Have You Ever Seen a Soldier Check His Phone Mid-Battle?

Article by Rabbi Gershon Avtzon: If we truly believe the Rebbe’s words, bochurim have a critical role in the ongoing war. They must focus and not get distracted by news and updates.

By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon – Cincinnati, Ohio

I was once at a farbrengen and heard the following story which made a lasting impact on my young heart and soul. It seemed that a certain Rabbi (I heard later that it could have been Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau) was in Yechidus by the Rebbe and was bemoaning the current state of affairs in Klal Yisrael. He then asked the Rebbe “What will be the future?”. The Rebbe responded (and I paraphrase): One may ask questions, but the main question to ask is “What can we do about changing the future”?

Being open and transparent: It is very difficult to formulate thoughts and write at this time. Yet, at the same time, we all need to strengthen ourselves and others in the “call to action” to change the outcome for the future. My uncle, Rabbi Sholom Avtzon, once spoke at a farbrengen and explained the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat: A thermometer measures the temperature and informs us how hot or cold it is, while a thermostat sets and makes the temperature in the room according to its setting. In other words, a thermometer adapts to its surroundings, while a thermostat creates its environment.

As Yidden who are educated with the Hashkafas Hatorah, and especially chassidim that merited to be educated with the Rebbe’s Hashkafa and guidance, we are in a position to make a change and a difference and not just be an observer and an outsider. 

[An important side point: The world is talking that this abhorrent, tragic and completely non-understood massacre took place right after we marked 50 years of the Yom Kippur War. As someone who was not alive during the Yom Kippur War, and was not so aware of the answers, sichos and approach that the Rebbe spoke then, it felt like “makdim refuah lemaka” as for a few weeks before Simchas Torah, all the above-material was printed (and videos shown) and it gave me the proper hashkafa and approach – which I able to share on tahalucha in Flatbush – of how to deal with the current situation.]

With the above in mind, I would like to “speak” to all Talmidei HaYeshiva (those in Eretz Yisrael and those who are in Yeshivos all over the world): It is only normal, and in a certain way stabilizing and comforting, to be up to date on the news of Eretz Yisroel. Yet, knowing the news only allows us to process the current situation but it does not empower us to change the outcome. 

What can we do to change the outcome? In addition to the general strengthening of our bitachon in Hashem and internalizing that our entire existence and success is because we are the “eyeball of Hashem”, there is something else:

It is no secret that there is a constant debate about Talmidei HaYeshiva actively serving in the IDF. There is a normal question (and complaint) by the secular public as to why do their children have to sacrifice their lives to protect Klal Yisrael and the Talmidei HaYeshiva get to pursue their learning. Our approach and response is that we are fighting to protect Klal Yisrael and we do that through our Torah learning.

With this perspective, ask yourself the following two questions:  1) Do you really believe that your dedicated learning brings protection to Klal Yisroel and that you are in essence a soldier on the front lines? 2) Do you think that you would ever see a soldier checking the news for news updates in the middle of an active battle? 

If your answers are what I think they are (“Yes” to the first and “NO” to the second) it is imperative that we do not desert our fellow soldiers in the moment of truth and time of need. While we are certain that Hashem is with every soldier, and everything that is going on is BHashgacha Pratis, this belief should never diminish our feelings of moral responsibility towards our fellow Yidden and soldiers. We, those who have the zechus to spend our day protecting Klal Yisroel through our learning, must stand strong and vigilant in our posts. We have been empowered to make a difference and actually change the outcome and we have no allowance to relinquish that responsibility.

In practical terms: When you are tempted to spend time following the latest war development, and joining a conversation in which every move, maneuver, and airstrike is dissected and analyzed – think of the soldier who is relying on your learning for his protection. I would encourage you – at least for the duration of the war – to trade in your smartphones (as the constant messages and updates will subtract your attention and focus from your real mission) and upgrade to a talk/text only phone. This decision will enable you to focus on your current life-saving mission.  It is self-understood that using your Bein-Hasedarim for Mivtzoim etc is an integral part of the mission as well.

Remember: You can really change the outcome!

Davening for the safety and security of Klal Yisroel and for the Hisgalus of Melech Hamoshiach!

Please feel free to share your thoughts on the above in the comments section or by sending me a personal email: [email protected]

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