Support for the IDF
Photo: Courtesy of Yerachmiel Fried
Graves of fallen soldiers near Hebron

Dear Rabbi,

Thank you for all of your recent columns regarding Israel. I was particularly moved by the story from Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, about praying by the graves of the holy IDF (Israel Defense Forces) soldiers.

I’m curious about what our responsibility is as American Jews to support the welfare of the IDF soldiers who are protecting the Jewish people and homeland.

I know there is an order by which we give tzedakah…first to our families and then local Jewish organizations and institutions and then beyond. We receive many solicitations from worthy causes in Israel, yet this cause seems closer to home since by defending Israel, the brave IDF soldiers are really protecting Jews everywhere. 

To be transparent, I am now working for the organization American Friends of IDF, though I wondered about this prior to joining. Your recent column inspired me to ask you about this here.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Suzanne L.

Dear Suzanne,

That story about praying at the graves of IDF martyrs really struck home with me a couple of weeks ago when my wife and I were on a tour of the holy city of Chevron (Hebron), and the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs.

One of our stops on the way was at the graveyard of fallen IDF soldiers who hailed from Chevron and had fallen in the line of duty defending Israel. We walked along the graves and read them one by one. Each one had a name and their age …18 ….17 ….19 …20 ….32 ….18 ….19 ….

We saw that and we wept and wept. So, so many wonderful Jewish boys and girls, yes boys and girls, snatched away in their prime…to think about all those grieving families, about all that potential lost forever, rows and rows and rows of them. It was overwhelming.

I stood there and prayed that in their merit Israel should truly be protected and safe, and that their ultimate sacrifice shouldn’t be for naught.

Suzanne, what you are involved with is truly a holy endeavor. To make those dedicated soldiers feel appreciated and cared about and to provide them with basic needs is a tremendous mitzvah. I would say that those feelings alone are a great enough mitzvah to merit support. But I feel it goes a step further.

The Torah teaches that when one feels cared about, they carry themselves differently and are stronger. This, says the classical commentary Rash”i, actually protects the person far from his or her home from predators who will hesitate to attack one who holds himself tall and walks confidently and purposefully. (Deuteronomy 21:7 and Rash”i loc. cit.)

A stronger, more confident army, with G-d’s help, means a stronger, more protected country. 

Much success in your important endeavors in the funding of the Friends of the IDF!

Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried is dean of Dallas Area Torah Association.

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