50 Years from the Yom Kippur War

What’s the proper greeting for Yom Kippur? Happy Yom Kippur?

Most holidays have official greetings; Happy Chanukah etc… Happy and KOSHER Passover… Happy and Healthy New Year… How about a merry Sukkot? Why can't we use merry? They stole merry.. 

Anyways, talking about holidays…
What is your favorite holiday?
Chanukah… Purim... Pesach?
Which miracle story fascinates you most?
Passover – The 10 plagues… The Splitting of the sea…
Chanukah – A small army against mighty... The Miracles of the candles… 
Purim – The fall of Haman…

The old Jewish joke goes, ‘They’re all the same story, they tried to kill us, G-D saved us, let’s eat!’
Let’s look at our history:
Our history begins with Abraham and Sarah, given a mission by G‑d to bring G‑dliness light to the world.
We are enslaved in Egypt and miraculously are freed.
We come to Sinai and are empowered to be a nation of priests. Bring holiness and G‑dliness to the world through doing the Mitzvot.
Then we go into Israel with great miracles.
We have the first temple… we go into exile.
Second temple… destroyed.
Over and over the biggest and strongest nations promise to wipe out the Jews and miraculously we survive.
The Chanukah story… the Purim story…
Great empires threaten to annihilate the Jews, and with great miracles we live on.

So let me ask you, if I could take you in a time machine to one of the great times of Jewish history, which would you want to be at? 
On Purim, the kids dress up like Haman or queen Esther, but what if we could be there to see the story unfold? Hide in the room as Esther is chosen queen of Persia, be a fly on the wall when Haman leads Mordechai around town, wouldn’t that be cool?
If I could be a Maccabee and witness the story of Chanukah…

Let me ask you the question differently: Which story do you question most, sounds too crazy?
Ever read the newspapers before Chanukah, the Jews celebrating the ancient tale of the oil, a fairy tale?
Or last year, a Rabbi was discussing that even in his view the Passover story never really happened, it’s still good to keep tradition.
Do you question if some of these stories really happened?

Here is the question so many people ask, why did G‑d stop doing miracles like he did in the bible?
When did he go out of the miracles business?
Did you ever say to yourself if I was present at Sinai or if I witnessed the miracles of Chanukah, I would know G‑d to be true. I would dedicate my life to Torah and Yiddishkeit, I would be faithful to every last mitzvah.

So my friends, I don’t have a time machine to go into the ancient past, but I do have a time machine to go a little bit back.
Let’s take a ride, hold on to your seats…
Let's take a ride back 75 years.
It is 1948, just a few years after the holocaust, Israel is formed.
After the UN vote, the Arabs declare war against the tiny new state. What chance do they have to survive? Militarily speaking, no chance.
But with Hashem’s help and great miracles they survive. And so it was in every stage of Israel’s development, against all odds, Israel flourishes into a leading economy, a flourishing society, a mighty army and a nation of success.

Now, I am not going to go into the politics and different views when it comes to Israel.
Should they give away territories for peace? What to do with the Palestinian refugees? And now the judicial reform. These are all real issues. Many have very different views, both in Israel and here in America. I respect these opinions and don’t want to go into them here today.

But what I do want to talk about is the miracles Israel has seen during these 75 years. Miracles of biblical proportions.
In 1967, Israel fought the 6 day war, and saw a great and miraculous victory.

Then came 1973.
 This is the reason I am talking about this today:
It was 50 years ago today…
Just about now, while millions of Jews were in shul, praying.
Streets are quiet.
Sirens started going off. Cars, buses, and trucks started rumbling, there was unusual noise on the streets for Yom Kippur.
War had broke out!
The Egyptians and the Syrians launched a joint attack on Israel.
Israel was not prepared and had not mobilized the reserves. They were caught off guard.

The initial attack was fierce and devastating.
The Egyptians came rolling into the Sinai desert.
No one had predicted the intensity of Egypt’s opening salvo. Within sixty seconds of their initial assault on October 6, 1973, the sands of the Sinai were littered with ten thousand Egyptian shells. Not since the construction of the Pyramids, had Egypt seen such a massive and well-executed enterprise.
The Egyptians had been preparing for their moment for six years. They were precise. Organized. Disciplined. Armed to the teeth with Soviet weapons.

