By Daniella Weiss, Staff Writer
Two weeks ago, The Eretz Chemda organization sponsored an event for students on Beren to gather together in tying Tzitzit for soldiers in Eretz Yisrael. It was an amazing opportunity for students to actively take part in helping our soldiers from afar. At the event, one of the campus Rebbetzins, Mrs. Michal Schonbrun, provided a background on the mitzvah of Tzitzit, including the halachot permitting ladies to engage in tying its knots (as well for doing so at night). Rabbi Azi Fine, one of the Beren campus Rabbis, led the students in the actual knot-tying and provided guides and instructions as to how many knots and wrap-arounds should be done. In the span of two hours, students at Beren spent the night tying dozens of Tzitzit in the Beit Midrash that will hopefully make their way to Israel to support those fighting to defend our country.
Making the Tzitzit was both an exciting and meaningful event for students to feel like they were contributing to the war effort even from far away. However, the contributions do not stop there. On the first night of Chanuka, students gathered together during candle lighting in the Brookdale lounge to finish all of Sefer Tehillim in the merit of our soldiers’ protection and safety. Other students have started an initiative to “Elevate your Elevator Ride” by writing short Divrei Torah each week for girls to read in the dorm elevators. It’s important that we do our part and feel connected to Klal Yisroel. We learn in Pirkei Avos 2:5 “Don’t separate from the community.” As Chanuka has just passed, that is the time that we celebrate our people’s survival of the Greeks’ attempts to erase Torah and mitzvot from our lives. The way we fight back is by clinging to the mitzvot even more and uniting as one people.
Rav Willig explained in his class at Stern that any nation that seeks to destroy the Jewish people is classified as Amalek. In Shemos 17:8-16, we read about how Amalek came and attacked the Jewish People. While the Jewish people fought, Moshe Rabbeinu sat on the mountain with Chur and Aaron holding up his hands. When Moshe’s hands were raised, the Jewish people were victorious. When his hands were lowered, they began to lose. Moshe didn’t have magical hands and neither Chur nor Aaron were fighting, so how could they, being far away from the battle, help the war effort? The Gemara in Rosh Hashana 29a, says “Did the hands of Moses make the war succeed or fail? Rather, the verse comes to tell you that as long as the Jewish people turned their eyes upward and subjected their hearts to their Father in Heaven, they prevailed, but if not, they fell.” The main focus was what Bnei Yisrael did with their hearts and how they changed as individuals. That is what won the war. Chur and Aaron assisted in the battle even from far away. This alone teaches us that we can support the war effort even from our campus in New York. In addition, we learn from here that the way to defeat Amalek is by directing our hearts to our Father in Heaven. We should help fight the battle in Israel with the power of our tefilla, Torah learning, and, most importantly, our chesed. Through chesed, we show Hashem that we understand that we are his children by acting as brothers and sisters. Then, hopefully, Hashem will respond as our loving Father and help us fight our war. When we participate in the war effort through making Tzitzit, saying tehillim, and increasing our chesed efforts, we are contributing like Moshe, Aaron and Chur to the war effort.
With Chanuka on our minds, we can learn a lesson from how the Greeks tried to force us not to keep Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, or Bris Mila. They fought against us spiritually, and attacked our very nature as Avdei Hashem (servants of G-d). The response on Chanuka is to learn more Torah and to cling tighter to the mitzvot. We know that “ki Ner mitzva vtorah ohr”, that a mitzva is a candle and Torah is light. mitzvot protect those who do them, as it says in Koheles 8:5,”one who does a mitzva won’t know any evil.” The mitzvot, like Tzitzit, should b’ezras Hashem (with G-d’s help) shield our soldiers in Eretz Yisrael. May we each light up our own lives by clinging to the light of Torah and mitzvot to be strong against all of our enemies, whether they be physical, like those currently facing us in Eretz Yisrael, or spiritual, like the negative, assimilatory influence of the world around us similar to that of the Greeks. Now is the time to be strong, and counter these dark times of war with the light of Torah, mitzvot, and unity.