Rabbi Weintraub deep inside Gaza, writing an article in memory of his student Shai Pizam hy”d who fell in Gaza on December 15th, 2023 (Photo: Yeshivat Har Etzion)

Hineni

BY RABBI BARUCH WEINTRAUB

After fighting for over a hundred days, the soldiers of Gedud 9215 were discharged. Rabbi Baruch Weintraub received a Medal of Honor on behalf of Gedud 9215 and was chosen to speak at a ceremony honoring the battalion. The following are a translated selection of Rav Baruch’s remarks.

 

What are we thinking and feeling today as we are released from service?

At least for me, and I believe many of you can identify with me, the answer relates to where I was this morning. Today is the 7th of Shevat, the yahrzeit of my father, Moshe Dov Weintraub z”l, and I spent the morning at my father’s grave. My father was born in Romania during the peak of the Second World War and the Shoah. His parents hid together with him in a bunker and ran from place to place so as not to be captured. At the age of 6, he made Aliyah, and later served in the Six-Day War in Sinai and in the Yom Kippur War in the Golan as a reserve soldier. After the Yom Kippur War, one of his relatives suggested that he leave the country. “There will always be wars here,” he said to my father. My father did not answer him with words but rather through action. He stayed here, and at the age of 39 – the same age that I am now in this war – he served in the first Lebanon War in 1982. 

I don’t think my father’s story is unusual; I am sure there are many here today with fathers or grandfathers whose personal history is similar. This is the answer to the question I began with. We feel the way our fathers and grandfathers did – that when our brothers ask, “Where are you?,” we will say “Hinenu, we are here.”

Our success, as ordinary soldiers, should not be measured only by military achievements. The first question recorded in Tanach is the question that Hashem asks Adam: “Ayeka, Where are you?” Adam did not know how to answer this question, and so he hid. The first person to properly answer this question is our forefather Avraham. The answer is: “Hineni, I am here.” Ever since Avraham, Am Yisrael’s answer has always been “Hineni.” From our bondage in Egypt to the Babylonian Exile, from the Spanish Inquisition to the Russian pogroms, and from the Holocaust in Europe to the wars that the Arabs rage against us here in the land of our forefathers. In every generation, there are people who stood up and said “We are here, we believe in the Jewish people’s mission to transform this world into a better place, and we are ready to sacrifice and risk our lives for this belief in good.” Everyone who is here in Gaza had the choice to not be here, yet chose to say “Hineni.” With that choice, we have joined a very long march, a very long journey, of people who believe in good.

Who knows, with Hashem’s help, perhaps the next letter in the megillah will be written by our children – not with tanks, fire, and smoke but rather with tools of building, growth, and love. “ה’ עֹז לְעַמּוֹ יִתֵּן, ה’ יְבָרֵךְ אֶת עַמּוֹ בַשָּׁלוֹם,  Hashem will give His people strength, Hashem will bless His people with peace.”

 

Rabbi Baruch Weintraub is a graduate of Yeshivat Har Etzion. He fulfilled his Hesder army duty as a tank soldier in the Armored Corps. After serving as the Assistant Head of the Torah MiTzion / Yeshiva University (YU) Beit Midrash in Toronto, Rav Baruch was appointed community rabbi of Mevaser Zion, Tel Mond. In 2018, Rav Baruch returned to Yeshivat Har Etzion to teach a shana bet shiur.

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