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In G-d We Trust

By Tzvi Fishman
12/29/2011, 11:12 PM

Before we say goodbye to Hanukah, there is another thing which all of us, including our beloved brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, can learn from the Macabbees – and that is their great miserut nefesh, or spirit of self-sacrifice, placing the greater welfare of the Nation over their individual comforts, with the readiness to give up one’s life for the Jewish Nation, for the Torah, for the Land of Israel, and for the honor of G-d.

Is Israel more dangerous for a Jew than the Diaspora, as many people claim when they cite their reasons for not making aliyah? I’m not sure that it is. Certainly, when it comes to spiritual danger and assimilation, Israel is far far far safer. Yes, here and there, a case of intermarriage occurs, and there is a problem that Jewish girls are sometimes seduced (and emotionally kidnapped) by Arabs. But the numbers are tiny compared to the wholesale wipe-out that goes on in the Diaspora where 60% plus of our People are marrying outside of the faith.

I don’t deny that aliyah is a challenge. Yes it's difficult. Coming on aliyah from Western countries demands a change of lifestyle, culture, and language. Often new olim have to make do with a less material life and less creature comforts. Even Jews who aren’t used to wealthy living find the more modest and pioneer lifestyle in Israel difficult to adjust to. Plus, the move to a new place, and to possibly a less prestigious and high-paying job, where the new immigrant is a greenhorn who speaks with an awkward accent, when in the past he was a bigshot who knew his way around – this is often a blow to the ego, something which demands a resiliency and humility that not everyone has [our Sages tell us that this ego-smashing process is actually beneficial for a person, breaking down walls of pride that distance him from G-d, and thus the Biblical name for Eretz Yisrael, Canaan, has the meaning of poor and humble, something which the Land of Israel helps us to achieve].

In other words, aliyah demands a willingness for self-sacrifice, which is not a particularly popular trait in the Diaspora. People are loath to give up what they consider to be “the good life.” How far away they are from the spirit of self-sacrifice that the early Zionist pioneers had in their willingness to roll up their trousers and wade into malaria-infested swamps in order to rid the plague-filled land of disease – knowing that 50% of them would contact malaria in the process and die! Still they did it – for the generations that would come after them. How this noble spirit is missing from today’s young generation in Western lands! Yes, here and there, a brave youth comes to Israel and joins the army to do his share in the fight for our homeland – a burden that every Jew should rightfully share, but the great majority act as if the rebuilding of our homeland is strictly for the Israelis and not for them.

Nonetheless, one of the foundations of Judaism is miserut nefesh, the willingness to sacrifice ourselves for our Torah, our Nation, our Land, and our G-d. It's imbedded in our genes, as our inheritance from Avraham, who was willing to sacrifice his life, and his son's, for Hashem. Here is how Rabbi Kahane describes self-sacrifice in his book, “The Jewish Idea.” Tomorrow is the yahrzeit of his son, Binyamin Zeev, and his daughter-in-law, Talia, who were murdered by Arab terrorists, may Hashem avenge their blood, along with the blood of all of the murderers of our People. They, along with Rabbi Kahane, gave the ultimate in the transcendental mitzvah of rebuilding the Land of Israel. May these words of Torah be a blessing to their memories.


Most certainly, when G-d does not just promise something but decrees that we must perform some deed, one must not look for reasons, however pious they may be, not to do that deed. Rather, if G-d or Jewish law requires us to fulfill some decree, then we must sanctify His name and sacrifice our lives for it, this being the fullest expression of Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d) and bitachon (trust). It says, (Lev. 22:32-33), “Do not profane My holy name. I shall be sanctified in the midst of the children of Israel. I am the L-rd Who is making you holy and bringing you out of the Land of Egypt,” and our sages comment (Torat Kohanim, Emor, 9), “Sacrifice yourself and sanctify My name,” and (Ibid.), “I took you out of Egypt on condition that you sacrifice yourselves to sanctify My name.”

Self-sacrifice is the ultimate proof of trust in G-d, it is bitachon in its fullest form. Let a Jew not evade his duty, claiming that today there is no Divine revelation, no heavenly voice or prophecy of any other sort by which G-d could decree the need for an act of self-sacrifice. Surely, the whole Torah, all the deeds of our ancestors and of the judges and prophets, and the words of our sages, were meant to be a lamp unto our feet and to show us the path we must follow. These deeds and G-d’s ways were set down in our sages’ homiletics as eternal guidelines, presenting our duty regarding how we must act when there is no Divine Revelation.

Here then, to our great chagrin, is the cause of the tragedy and trouble that beset the Jewish People, despite the proliferance of Torah study and yeshivot: G-d demands complete bitachon — bitachon that expresses itself not just in lectures on moral refinement, but in deeds of self-sacrifice to sanctify G-d’s name, so as to prove our faith and trust in Him. Woe to our orphan generation, in which even Torah scholars have learned how to evade sacrificing their lives for Kiddush Hashem, with the miserable claim of “pikuach nefesh,” that they are avoiding “danger to life.” With this, they have already set firmly in our hearts the fear of the non-Jew and the fear of danger, in effect nullifying the need and duty to endanger ourselves and sacrifice our lives for G-d’s name. There is no greater proof of the weakness of bitachon and the smallness of faith which reigns in this generation, a generation in which, “we are become orphans and fatherless” (Lam. 5:3).

Both Joshua and Caleb demonstrated trust in G-d. Even so, when G-d swore that Israel would not enter the Land, it says, “The only exception will be My servant Caleb, since he showed a different spirit and followed Me wholeheartedly. I will bring him to the land that he explored.” Why was Joshua’s name not mentioned here, when he, too, stood firm in his bitachon? It also says, “Only Caleb son of Yefuneh will see the Land.... since he followed the L-rd wholeheartedly” (Deut. 1:36). Why, again, was Joshua omitted?

The answer is inherent in G-d’s comment, in both Num. 14:7 and Deut. 1:36, that Caleb “followed Him wholeheartedly.” Here we learn once more the need to have full bitachon. Our bitachon must express itself in readiness to sacrifice our lives to sanctify G-d’s name, and this was evinced by Caleb but not Joshua. After the ten spies issued their bad report about Eretz Yisrael and incited the people, it says, “Caleb quieted the people for Moses and said, ‘We shall surely go up and inherit it’” (Num. 13:30). He silenced them and began to express ideas which ultimately opposed those of the majority. He did not hesitate, although he knew the people’s mentality and was aware of their stubbornness and what they had done to Chur. He — not Joshua — was the first to rise up and try to blot out the Chilul Hashem (desecration of G-d), and in doing so he took a risk and was ready to sacrifice his life. Caleb “followed G-d wholeheartedly,” thereby surpassing Joshua and meriting to be mentioned alone by G-d. [End of “Jewish Idea” excerpt]

So let’s all try to muster up a little more spirit of self-sacrifice. For the Jews of the Diaspora it may be the key to a new life in Israel.