By Rabbi Yona Matusof
This year is the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. As millions prayed in synagogues, the Egyptian and Syrian armies surprised the Israelis with attacks on two fronts.
On the west bank of the Suez Canal, the Egyptians had 100,000 soldiers, 1,350 tanks, and 2,000 artillery pieces with heavy mortars. On the Israeli side, there were 450 soldiers with 44 artillery pieces. A meager 220 Israeli tanks were spread out along 100 miles of the Sinai desert.
In the Golan Heights, there were eight Syrian tanks for every Israeli tank. In addition to the major discrepancy between the number of Israeli and Syrian forces, the Syrians were also well-prepared with secondary defense lines.
The next three days were difficult ones for the Israelis. Gone was the Israeli pride that had been shared by all after the triumph of the Six Day War. Hundreds of soldiers were killed, and many were taken into captivity. The Arab nations rejoiced—the Israeli army was proven not to be invincible after all. Over the following twelve days, the Israelis made advances, but only with great sacrifices. By the time the war ended with Israel declaring a military victory, they had lost 2,527 soldiers. The wounded numbered 7,251, and an additional 440 soldiers were in captivity.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson OBM, wrote, "[...] there were ample miracles, and quite obvious ones, in this war." The overall miracle, which has now been revealed, although not overly publicized, is the survival after the first few days of the war, when even Washington was seriously concerned whether the Israeli army could halt the tremendous onslaught of the first attack. Slowly and gradually, some details are now being revealed also in the Israeli press as to how serious the danger was in those early days of the war.
The greatest miracle was that the Egyptians stopped their invasion for no good reason, only a few miles east of the Canal. The obvious military strategy would have been to leave a few fortified positions in the rear and, with the 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, "The dread of the Jews fell upon them," in the face of their intelligence reports about the complete unpreparedness of the Jews in Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel) at that time."1
In another correspondence, the Rebbe explains -" There is a tendency sometimes to determine such endeavors on the basis of quantitative rather than qualitative criteria: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, says G-d," to the Jewish people and Jewish community (even to the Jew as an individual). Special Divine capacities ("My spirit") have been given to carry out their task in the fullest measure. For, where Jews are concerned, their physical powers are linked with, and subordinated to, spiritual powers, which are infinite […] Jews must not ignore their task, nor underestimate their capacities, however limited their material powers may be, inasmuch as a Jew's material resources, as already noted, are bound up with the spiritual, and in the spiritual realm, there are no limitations also during the time of exile."
In plain words: Wherever Jews find themselves, in the diaspora or in the Land of Israel, even a single Jew in a remote corner of the earth — it behooves every Jew and Jewish community to remember that we are all part of the whole Jewish people and representatives of the entire Jewish people, the one people ever since the Torah was given at Mount Sinai and until the end of times.
May G-d grant that we should all merit soon to see the fulfillment of the Divine promise that "all the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d," when, as a matter of course, "Nation will not lift up a sword unto nation." With best wishes from Faygie, me, and all of us at Chabad for a good year, materially and spiritually. Good Yom Tov.
Rabbi Yona Matusof is the Director of Chabad of Madison. Born in Casablanca, Morocco, and studied in Paris, France. After completing his studies at Rabbinical College in New York, where he was ordained, he moved with his wife, Faygie, to Madison in 1980 as Rabbi of Chabad (Lubavitch) of Madison, serving the Madison and Dane County Jewish Community.