Two things separated Israel and Egypt. The first was the Suez Canal. The second was the Bar-Lev line: an Israeli-built system of fortifications stretching 100 miles along the canal.
Most of Israel’s defense establishment thought the Bar-Lev line would hold for at least a day – enough time to slow down the Egyptians and mobilize Israeli reservists to repel the attack. 
The Egyptians blasted through the Bar Lev line in a few short hours, planting their flags on Israeli forts. 
The Israelis couldn’t counter-attack. And they couldn't defend themselves!
The Israeli tanks that rolled out to meet the Egyptians were met with  bullets, RPGs, and long-range anti-tank Sagger missiles. I have no idea what a Sagger missile is, by the way. But it sounds really scary. 
When the Israeli tanks swerved to avoid fire, they hit the land mines that the Egyptians had laid in their wake. It was a horrifying image. 
Tank, after tank, after tank, went up in flames killing, wounding and taking into captivity, hundreds of Israeli soldiers.

What about the air force?
The Soviets had supplied Egypt with surface-to-air missiles. At the time, it didn’t really matter how good a pilot you were, or how much you’d practiced, or how cleverly you maneuvered, when there was a guided missile coming towards you. 

In my mind, this is similar to when the Jews were in Egypt and then miraculously, finally left with the 10 plagues. And then the Egyptians came chasing after them. The Jews had Egyptians on one side and the sea on the other; their fate seemed sealed.
Same here, in 1967 the Egyptians were defeated but now they came back stronger than before and the fate of Israel and its people seemed doomed and sealed. 

But just like in the story in the Torah…
50 years ago, Israel defeated the Egyptians in the most miraculous way.
With few tanks and sheer determination of surviving soldiers who fought heroically.

I will share with you the story of Moshe Levy:
He was a Sergeant and the unit he led protected the Bucharest Bunker, the only bunker on the Suez Canal that ultimately withstood the Egyptian attack.
During that battle he lost his right arm. He is one of 40 people in all of Israel to have been awarded the Gibor Yisrael award, the highest award; for valor in combat. 

He and his unit of 98 soldiers dug themselves into a line in the ground and were told, “You are the last line. If the Egyptians  pass you they can march on to Tel Aviv.”
Soldiers were in deep fright. How are we ever going to stop the egyptians????
There was one religious guy in his whole unit, his name was Zandany. He pulled out a Tehillim, a book of psalms and he said, “With this we will stop them.”
98 soldiers, all not religious, put on their helmets. He read some psalms and they all said Amen.
At that moment every soldier felt, ‘I am not protecting Tel Aviv, I am protecting generations of Jews who came before me, all of Israel and those who come after me.’

The Rebbe had made the huge Tefillin campaign, saying that Tefillin has the power to instill fear in the enemy.
Everyone knew about this. Levy made a vow at that time that if he survives he will put on tefillin every day.

They fought like true heroes.
Zandany and most of the men were killed, but they held the line!

We celebrate Passover and eat Matzah, Maror, and Charoset, Matzo balls and hide afikomen for our freedom from Egypt.
50 years ago, the miracles of our victory over Egypt were no less.

These next words are from a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe:
The greatest miracle was that the Egyptians stopped their invasion for no good reason only a few miles east of the Canal. They had a huge army of 100,000 men armed to the teeth, to march forward in Sinai, where at that point in time there was no organized defense of any military consequence. This is something that cannot be explained in the natural order of things, except as it is written, in the Torah “The dread of the Jews fell upon them,”
Like in the story of Chanukah and the Maccabees, they were few against the many. Every Israeli soldier will tell you, there was a hidden hand directing the war. 
Of course we need boots on the ground and in the air, the soldiers are our heroes, giving their life to defend the holy land. But they recognized that there was a hand - the hand of G-D, leading them.

Arik Sharon famously led his unit in the most Chutzpadike, dangerous and courageous move across the Suez Canal.
His crossing to me is like the crossing of the Jews in the splitting of the sea.

And on the Syrian front:
Have you seen the movie Golda… yes? raise your hands.
I recommend it. It’s tough to watch but important to watch.
In the north, on the Golan, the Syrians overtook the Golan Heights with hundreds of tanks and were rolling straight into Israel. 
The IDF fought furiously to keep the Syrians from reaching the Kibbutzim of the Jordan Valley.

Moshe Dayan was the secretary of defense, a war hero of the 6 day war.
In a famous episode, Dayan found a moment to watch the battle going on, on the Golan. He was too far away to make out the tanks or the guns, but from his perch, overlooking the Hula Valley, he could see the columns of smoke, the flashes of light that signaled another missile, another bomb, another downed Israeli plane. He could hear the explosions that could have meant anything. Every sound, every flare, another potential casualty. Another boy that would never come home. 
He stood there until the tears blurred his vision. But nothing could stop what he saw and what he later said to Golda Meir, “The Third Temple is falling.”  Dayan said: “The end is here.”

