Friday, August 04, 2006

Thank You for Your Protection

Received via e-mail:

Thank You for Your Protection

By Avraham Berkowitz - a Chabad Rabbi.

This morning as the sun rose over Jerusalem, my wife Leah gave birth to a beautiful baby girl at the Hadassah Medical center. A few hours later I drove to the southern Israeli city of Kiryat Malachi where my wife's parents live.

After packing several personal items that my wife will need for her hospital stay, I set out to drive back to Jerusalem. As I passed the central bus station in Kiryat Malachi, I saw an Israeli soldier waiting to get a ride. I rolled down the window and asked him where he needed to go. He said his base is near Jericho, but if I can take him to Jerusalem that would be great help.

I was in a particularly upbeat mood today--after all, we were blessed with our fourth child and third daughter--but the reality around me in the holy land is down and worrisome. Israel is being attacked by its neighbors and we are fighting a war to defend ourselves.

As fighter jets from the nearby air force base roared overhead, we cruised down the highway, and I get acquainted with Shachaf Raviv of Beer Sheva. His story gives a face to and direct association with the soldiers fighting for our land and people today.

Shachaf, 21 years old, is a medic in the IDF. He tells me that yesterday his senior officer sent him home for one night to spend with his family because today he and his unit will be leaving their base near Jericho and heading up north to the battlefield on the border of Lebanon to be part of a team of doctors and medics who will be giving critical first aid to the wounded soldiers and civilians.

His officer said he will not have any weekend breaks for a while and therefore sent him to bid farewell to his family. Shachaf told me of the feeling in his house last night, "no one slept, they surrounded me with love and care for hours. My father immigrated to Israel from Portugal in the late sixties and fought in the Yom Kippur War and my mother came from Tunisia to the promised land around the same time. They spoke of their dreams for themselves and our future.

"I am the third of four children and currently the only son in the army. My parents named me Shachaf which means "seagull" in Hebrew but this morning when my mother said goodbye she held me for a long time and was crying, she kept calling me Rachamim--the Jewish name they gave me at my Brit ceremony, which in Hebrew means 'mercy' and 'compassion.' She cried and said 'Rachamim today you will need G-d's compassion and protection--We all need G-d's rachamim."

As we continued to drive I encouraged Shachaf and spoke to him about the great role he has in protecting the land of Israel and the Jewish people in Israel and ultimately Jews all over the world.

At 12:00 PM I turned on the radio to the headline news. "Eight troops from Golani's 51st Battalion," the announcer said, "lost their lives on Wednesday during heavy fighting with Hezbollah terrorists in the southern Lebanese village of Bint Jbail. Another officer was killed in a clash at Maron a-Ras. Over twenty soldiers are wounded..."

Shachaf asked me to turn the radio off and give him spiritual inspiration instead before he heads to the front lines. I shared with him thoughts that I heard and learned from my Rebbe and teacher, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. During past conflicts in the Land of Israel, and during times of danger for the Jewish people, the Rebbe made practical suggestions of good deeds, mitzvot, that would elicit G-d's blessings and protection. I quoted him from the Torah that speaks of G-d protecting the land and we discussed the need for us to understand the deeper truths as to why we have our permanent homeland specifically in Israel, as promised to us in the Torah.

Shachaf was very grateful to hear how Jews and non Jews all over the world are praying for them and thinking of them every day now and wishing for their success and G-d's protection.

When we came to Jerusalem I opened my briefcase. I had a new Mezuzuah in a plastic case and I gave it to Shachaf. I told him, "I am giving this to you for protection, but you must return it to me when you come back and I will go to Beer Sheva and put it up in your bedroom."

Shachaf liked the idea. I said, "It says in the Torah 'Emissaries of a good deeds are not harmed.' You have a Mezuza--it will protect you." Shachaf put the mezuza in his front left pocket and promised me he would leave it there until he comes back, he will also tell the story of our meeting to his fellow medic soldiers and tell them they have added protection.

I then pulled out an envelope with $500 that a member of my community gave me yesterday to give to distressed Jews in the north, and asked Shachaf to be my personal emissary to distribute these funds to wounded soldiers and civilians. At first he refused to take it, but after we exchanged e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers he agreed and promised to report to me exactly how he gave the funds to people who really need it.

We only met an hour before, but we suddenly were deeply connected to each other. We embraced, the Mezuzah protruding from his pocket and his rifle strapped across his chest. I looked at him with tears in my eyes and said, "Rachamim, thank you for your protection"; and he looked me back in the eye while placing his hand over the mezuzah I gave him, and said "Avraham, thank you for your protection."

I am writing this article on my laptop while sitting in the room at Hadassah Hospital while my wife rests. I look at the beautiful face of our little newborn daughter and thank G-d for His blessings and pray for His protection for my child and all the rest of His children.

As the Jewish world will pray this Shabbat for the protection of the soldiers of Israel, I will have in mind Rachamim Raviv. Please think of him and thousands of more like him who need G-d's rachamim, mercy, and full protection.

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