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Disbelief and Belief

11/01/2023 05:40:46 PM


Rav Yosef

Tuesday, the first official day of the visit, was long, intense, and sobering. There is much to share, but it’s already late in the evening, and there’s still jet lag to contend with.

The Disbelief is still fresh and raw:

The disbelief of the reserve soldiers who were in Shul on the morning of October 7th, and only checked their phones for possible call-up orders after numerous people independently described what was going on in the South. It seemed impossible to be true.

The disbelief of the army rabbis who staff the facility where the bodies of soldiers and sometimes civilians are sent for positive identification and preparation for burial. They have room for 300 bodies at once. “Who could have imagined that we’d have to bring 10 freezer units for 1500 bodies?”

The disbelief of the chayyal who is recovering in Haddasah after having had his leg amputated. “By 9:00 AM I was the last one alive at our position. I waited till 13:00 for help.”

The disbelief of the families of hostages, as expressed in a meeting with the Defense Minister. "אין לנו על מי להשע” (We have no one to rely on.) The Defense Minister did listen with empathy.

The Disbelief of an entire nation, beholding the myths of Israeli invincibility and preparedness collapse in a heap of unimaginable images.

The Belief that is growing up in its place:

The belief of the director of Hadassah that the hospital will be able to handle whatever may, God forbid, yet come. He then showed us the numerous floors of subterranean offices and other spaces that have been converted into operating rooms and patient spaces.

The belief of a Rav who had the strength to speak with us although just yesterday one of his sons was confirmed by the IDF as being among the hostages. His belief that the instantaneous switch that had been thrown, from our being a nation that had been yelling and screaming at one another over whether there would or wouldn’t be a mechitza in the street for Neilah in Tel Aviv, to a nation that had fully and powerfully embraced its ברית גורל, its covenant of shared fate, would be an enduring switch, enduring well beyond when this ends.

The belief of one of the other sons of the above-referenced Rav, who asked his parents to sign a waiver to permit the army to return him to his combat unit, despite the rule that siblings of hostages are excluded from combat.

The belief of the nation-at-large that it will survive, because it has no choice but to do so.

The belief of a stranger who for a minute became an intimate friend: Within minutes of my arrival on Monday, as Adin was driving me from the airport along the Tel Aviv – Yerushalyim highway, the “rocket app” went off. We pulled over to the shoulder, and scampered into a nearby drainage ditch, where we joined other motorists. I sat next to an older man (meaning he was probably my age). Pointing heavenward (not to the smoke now overhead, but higher than that) he observed, “ הכל כתוב / all is already inscribed. ועושים השתדלות / yet we make every effort.”

A final observation for now: At a certain point when we were at the identification center, the doors on some of that long row of freezers were opened, as the staff did their grim and holy work. We all instinctively turned to face those open doors. Someone in our group started a chapter of Tehillim. I have no idea, but I suddenly felt like I was in one of those moments at a shiva house when we all turn to the mourners and offer words of comfort.

And it felt to me like we were comforting God.

It is very hard to describe how full everyone’s hearts are here. But they are full. And that fullness is what will carry us over to tomorrow.

With love,

rav yosef

Mon, June 17 2024 11 Sivan 5784