But lo and behold…
As we read in the Torah portion this Shabbos, Parshas Ha’azinu:
אֵיכָ֞ה יִרְדֹּ֤ף אֶחָד֙ אֶ֔לֶף וּשְׁנַ֖יִם יָנִ֣יסוּ רְבָבָ֑ה אִם־לֹא֙ כִּֽי־צוּרָ֣ם מְכָרָ֔ם וַֽיהֹוָ֖ה הִסְגִּירָֽם:
How can one [person] pursue a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, unless their [Mighty] Rock has sold them out, and the Lord has given them over?

The men on the field continued fighting, even as tanks exploded around them, as shrapnel shredded their skin. 

Avigdor Kahalani, the general in the Golan front, tells about what his soldiers were up against. The Syrians crossed the border, more than 160 tanks. We had been like 10 tanks, 11. And then we were down to 3. They kept maneuvering the few tanks they had and in his words “with Nissim V’niflaot, with miracles and wonders the Syrians ultimately retreated.”

But listen to his words of what motivated his soldiers:
“The Israeli soldiers were motivated by the long arc of Jewish history. By an ancient connection to their homeland that even two thousand years of exile couldn’t sever. The modern state of Israel was only a quarter of a century old, but the Jewish people had been fighting for their survival ever since Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan in the 2nd millennium BCE.”

And you know what I think is the greatest miracle of all?

A verse that reads in Mishlei - Proverbs “Lev Melachim B’yad Hashem”
The heart of kings is in the hand of Hashem.

Israel was ultimately saved through one man, who many claimed he was an antisemite. Who was it? President Nixon.
In the Nixon tapes, you hear President Richard Nixon speaking disparagingly about Jews, many in his own cabinet.
And Henry Kissinger, the Jew, got the brunt of a lot of that.

But during the Yom Kippur war, it was he who initiated Operation Nickel Grass, an American airlift to replace all of Israel’s lost munitions. This was huge – planeload after planeload of supplies and ammunition, close to 600  missions were flown throughout the airlift, dropping over 22,000 tons of supplies.

The Israelis would hear the huge planes in the sky and this gave them hope.
And yes, we American Jews can be very proud of this. We stood strong with our brothers and sisters in Israel, and our government pulled through.
But to me this is a great miracle. Both Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the President wanted to conduct the airlift, but according to CIA Director Walters, “It was Nixon who gave it the greater sense of urgency. He said, ‘You get the stuff to Israel. Now. Now.’”

Friends, I can go on and on about the miracles:
The Gulf War in 1991.
The fall of communism.
Hundreds of thousands of Jews returning to the land of Israel.

One thing is true. We, you and I, witnessed, and are living through, miracles that have absolutely no explanation, other than that G-D is protecting his people. 
So how can people say, why doesn’t G‑d show miracles? Because when you are living through it, you don’t realize. In 100 years from now people will read about our time and they will say if I lived in 1973, if I lived in 2023, I would know, I saw the hand of G‑d and I would have dedicated myself to Torah and Mitzvot.

My friends, in the blessing of Shechyanu we say, Sheciyanu Vehigianu Lizman Hazeh.
You have brought us to this time? This time.
But what time is it? What time do we live in?
A time Jews dreamed of for thousands of years..
We returned to our homeland 

Now is it all good? No!
Israel has not known a day of peace with its neighbors.
This past year has seen more terrorist attacks than years before. 
Russia continues its war against Ukraine.

Has Moshiach come? No, we are in exile. I do not believe that the redemption came already.

We hope and pray for a time of peace. We truly do not want to fight with any of our neighbors.
We mourn the loss of life of every human being, Jew or Arab, who lost their life on both sides.
The Jewish prayers are filled with prayers for peace for all people and hopefully we can reach more and more peace agreements with our neighbors.
We pray for Moshiach, when peace will be everywhere in the world.
But that doesn’t take away from realizing the miracles we witnessed in our time.

You know the jokes told at any given time, tell the story of what is happening.
A good comedian has to be current.
Until the writers strike, the past few years have been great for the late night shows. Whether you love or hate Trump or Biden, they sure provide a lot of material for the late night shows.
That’s why rabbis are terrible at telling jokes, of course besides me. Because they are not current, we find them in Jewish joke books.
Anyways, in the beginning of the Yom Kippur war, the joke going around was, the last one out of Israel should please close the lights.
After the war the joke was, 2 Israeli generals meet for breakfast. What should we do today? Let's conquer Cairo… but what will we do after lunch?

You may ask, so where were all these miracles during the holocaust??? I don’t know.
I don’t claim to understand why G‑d sometimes allows evil people to do terrible things.
This is the story of Jewish history.
We celebrate Chanukah, Purim and Pesach, though we know that before and after there were terrible times for the Jews. And the same is in our times.

