Tuesday, May 3, 2022

The Sacrifices We Don't Think About

Someone forwarded to me a campaign to have people learn Daf Yomi in memory of fallen soldiers. It's a nice way of connecting people in new ways to this important day, despite the fact that according to classical Judaism, you can't actually donate the reward for your Torah study to someone else, just as you can't be nice on behalf of someone else. But if the goal is to think about the sacrifices made, then while having people note a random name before their studies is better than nothing, it's more valuable to spend time actually thinking about the sacrifices made.

Yom HaZikaron this year marks the lives of 24,068 people that were lost in defense of the Land of Israel since 1860, the year that the first Jewish settlers left the secure walls of Jerusalem to build new Jewish neighborhoods. There are an additional 4,216 civilian terror victims. 

The losses are agonizing, but there are even more sacrifices that people don't necessarily think about. While Yom HaZikaron officially (as far as I can ascertain) commemorates only those who lost their lives, there are of course many thousands of others who have been terribly injured, in many cases with their lives effectively destroyed, to a greater or lesser degree.

This year, it occurred to me that such tragic sacrifices are themselves even greater than we realize. When we think about the horrifically injured, we think about people who have lost limbs. But there is an entire additional category of people who suffered no physical injury whatsoever, and yet are genuine suffering victims.

I'm talking about those who psychologically suffer. Tel Aviv and numerous other cities in Israel are no longer having fireworks displays on Independence Day, due to concerns about military veterans who suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Unfortunately, many people don't understand the seriousness of this.

Recently I read a bestselling but very sad book, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk, a pioneer in the field of psychological trauma. It's a very painful read about how deep trauma, whether from abuse or military action, can cause the most terrible damage to a person. This can surface a while after combat, and can last for decades.

The tragedy of PTSD was brought home to me this morning, when a friend told me that he is collecting money for a local combat veteran. This man, in his sixties, was on the front lines in the 1982 Lebanon War. He was a hero who saved lives, and he was not physically injured. But he saw his friends die, and he was unable to continue his own life. He is incapable of working and every day is a struggle.

There's not much we can do for those who are no longer in this world, but there's a lot that we can do for the people who are still alive but who have suffered so much as a result of their heroic actions on our behalf.


  1. The way a lot of Israelis feel about having chareidim do daf yomi for them is about the same as I imagine you felt when the news story was published about Mormons baptising Holocaust victims posthumously to save their souls.

    1. In a country with a dozen and a half parties in the government and another twice as many that didn't make it in, there'll be lots of people feeling anything.

    2. Nu, and is it any better if someone donates a museum wing for them? Or plants a tree? The Fallen soldiers aren't coming back, no matter what we do. All we can do is perpetuate their memory. There are many vehicles through which this can be done; none is better than the next.

      Gersh. Pick.

  2. Replies
    1. He was born and raised in England and lives in Israel. Why?

  3. "despite the fact that according to classical Judaism, you can't actually donate the reward for your Torah study to someone else, just as you can't be nice on behalf of someone else"
    Please can you link your old posts discussing this point, I'd like to reread them, but not sure how to find them

  4. Hi Natan. How do you explain the business “arrangement” of zvulun and Issachar?

    1. Here's the meiri in Sota 21a

      וכלל הדברים תורה ויראת חטא ערבים זה בזה וכל אחד צריך לחבירו שהתורה מלמדתו המצוה ויראת חטא מונעתו מן העבירה וכל שלא למד תורה ומשתדל להיות אחרים לומדים על ידו חולק בשכר ולא עוד אלא שהתורה נקראת על שמו כמו שאמרו בשמעון אחי עזריה שמתוך שהיה אחיו מתפרנס ממנו בשעה שהיה לומד הוזכר אחיו בהלכותיו ונעשה הוא טפל לו וכן יוחנן דבי נשיאה על שם שהיה מתפרנס מן הנשיא ומי שאין לו מי שיסייעוהו אעפ"כ יטרח וילמד מתוך הדחק ומקומו מושכר לו ועל זו אמרו הלל מחייב את העניים וכל שהוטל עליו לסמכו ולעזרו ולא עשה אפילו היה חולק לו בנכסיו אחר כן אינו חולק בשכר דרך הערה אמרו הלל ושבנא אחי הלל עוסק באורייתא שבנא עבד עיסקא לסוף אמר ליה תא ניערוב וניפלוג יצתה בת קול ואמרה אם יתן איש את כל הון ביתו באהבה בוז יבוזו לו וצריך ללומד שיערים בעצמו על איזה צד למודו מתקיים אם שילמד מעט מעט אם בחזרה אחר חזרה וכן שישפיל עצמו וישים עצמו כמי שאינו לילך אצל קטן הימנו ושלא להקפיד על שום דבר כל שהוא יכול ללמוד ולעסוק בתורה והוא שאמרו דרך סמך והחכמה מאין תמצא:

      And here's shulchan aruch and Rama yoreh de'ah 246,1

      ומי שא"א לו ללמוד מפני שאינו יודע כלל ללמוד או מפני הטרדות שיש לו יספיק לאחרים הלומדים: הגה ותחשב לו כאילו לומד בעצמו (טור) ויכול אדם להתנות עם חבירו שהוא יעסוק בתורה והוא ימציא לו פרנסה ויחלוק עמו בשכר אבל אם כבר עסק בתורה אינו יכול למכור לו חלקו בשביל ממון שיתן לו (תא"ו נתיב ב' מש"ס דסוטה):

      Perhaps Rabbi Slifkin would admit that enabling someone else to learn by supporting them financially is different.

    2. These cases apply when Zevulin enables Yissachar to learn.

    3. Zevulun receives the reward for enabling Torah study. Not for Torah study.

  5. Super blog and a really important subject. Thank you. Hidden disabilities are serious.

  6. https://www.hyehudi.org/yom-hazikaron-is-rosh-hashana-right/


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