By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
It was a horrifying event by all accounts. A young kollel man involved in a holy mission of supervising construction workers for Asra Kadisha so that they not disturb graves was murdered by an Arab terrorist. The terrorist, Muhammed Naif El-Ja’abis, y’s, from East Jerusalem, drove an excavator vehicle into a bus and overturned it, killing 29-year-old Rabbi Avrohom Wallis a few blocks from the Mirrer Yeshiva.
It was one incident out of many that brings home a point of which we must all take note: These incidents, R’l, would be far more numerous were it not for the fact that there are some very brave people out there performing some very important mitzvos. They are protecting the people of Klal Yisrael, they are protecting the land of Eretz Yisrael, and they are contributing to kiddush Sheim Shamayim in ensuring our safety. They are the soldiers of the IDF, and they deserve our hakaras ha’tov and our tefillos for their welfare.
The sense of hakaras ha’tov that has developed in light of the events of this summer has been encouraging. Many in the chareidi Torah community have actively demonstrated appreciation for those who are defending the nation of Israel. Many in the chareidi world have adopted a soldier to pray for (as Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman and Rav Chaim Kanievsky have both urged). Many in the chareidi world have been attending funerals of those who have given their lives to protect us. And many chareidim have expressed support, love, and concern by sending care packages.
This summer, a number of the right-wing yeshivos have even adopted the recitation of the Mishebeirach for the chayalei Tzahal—out of hakaras ha’tov and concern for the well-being of the soldiers.
Of The Mishebeirach
What is the Mishebeirach for the chayalei Tzahal? It is a prayer first written in 1956 in the Arab-Israeli conflict of that year after Nasser had nationalized the Suez Canal, preventing Israel’s waterway access to the outside world and preventing the efficient movement of British and French troopships. It was authored by Rabbi Shlomo Goren, o.b.m.
As far as the nature of the obligation of hakaras ha’tov, the Chovos HaLevavos (beginning of Shaar Avodas HaElokim) writes of our obligation to express hakaras ha’tov to all who benefit us. The emphasis is upon the word “all”—everyone.
The Mitzrim inflicted terrible cruelty upon the Jewish people. Yet, in Parashas Ki Sisa, we are told of the mitzvah not to abhor the Mitzri. Why not? Because “we were strangers in his land.” Even though we were so severely maltreated while we were in Mitzrayim, this mitzvah exists.
It would, therefore, seem rather intuitive that any beneficiary of the IDF, which means all of us, should be praying for the welfare of these brave soldiers protecting us and the land. And yet there are still many places that do not recite a special Mishebeirach. In the section that follows, an attempt will be made to categorize the various reasons why the Mishebeirach is not recited. Finally, a suggestion will be offered to address these concerns.
The Mishebeirach is associated with the political movement of religious or non-religious Zionism. Zionism, in their view, has been a force that has, in many ways, separated the Jewish nation from its Torah heritage. Even though hakaras ha’tov is a true Torah concept, it should be expressed in other manners and not in a way that would recognize such a political movement within a synagogue.
Another reason given decades ago was that the particular Mishebeirach was authored by Rabbi Goren, whose approach to many areas of halachah was not in line with the views of other gedolei Torah. Those who fall in this category take great exception to Rav Goren’s end-run against the rulings of the official batei din of the Rabbanut in regard to the prohibition of mamzeirus and do not countenance any national tefillah written by someone who took such action.
All Government Policies
Although in agreement with the idea of hakaras ha’tov, people in this category object to offering unrestrained support to an arm of the government in charge of implementing policies of the government with which they disagree. The government activity with which adherents of group three have taken issue ranges from IDF treatment of the olei Teiman to the forcible eviction of Jewish residents from Gush Katif.
Disagree With Premise
People in this category actually claim that there is, in fact, no obligation of hakaras ha’tov and lay the blame of violence against Jews squarely upon the Zionist movement and the Israeli government and its various arms and policies. Even though, according to their view, the “error of the Zionists” began almost a century ago, members of this group prefer to wash their hands of the entire matter. They therefore leave out the mentioning of an arm of the Israeli government in any prayer.
This author would like to suggest a solution that would allow all members of Klal Yisrael to express hakaras ha’tov to those who are protecting our lives and the holy land of Eretz Yisrael without conflicting with any of the four reasons mentioned above. The proposal involves adapting the wording of the special Mishebeirach authored by Rav Yom Tov Lipmann Heller, zt’l, author of the Tosfos Yom Tov, and combining it with the Tefillas HaDerech tefillah found in tractate Berachos. It involves adapting the Mishebeirach to mention the mitzvos associated with protecting life and land and changing it to plural form. The Tosfos Yom Tov authored his prayer in the aftermath of the gezeiros Tach v’Tat—also known as the Chmielnicki Massacres—and the version adapted below is based upon an original manuscript found in the Bodleian Library in Oxford University.
מי שברך אבותינו אברהם יצחק ויעקב משה אהרן דוד ושלמה הוא יברך וישמור את כל מי שעוסקים בקיום נפשות בישראל ושומרים אותנו מכף כל אויב ואורב ומחבלים ומכל מיני פורעניות וטערור ודבר רע. ולכל מי שעוסקים בהגנת ארץ קדשינו וקיום מצות “והשיבותו לו” החל על כל קיום כל נפש בישראל. ותתניהם לחן ולחסד ולרחמים בעיניך ובעיני כל רואיהם ויחולו עליהם כל הברכות הכתובות בתורת משה רבינו עליו השלום ובכל ספרי הנבואות. יראו זרע כשר חיים וקיימים ויזכו לשני שולחנות שבשני עולמים שהם העולם הזה שעליו נאמר “והנה טוב” והעולם הבא שהוא יום שכולו ארוך וגם טוב. ונאמר אמן.
He who blessed our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, David, and Solomon, he will bless and safeguard all those who engage in the saving of lives in Israel, and who guard us from all lurking enemies and terrorists and all sorts of vicissitudes, terror, and dire situations. And to all those who engage in the defense of our holy land (See Tashbatz III #288) and the fulfillment of the mitzvah of “And you shall return it to him” which encompasses the mitzvah of saving lives (Sanhedrin 73a)—grant them grace, loving-kindness, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who observe them. And all the blessings written in the Torah of Moses our Master, peace be upon him, and in all the books of the prophets, shall be bestowed upon them. They shall see descendants who are kosher, living, and enduring, and let them merit two tables in both worlds: this world, which is called “and it was good” and the world to come, which is both everlasting and good. And let us say, “Amen.”
This would address both the issues of “politics” and that of authorship. It would also address the issue of categorical approval of all government activity and those who have negative associations with the earlier aspects of Zionism. Mostly, however, it would address a serious lacuna in our expression of hakaras ha’tov.
The famed Alter of Slabodka, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt’l, explains that Adam HaRishon was actually innocent of the sin of defying Hashem in the consumption of the forbidden fruit in Gan Eden. How so? He explains as follows.
Chavah, according to the Midrash, had veritably forced him to consume it. Why then was Adam punished? The Alter explains that it was solely on account of Adam HaRishon’s response to Hashem’s inquiry. Adam told Hashem, “the woman that you gave me had given me to eat of the fruit.”
It was, in fact, these three Hebrew words, “Asher nasata li,” which showed Adam’s lack of hakaras ha’tov, that doomed mankind for eternity. Chavah was a gift that Hashem had given Adam. He had blamed Hashem for the whole incident.
May Hashem send yeshuos and nechamos to all of Klal Yisrael. And may we all improve in this critical area of avodas Hashem. ϖ
The author can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com.