Let's talk about the blessed miraculous life we have here in America.
Throughout history, has there ever been a better time, a time with more blessing?
Life in general, whether we look at life expectancy, medicine, quality of life, is greater here than ever before.
And to practice Judaism freely…
Jews dreamed of a time to be able to practice Torah in freedom.
Today we have Kosher Chinese, Kosher Japanese, Kosher sushi, Kosher ham. Hundreds of top quality Kosher wines, not just Manischewitz anymore. You know what was the biggest event this year? They came out with pareve - non dairy Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, after a meat dinner, you can have delicious Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
On passover at the Mets game, they are selling Hot dogs, in buns, all kosher for passover.  Sorry if I'm making you hungry now.
You go into CVS before Chanukah, when it doesn't fall right near Christmas, and you think the whole America is Jewish.
And around the world, we have menorahs in places people never dreamed possible: the Red Square in Moscow, the Brandenburg Gate in Germany.

These are miracles Bizman Hazeh, in our times!

And the greatest miracle of all, is right here in this room:
The fact that we are all sitting here, in 2023, in Mamaroneck NY, in shul praying and fasting.
And our Chabad, right here, the community! You, my friends are the miracles!

Have we not all experienced at some point, either ourselves or have a loved one who experienced a Yom Kippur war miracle?
Maybe you may have felt despair, there is no way out. Things are so bad…
Whether physically, mentally, emotionally… Ourselves or our children or a relative
And G‑d suddenly turned things over and we could see light and hope again.
V’al nishecha shbechal yom imanu.
Take a moment to realize the miracles big or small in your own life.

And many of us may be currently going through a difficult time.
Let us know and remember that Hashem can and we must hope, pray and have faith that miracles will come our way.

We are going to say Yizkor. 
Today on this Yom Kippur we think about the 2,656 Israeli soldiers who lost their lives over the 21 days of the Yom Kippur war.

Yizkor is a time when we think about those who came before us..

The soldiers fighting were motivated by Yizkor, by remembering they are the miracle. They are part of the chain of Jewish history and this empowered and inspired them to bring the miracle to the next generation. Many gave their lives for this.

Today let us be inspired to recognize we are the miracle!

We have seen the greatness of Hashem. So if you said, if I were at the Chanukah story I would believe and do the Mitzvot, well if you open your eyes you will have seen miracles, no less great than Chanukah.

And it is everyone one in this room, no expectations, who is called upon to continue and be the miracle of the Jewish people. Here in America you are not called to hold a gun. You are not called to die for our people.  You are called upon to live for our people, to live like a yid!

In a famous episode Kissinger says to Golda Meir, “You know I am first an American, second the secretary of state, third a Jew.”
Golda responds to Henry “You know, here we read from right to left.”

Well how do you read? Right to left, or left to right? Are you first an American, second a doctor, and third a Jew or are you first a Jew?

You may have said, Mendel spoke on Rosh Hashanah all about Shabbos. Heh, it would take a miracle to get me to keep Shabbos. It would take miracles for me to come to shul. It will take a miracle for me to keep kosher.

Friends, you can be that miracle. Yes, you may shock yourself, but on this Yom Kippur, 50 years from the Yom Kippur war miracles,
Larry and Cindy and me, Mendel, we can be miracles of our people! 

Take another look at the Shabbos paper and the other papers.
Think what will be miraculous if I take into my life; tefillin or Shabbos candles, Torah learning, Tzedaka. 
So many Mitzvot to choose from.
Bring that miraculous Mitzvah into your life.

I want to conclude with a story from a group who traveled from San Antonio Texas to Israel.
They visited a courtyard in Jerusalem. The tour guide tells them about his  grandfather, a holocaust survivor. He had lived in that area, in Jerusalem but had to run away in 1948.
After the 6 day war, when Israel took over parts of Jerusalem, he returned.
While standing in that area, bells rang, kids running around. Tears were running down his face, “I am witnessing the prophecy of Jeremiah that ‘Od Yeshuvun’. The Jews will return to Jerusalem and little children will play in its streets.”
For the rest of the trip, the little Texan boy asked his mom to go back to the courtyard.
Why? Soon I will go back to Texas and life will go on as usual. But now, every day that I am in Israel, I want to be part of the unfolding miracles of the prophecies of Jewish history, “the little boys will dance in the streets of Jerusalem”
Friends, from Abraham to Isaac to Moses to Daniel to Jim and Mendel and Teddy. From Sara to Rivka and Miriam and queen Esther till Jennifer and Mindy, we are the miracle! 

Sheasa Nissim Lavoteinu Bayamim Haheim Bazman Hazeh.
G‑d did miracles for our father in their days and Bazman Hazeh, in our times!