Courage and Safety Through Faith and Trust in G-d
A Message to the Jewish Servicemen of the U.S. Armed Forces
from Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn,
זצוקללה״ה נבג״מ זי״ע
By the Grace of G-d
Fellow Jews in the armed forces, in the camps, at the fronts, on land, sea, and in the air!
Listen to these words and reflect upon them, and you will, with G-d's help, gain courage and enhance the safety of your life and health.
Everything is in G-d's Hands!
You must know, dear brethren, that the life and health of every man is in G-d's hands. G-d guides the destinies of every man, and whatever happens to him, in all places and at all times, is predestined by G-d.
If it is G-d's will that a person should live and be happy, that person will surely escape unscathed even under the most dangerous circumstances. Conversely, if it be divinely destined that a person be harmed or die, that person cannot escape his fate even in the safest of places and under the best human care.
This does not mean that one should be careless about one's safety. On the contrary, G-d has ordained that man should take care of himself, in the natural way, and, as our Torah tells us, no person should wantonly jeopardize his health or safety.
For although G-d can save, in the most miraculous and supernatural way, any person He desires so to save, very special merits are required for such divine favor. Therefore, any one placing oneself in danger for no good reason is foolhardy and deserving of the consequences, since, in the first place, he can never know whether he merits such 'special' divine favor; and in the second place, by the sin of exposing himself to danger without justification, he minimizes his chances of a miraculous rescue.
When, therefore, a person finds himself in danger, he should realize that it was divinely destined so, and that whatever the danger, G-d can save him from it.
Moreover, precisely the dangers to which the soldier is often exposed give him an opportunity to see G-d's wonders at every step, and to become more firmly convinced how complete and absolute is the Divine guidance by which G-d takes care of each living being.
Consequently, no man should lose heart under any circumstances. He should pray to G-d and trust Him to save his life and protect his health.
All For You!
You ought to derive much courage also from the knowledge that all your fellow Jews, men and women, young and old, all pray to G-d for your safety. Their prayers together with yours will surely be accepted.
Faith—the Basis of Confidence
The degree of hope and confidence possessed by a Jew depends upon the strength of his faith.
The very faithful Jew is always full of hope, and consequently he is calm and courageous under the most trying circumstances.
Faith is innately implanted in every Jew's heart. Even the Jew who has strayed from the Jewish path by reason of a faulty Jewish education and upbringing, even he retains a spark of faith deep in his heart. This spark of faith may lie dormant for a long time until the occasion arises when it is suddenly kindled, and then it might well turn into a blazing flame of passionate Jewish faith. The occasion might be the revelation of some sacred truth of the Torah hitherto unknown to him, or finding himself in surroundings conducive to a mood of heartfelt prayer, or the performance of some Mitzvah (precept), or any other occasion causing him to reflect upon his spiritual standard, and touching off that latent spark of faith in his heart. On such occasion he suddenly finds his intellect very clear and his heart overflowing with warmth, seeking expression in sincere prayer, earnest study of the Torah, careful observance of the Shabbos, selflessness and humility. These in turn strengthen his faith in G-d and in the Torah, and this faith breeds courage and confidence.
Jewish soldiers! Give your faith a chance to grow within you—and you will gain courage and happiness!
Some Spiritual Dangers
Let us now consider some of the spiritual dangers to which a Jewish soldier is frequently exposed, which we shall presently point out. However, like any other Jew who is given the choice of free will with regard to the observance of his religion, the soldier can and must likewise be master of his will, and, with G-d's help, may overcome all spiritual trials confronting him in the course of his military service.
Of the spiritual dangers to which the Jewish soldier is particularly vulnerable, we shall mention but two general causes:
1. Being removed from his home atmosphere and finding himself in a new environment, often lacking adequate guidance, may have an undesirable effect upon the standard of his religious conduct.
2. Being obliged, in the course of his army duties, to disregard, on occasion, some Jewish law, the Jewish soldier might form the false impression that he is automatically absolved from the fulfillment of any Jewish laws, even when and where there is no military necessity to preclude him from their observance.
Every Jewish soldier should bear in mind that a Jew must remain loyal to his faith under all circumstances and at all times, and that when he is sometimes obliged to transgress some Jewish law, he is not absolved from fulfilling it the next time.
You should remember, for instance, that you must not do any personal work on Shabbos, such as writing letters, sewing, etc.
On the other hand, army life gives you an opportunity to fulfill some precepts of our Torah to a degree rarely afforded to a civilian. To wit, the precept of "thou shalt love thy neighbor like thyself," which, according to our great master and sage, Hilel Hazaken [Hillel the Elder], is the very core of our Torah.
In this spirit of love and comradeship which pervades our armed forces, forged as it is by sharing common experiences, common dangers, and by fighting for a common cause and ideals, you have a truly unique opportunity of helping your comrades-at-arms both materially and spiritually, and especially to strengthen the faith and religious observance of your fellow Jewish soldiers.
Read this Message Frequently!
Jewish soldier, marine and flyer! Take out this message now and again, read it and reflect upon it. You will surely, with the help of G-d, derive great moral strength from it; and it will increase your faith and calm your heart.
And if a feeling of apprehension or fear of the future sometimes creeps into your heart, G-d forbid, remember what we have just told you. Read this message ever again, and let your religious consciousness get the better of you. It will be a source of renewed hope, renewed strength and fortitude to you.
We wish you a safe and speedy return home, every one of you with a distinguished service record, both as a Jew and as an American. May we all soon merit the fulfillment of the prophetic vision of true peace and tranquility, when "nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war any more" (Isa. 2:4), with the coming of the Complete Redemption through our Righteous Messiah.
Through immediate repentance to immediate Redemption!
The following Psalms have been suggested by the Lubavitcher Rabbi, Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn of Saintly Memory as particularly appropriate for recital by members of the armed forces. Whatever the mood—a direct, encouraging and appealing message will be found in these few sacred Psalms. Read them frequently and carefully.
The prayer of "SHEMA ISRAEL!"—'Hear, O Israel!' is the Divine call that brought courage and fortitude to our people throughout the ages. With the words upon your lips you may look danger squarely in the eye, and trust in G-d. Learn it by heart in the Hebrew text.
Hear, O Israel! the Lord our God, the Lord is One.
Blessed be the name, of the glory of His kingdom for ever and ever.
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart; and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand; and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thine house, and upon thy gates.
שְמַע יִשֽרָאַל יֽיָ אֱלהֵינוּ יְיָ אֶחָד׃
בָרוּך שֵם כּבוד מַלכותו