Dear Friends,

This week, in honor of my father’s first yahrtzeit, Chani and I traveled to Israel to spend the day together with my family. We are currently visiting with family and touring our beautiful land. Sadly, the roads are clear of traffic, and all the tourist attractions remain eerily empty.

On Wednesday night, we strolled the Tel Aviv promenade. Usually a hub of humanity and activity, instead there were empty shops and bars, and plenty of available parking spots. We also visited the “Mini Israel” exhibit—a miniature park located near Latrun. We were told that 2,000 children in summer camps across the country were scheduled to see this beautiful attraction, but alas, all camps were closed, and the museum stood empty. The generally bustling Western Wall (Kotel) plaza is strangely quiet.

Why? Our neighbors are shooting rockets morning, noon and evening. People are afraid to leave their homes with their children. Not only in the south, but in Tel Aviv! Our cousins in Kiryat Malachi are sleeping in bunkers and safe rooms. The chupah of our cousins’ wedding in Kfar Chabad (a few miles south of Tel Aviv) was “graced” with a clear view of Israel’s “Iron Dome” protective military system intercepting a rocket from Gaza. The situation is terrifying.

Thank G‑d! He has endowed our people with the wisdom and technological know-how to develop the “Iron Dome.” It is doing wonders intercepting many of the projectiles headed towards populated areas. Even more miraculous, hundreds of rockets are falling into open, deserted areas where few civilian populations are clustered, keeping damage minimal.

Touring “Mini Israel,” we couldn’t even find someone to take a photo of the two of us.
Touring “Mini Israel,” we couldn’t even find someone to take a photo of the two of us.

I am writing on the 12th day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz. On this day in the year 1927 the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, was released from Soviet imprisonment. For years, the Rebbe defied the authorities who were bent on destroying every last vestige of Judaism and valiantly set up an underground Jewish infrastructure: Jewish schools, synagogues and various community organizations. In an attempt to break this religious network, the Communist forces arrested the Rebbe, subjecting him to many hours of torture and interrogation.

During the ordeal, one of the interrogators pointed a pistol at the Rebbe and said: “This toy has made many strong men change their ways.” The Rebbe replied: “This toy intimidates one who has two G‑ds and one world. I have one G‑d and two worlds.”

“The Soul of Our Nation”

When one has “one world”—i.e., he sees himself as the epicenter of reality—then his fundamental principles can be swayed based on the circumstances. Physical survival is the priority, and the “toy” can be very persuasive. However, when one has only “one G‑d”—i.e., the epicenter of his reality is the ultimate and unswerving truth—then all the “toys” in the world cannot sway him.

The current war is essentially a psychological one. Our enemies know that they are no match militarily. They therefore wage a war of terror. With various “toys,” they try to disrupt our peaceful way of life and cast us under the shadow of fear and uncertainty. They wish to intimidate the soul of our nation.

The redemption of the Previous Rebbe on 12 Tammuz 1927 indicates that commitment to life and peace will always prevail over the forces of darkness and terror. As our brothers and sisters scramble to the bunkers day and night, we in the Diaspora must do our part in ensuring their protection and the ultimate victory. We must add in prayer and do more mitzvot. This is what we are doing here in Israel.

I beseech you: Commit yourselves to do an extra mitzvah in connection with Shabbat. Women, light Shabbat candles on Friday afternoon. Men, recite the kiddush, and encourage a friend to do the same.

We are one nation, with one land, united by one Torah. May we merit to be rid of all threats and disturbances, and experience a blessed and calm Shabbat.

We had gone to Israel to mark my father’s first yahrtzeit.
We had gone to Israel to mark my father’s first yahrtzeit.