the second plague in Egypt. They reasoned that if the frogs had no obligation to sanctify the Name of G-d, and yet were willing to jump into the ovens to fulfill the Will of G-d in plaguing the Egyptians, then they, who were obligated to sanctify the Name of G-d, should surely be prepared to be thrown into a fire to sanctify His Name.
The prophet Yecheskel had advised Chanaya, Mishael, and Azaryah to hide so they wouldn’t be obligated to bow to the statue of Nebuchadnezzar.[6] They, however, were concerned that other Jews might think it was permitted to bow to the statue. They therefore, chose to jeopardize their lives in order to be an example for the rest of the nation not to bow.
Rav Shimon Schwab zt’l explained that although the frogs had received a general directive to spread out throughout Egypt to wreak havoc and assault the Egyptians, no individual frog had been commanded to enter an oven. Every frog could have chosen to jump around on the beds and eat the fruits. Nevertheless, there were some frogs that took it upon themselves to jump into the ovens in order to fulfill the Will of G-d in this unique manner. Chanaya, Mishael, and Azaryah took a lesson from the frogs that they too should put their lives on the line to sanctify G-d even though they were not obligated to do so.
One of the most important components of being a soldier is to be ready to follow orders on a whim. A soldier is trained to reply “yes, sir!” and follow the instructions of his commander whether he likes it or understands them or not.
No matter what Hashem demanded of our patriarchs, they were always ready to respond “Hineni – behold, here I am!” Life is full of twists and turns. The only predictable thing in life is its unpredictability. The loyal soldier is one who declares “hineni” in whatever situation and predicament he finds himself in. “Hineni” is the opposite of “why me?”
 Our constant question must be – what does G-d want from me now? It’s not always an easy question to answer, and sometimes we may not know the answer. But the question serves as a guide to direct a person’s thinking.
When Moshe stood before the nation and delivered to them the news of their imminent redemption, they did not - could not - hear it. “They did not listen to Moshe due to kotzer ruach (lit. shortness of breath) and hard work.[7]
What is ‘kotzer ruach’? 

Nick Vujicic was born without any hands or feet. As could be imagined, as a child he struggled mentally, emotionally, and physically. There were many times that he wished he could die. With time however, he not only came to terms with his significant disabilities, he embraced it and became a source of great inspiration.
He became a motivational speaker and travels internationally inspiring millions of people, particularly downtrodden and depressed teens. He founded a nonprofit organization called Life Without Limbs.
Today, Nick is married and has two healthy sons.

Kotzer ruach connotes hopelessness and giving up[8]; one who has grown despondent because of his calamitous predicament. He has grown weary of his unfulfilled sanguinity and despairs of his situation improving. In the process he has forfeited his hopes and dreams, the things he once aspired to achieve and become. Kotzer ruach has far more dire consequences even than the painful physical servitude.
Those who are somehow able to maintain a sense of faith and hope even in the worst conditions have far greater endurance and chances of survival.
One of the most important components for a Jew to live a meaningful life is to feel spiritually connected. Spiritually, in the sense that his very spirit is elevated through his observance of Torah and mitzvos.
Towards the end of shachris we recite, “And I – this is My treaty with them – says G-d: My spirit that is upon you and My words that I have placed in your mouth, they will not be removed from your children and from the mouths of your children’s children, from now until forever.”  This is our greatest hope and blessing for ourselves and for our children – that we/they always feel spiritually connected and elevated to such a degree that it is passed on to our progeny.
Before Klal Yisroel could leave Egypt, they had to regain a recognition of their personal greatness and their ability to ascend beyond their current misery.

We are all soldiers in the most elite army, united by our divine directive. To fulfill our roles, we need to maintain a sense of mission and be prepared for whatever is sent our way. We also must recognize the importance of our individual roles as vital members of the eternal nation.[9]

They did not listen to Moshe due to kotzer ruach
“And if he will be a soldier”

 Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] The following is the lecture I delivered in Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh Vaera 5777 upon the occasion of the bar mitzvah of our bechor, Shalom. I had spoken at numerous occasions in KNH throughout my years there, including all stages of the circle of life. For obvious reasons, this was one of the most personally special lectures that I gave during my years there. 
[2] In Hebrew it follows a poetic form. Obviously, it loses that significance in translation. 
[3] i.e. a night of no sleep because of army drills or exercises
[4] Chapter 1
[5] Pesachim 53b
[6] In fact, Daniel heeded the advice of Yecheskel and wasn’t present
[7] Shemos 6:9
[8] Ibn Ezra writes that they were kotzer ruach because of the lengthy exile and the harsh servitude
[9] We daven constantly that our son Shalom, along with all of his siblings, always have that sense of personal mission and feel spiritually connected to Hashem, His Torah, and His people. May he always be willing and ready to say “hineni” to whatever comes his way, and may that ruach Hashem envelop him and manifest in his children and children’s children, from now until forever.


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