Operation Torah Shield II: SOY Forum Investigates Gulf Crisis (Vol. 56, Issue 9)
Just as “Operation Torah Shield” hype had begun to dissipate, SOY put forth a sequel: “Operation Torah Shield II-Erev Iyun”. The program, held Wednesday night, February 13th in the Main Beit Medrash, attempted to place the Gulf crisis in a Torah and Jewish perspective. Over 350students and numerous Rebbeim attended the forum.
SOY President Lawrence Burian began the evening by declaring that, ”Tonight, by everyone gathering together for this program, we're going to make a statement as to what brings YU together, what brings us together in the Beis Medrash, and what creates a certain unity.” The programs three featured speakers were Rabbi Norman Lamm, Rabbi Zevulun Charlop, and Rabbi Meir Goldvicht. Each shed new light on the Gulf war and its meaning for the Jewish people, and students found the entire program inspiring. The program concluded with an appeal by Burian for students to give to the Jewish Survival Fund, and a Ma’ariv Minyan attended by more than 400 people.
Burian explained that the overall objective for the program was to mitigate the general feelings of helplessness and uncertainty being experienced by students while the threat on Israel continues. A program was necessary to channel these uneasy feelings into a more positive outlook and frame of mind.
Assembling a large portion of the student body under one roof to pray and hear words of Torah together, was also a major objective. Organizers felt one large minyan at such a critical time would make it clear that we are one Jewish people. Many described the sight and sound of over 400 people praying together at YU as an experience they will not quickly forget.
A further goal for this program was an attempt to replace the secular perspective on the crisis with Torah and Jewish views. “So much of our thinking and outlook on the Gulf stem from figures such as Brokaw, Jennings, or Rather,” complained Burian. “Tonight we wanted to offer the students two hours of Jewish thought and views of the war.”
Rav Charlop, Director of MYP, was the evening's first speaker. He related a frightful story regarding his Italian barber. The barber, a friend of Rav Charlop for over twenty years suddenly snapped that, “It's because of your people (the Jews in Israel) that our young men are going to have to die.”
“This is when I wondered where America was heading”, lamented Rav Charlop. Rav Charlop then proceeded to recite numerous battles found in the Bible and the various Jewish reactions and approaches to them. Rav Charlop emphasized that one of the lessons we can learn from these battles is that the Jews acknowledged God's major role in the outcome of battles. This shouldn't change now, he said.
“Now our learning has a double token,” concluded Rav Charlop. “Firstly for this country, but more importantly for Am Yisroel and Eretz Yisroel. This is what learning is all about.”
Rav Goldwicht, a visiting rebbi from Israel, concentrated on the importance of prayer and faith. “Our connection to our Forefathers is the three prayers they compiled and ordained for us,” said Rav Goldwicht, speaking in Hebrew. “Only through prayer can we enter the world to come. Now more than ever do we need to concentrate to our fullest potential while praying.” Rav Goldwicht also stressed the importance of faith as demonstrated through the bible and proven throughout history. He warned the crowd not to follow in the path of the doubtful spies, but rather to remain in the right path, and have faith in God during this unfortunate crisis. Obviously very sensitive to Israel’s situation, Rav Goldwicht spoke with fervor and emotion, pleading with students to take these current events seriously. “God is turning the world up-side-down, so we too must turn ourselves up-side-down,” he shouted. “God forbid we should go about business as usual!!”
President and Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Lamm delivered a warm, personable speech to his students. Rabbi Lamm began with a philosophical question on the crisis as to, “What part is played by physical power and what part is played by spiritual exertion.” He then went on to answer the question from several verses proving that fear of God must always be integrated with the physical power. “It is not true that saying Psalms alone will save us. It is not true that we can be saved without saying Psalms. It is true that there has to be both sides of the equation.”
Rabbi Lamm recounted that in 1948, during Israel's war of independence, YU students responded with concrete acts. “We are following the same tradition as forty three years ago, but now we are not called upon the physical side of the equation but rather to exercise our spiritual strength. That was the purpose of our trip (Operation Torah Shield), and that is the purpose for tonight.”