• Rabbi Yitzchak Mizrahi

Matot – Pray Baby, Pray!


The stories coming out of the war zone, those areas under threat of constant rocket fire, which include almost all parts of Israel, are reminiscent of the Gulf war in 1991. 39 Scud missiles were shot out of Iraq with an astoundingly low number of casualties. This was long before Israel had a proper missile defense system. They used patriot missiles to try and intercept the scuds, which was better than nothing but hardly reliable to provide adequate protection.

A rocket fell on a petrol station in Ashdod, causing a huge fire in a tank containing 35,000 liters of petrol. Why the tank did not explode, causing immeasurable harm, is beyond us. There was an additional tank of petrol underground, containing 100,000 liters of petrol.

In Beer Sheva a rocket fell on a soccer field. A large group of kids had left the field minutes earlier.

A missile from the Iron Dome fell 30 centimeters from six gas cylinders. For some inexplicable reason the missile did not explode.

People were about to enter a home kitchen in the Eshkol region when a rocket fell directly on the roof, creating a huge hole in the kitchen.

In Shaar Hanegev a few girls decided to go out and get some fresh air. As soon as they left the room a rocket destroyed it.

And the open areas. For every rocket that fell, or would have fallen, in a residential area at least four fell in open areas. How many open areas does our tiny country have? Who can explain the mysterious inaccuracy of so many hundreds of rockets aimed specifically at populated areas?

These are just a few examples of the constant miracles at play in the Holy Land.

I was hoping our officers on the ground could make the same report as the officers in the battle of Midian. Until this week there were no fatalities directly resulting from the hundreds and hundreds of rockets. Alas, as of this week that is no longer true. Nevertheless, each and every rocket that falls without exacting loss of human life remains an expression of Divine Providence and of God’s love for us.

The Torah relates that each tribe must contribute a thousand soldiers for the war against Midian. “A thousand from a tribe, a thousand from a tribe, for all the tribes of Israel shall you send to the legion.” (Numbers 31:4)

The commentators note that while the total number of troops is recorded in the Torah as 12,000, we cannot ignore the terminology used in the quoted verse, indicating that each tribe in fact sent two thousand – one thousand and another thousand.

The commentators explain that each tribe did in fact send two thousand, but only one thousand of them went to battle. The additional thousand from each tribe provided support to the forces on the front line in the form of prayer. They provided air power to support the ground troops.

We are not there. We cannot physically assist in the defense of our nation in Israel. We are not among the 12,000 soldiers on the ground, but we can provide air support, protecting our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, who are actually in the line of fire. When we stand here and pray for their safety and success we contribute to the effort of our defense forces.

You better believe this.

A small town was suffering from drought and the local pastor called his congregation to pray at the church for rain. All of the townspeople assembled that afternoon to raise their voices in prayer. The pastor mounted the podium and told his constituents they might as well go home. He told them there would be no rain today and their prayers were futile. “Where are your umbrellas?” he thundered. “If you believed that we could make a difference through prayer you would have had the foresight to bring raincoats and umbrellas so you could stay dry on your trip home!”

We must believe in the power of prayer. It has done us well for millennia and it will continue to be our weapon of choice. It is the tradition that has passed down to us from our ancestor. So pray, baby, pray.

©2020 by Wellington Jewish Community Centre.