Sometimes there truly are no words to describe what happens at Aish. This week we had one of those experiences. Our dear friends and inspirational donors Bari and Dani Erber have the beautiful custom to donate a Sefer Torah every year. A year and a half ago they donated a Torah to Aish. This year they decided to give a Torah to the IDF. Through the coordination of Rabbi Shmuel Herman, the Torah was completed in a special forces IDF base and was soon on its way to Gaza.
Rabbi Dovid Rosman, Director of Yeshiva Aish HaTorah, decided that the entire Yeshiva needed to be at this event so everyone boarded buses to go to the army base. On the way to the base, our students spent a few hours helping an Israeli farmer whose workers left after October 7 to bring in his crops. It was truly a day of physical and spiritual growth.
At the base, the Torah was completed and every student had a chance to dance with the new Torah. Our students brought tremendous spirit and joy to the event. One of the IDF soldiers from Italy told Rabbi Rosman that they had not experienced such uplifting joy since the horrific massacres of Simchas Torah. Now they had a chance to sing and dance together.
As the students sat at the festive meal, an IDF Captain named Oz asked to speak to the students. He began to tell his story (which you can watch on the video of the event). A few days earlier, he was with three of his soldiers in a hummer in Gaza City. All of the sudden the vehicle was hit by Hamas. The driver and one other soldier were immediately killed. The Captain shared that he had just come from visiting the third soldier who was badly wounded. Captain Oz miraculously escaped with ‘only’ shrapnel in his leg.
He went on to tell the students that he checked his gear after the ambush. He found shrapnel in his helmet which had stopped just short of entering his head and more shrapnel had hit his ceramic vest just short of hitting his heart. Captain Oz said the only explanation he could give was that the Almighty had performed a miracle for him. He then proceeded to recite HaGomel, a blessing of thanksgiving recited when we survive a life threatening experience. We then danced with Captain Oz and sang Am Yisrael Chai. Tears were flowing freely…
Rabbi Rosman then spoke and quoted a verse that the Almighty brings peace to the world through the Torah. The word for Torah in that verse is “Oz,” the name of our brave Captain. Our morality and ethics is the only thing that has ever quelled violence among man. This morality and ethics flows from our Torah. Rabbi Rosman also commented how special it was that the donors of this Torah were doing so without being present. Their gift was not about themselves but rather, a gift for the Jewish people.
We were then blessed to be joined by the Rabbi of the base. As there are over 13,000 soldiers stationed at this base, he may be the largest congregational Rabbi in the world! Rav Avishai summed up beautifully the special nature of the Jewish Nation: “The IDF is not the greatest army in the world because of our tanks or weapons, but due to the spirit that comes from our Torah and our values.” He went on to talk about the enormous spiritual growth of the army over the last three months. Soldiers are continuously asking for tzitzis and tefilin. They are sending many sifrei Torah into Gaza to be used and to raise the spirits of the fighters. In fact, by the time you will have received this email, the Torah that was just completed will already be in Gaza.
We had the opportunity this week to hear about more incredible miracles of survival and gratitude to the Almighty from Roie and Yona Assaf who shared their story of escaping the carnage of the Nova Music Festival on October 7 when they spoke to the efg@aish seminary and the yeshiva. They began keeping Shabbat immediately after the tragic Simchat Torah in recognition of the Almighty’s protection and the gift of a new beginning to their lives.
My friends, this email is reaching you at the end of the secular calendar year. In truth, I should just be writing to you to ask for money, like the many other emails we have all received from worthy causes this week. How can I do that and not share with you the awe inspiring strength that Aish witnessed this week. The strength of Captain Oz in publicly blessing the Almighty for saving him from certain death. The strength of Rabbi Avishai who is making sure our soldiers are spiritually armed for warfare. The strength of the Erber family for understanding that the Jewish people need Torah to rally behind. The strength of Rabbi Rosman to pick up the entire Yeshiva and travel south to dance with our brothers in uniform. The strength of our students who danced and sang with IDF soldiers. The strength of Roie and Yona Assad who survived the Nova Festival massacre and have embarked on a spiritual journey. This is the strength of the Jewish Nation. This is the strength of Aish.
This has been one of the toughest years in the modern history of the Jewish Nation. We have mourned together. We have cried together. We have attended funerals together. We have stood by each other like never before. Aish has been there for the Jewish people for the last fifty years and the Almighty willing, we will be here for the next fifty years. I urge each and every one of you to support our work. This has been a year where Aish has answered the call to millions of secular Jews online who clamored to understand why the delusional world hates us. We have steadfastly stood ready to embrace EVERY Jew in the world. Please help us maintain our infrastructure by contributing to our end of the year campaign. Am Yisrael Chai!