Dedicated to the memory of our brave soldiers who have fallen in recent combat,
and to the safe return of all those currently defending our Holy Land.
Whenever I find myself under pressure, such as in these days, living in Israel, with grandsons serving in the Israeli army in Gaza, I try to find a moment of tranquility and inner peace. In this madhouse, it is important to keep my cool. But where shall I find it?
How can I stay calm in this war with all that is happening right now?
I have a feeling that this war has an ontological aspect. Without any claim to prophecy, I cannot escape the feeling that what is happening at this moment is not just another Israeli-Palestinian war but something radically different.
After the terrible internal fights that tore apart the Israeli nation, in which Jews were on the verge of going to war against each other, nearly destroying the State of Israel, it is as if a Divine voice rang out and said: Enough! This far and no farther! There will be no civil war in Israel. I will not allow it. I will force your hand and compel you to make peace among yourselves as you have never seen before.
If you cannot do it yourselves, I will do it for you by My power. Until you get the message. Until you wake up and stop your absurd fights and get back to yourselves. Who do you think you are? You want to destroy the State of Israel, leaving Jews around the world totally forsaken with nowhere to go? I will not stand for it. I will look you in the face and ask you: What are you doing? And you will bow your heads and say: How did we ever get so low and act so irresponsibly?
The Foundations are Shaken
Zionism—and its promise that the State of Israel will be a secure haven for any Jew and a guarantee of liberty for its citizens—has been undermined. It has been shaken and trembles on its foundations.
The government, overconfident and overflowing with arrogance, is nearly paralyzed and does not know what to do next.
Convinced that it was all powerful, indestructible, and would always be victorious, the Israeli army received a major blow when it could not even defend Israel’s citizens. Right under its eyes a small Holocaust took place, not in a foreign country but in the Holy Land itself! Women were raped, children and babies burned alive, and hundreds taken captive. And all that under the slogan: Never again!
Were it not so tragic, it would be pathetic.
A Light from the Darkness
But just at the moment when all looked black, an almost open miracle took place.
As if from the valley of the dead, Israel rose up, and in a matter of a moment, the nation healed itself. Like a lion from cover, the nation showed its true face. Out of nowhere, people who had come to believe they were archenemies embraced one another.
Massive numbers of soldiers reported to recruiting stations and military outposts. Instead of waiting to be enlisted, they arrived in multitudes of their own free will. Chareidi men volunteered, were quickly trained, and sent off to wherever they were needed.
Tzitziot, prayers shawls, Teffilin (phylacteries), and prayers books were distributed, and many secular soldiers donned them, dressing in religious garb for the first time, as proud Jews.
The nation came together, kissed each other, danced together, religious and non-religious prayed together, and all realized that they are one united family. They collected enormous sums of money for the evacuees and touched a level of unity that was unheard of. They amassed necessities of every kind at such a rapid rate that those that collected them did not know how to distribute them quickly enough.
World Jewry—often ambivalent in its attitude to Israel—suddenly realized that the people in Israel are not just human beings on the other side of the ocean but brothers in arms. Family.
All this is unprecedented.
Birth pangs of a new nation
This outpouring of love, and the disaster which preceded it, seems to have given birth to a new Israel. A transformation has taken place. We are still in the wake of its first contractions. Will the baby be healthy? Will this unity prevail in the days after the war is over? We do not yet know. But what is for sure is that a new kind of offspring will appear. It took 75 years for it to develop in the womb of this nation, but it is now coming.
In the beginning, it may be insecure. It will need to learn how to breathe, to crawl and to walk, and grow. The physicians will have to be careful so as to deliver the baby properly. They may disagree what procedures to use, but they should know that the people of Israel will not allow them to fail.
This nation is unlike all other nations. What has become clear is that even the most secular Jew may come to realize that he has a uniquely Jewish soul, which will not surrender when challenged.
We know that there is a high cost to being Jewish, but we also know that that there is no greater honor.
We know that we must be exceptional in order to live in a world that is neither propitious for—nor sympathetic to—our survival.
We know that the Jewish people is indispensable, and against all predictions will not just survive, but surpass.
We know that to be a Jew we must be holy.
There has never been a greater need for Judaism than in our time.
It is not good enough to just be a “good human being” or to be a “good Jew at heart”. If a Jew is no more than human, then he is less than human, because to be Jewish means to exceed what is expected.
To be a Jew means to surpass normalcy and climb to the top of the mountain.
All of Jewish history proves that Jews are a nation “dwelling apart and not to be reckoned among the nations.” (Bamibar 23:9)
We Jews must be moral and religious pioneers as were our ancestors for nearly 4000 years.
The future of all of mankind depends upon our commitment to be holy and to illuminate the light of humanity’s future vision.
Even if I were an atheist, I would not be able to deny that something unique is taking place. We are standing at the edge of a new world.
Any Jew who does not “re-Jew” himself at this hour—who continues on his way as if just another war is taking place and lives as he did before—will forever regret that he may have made forfeit the greatest moment in his lifetime.
We have never been the same since the day on which the voice of God overwhelmed us at Sinai. The uniqueness of that event overwhelms us in this hour. It seems that something unprecedented is happening.
And in this I find a much-needed sense of tranquility.
The Jews are God’s stake in human history. I am witness to a supreme moment in that history.
That is my tranquility.
In the words of Abraham Joshua Heschel, “The gravest sin for a Jew is to forget what he represents”.
Let us take notice.
 The Earth Is the Lord’s: The Inner World of the Jew in Eastern Europe (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 1995 edition) p. 109.