The Only Source

These are days of unbridled joy and great excitement, as Jews around the world make final preparations to leave the comfort of their homes and enter a sukkah.

While the walls of a sukkah may be made of virtually any sturdy material that doesn’t have an offensive odor, only specific materials may be used for the s’chach. There are various customs, but according to halachah, one should be able to see the stars through it, and a heavy rain should be able to penetrate it.

This is one of the focal points of the Yom Tov. We leave what in this mundane and physical world is perceived as a “permanent dwelling” and move into a “temporary” one. By doing so we are recognizing that, in fact, this physical world is really a “temporary dwelling.” By moving into a sukkah open to the elements, and from which one can see the sky, we are dedicating ourselves to looking upwards towards our Father in Shamayim as our only source of security and protection.

One of the greatest perils we face as a people is the fallacy of kochi v’otzem yadi. This illusion is what has repeatedly brought us into danger and devastation. Only when we fully recognize the feebleness and mortality of man and the infinite greatness of our Creator can we find security and protection.

In this issue [A section, pages 6-28], we present a comprehensive and mesmerizing account of a chapter in our history that so tragically describes how the myth of kochi v’otzem yadi was shattered in a conflict that took the lives of thousands of Israeli soldiers. After 40 years, military censors have agreed to lift the veil that has surrounded the Yom Kippur War for the past four decades. They have released some important documents, and finally allowed the public to learn about it. Hamodia’s veteran military correspondent, Yisrael Katzover (A. Pe’er), shares with our readers some of the material he gathered during those fateful days in 1973 as well as the latest released information.

Blinded by arrogance, members of the military and political leadership of Israel were convinced that they were invincible, that the Arab countries, still smarting from the miraculous Israeli victories in the Six-Day War, would not attack Israel, and in the unlikely scenario that they would, their intelligence sources would ensure that Israel would know about it in time to properly prepare. Shortly before the Yom Kippur War broke out, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan pompously declared: “In my opinion, we won’t see war in the next decade.”

As described at length in this issue, newly released information confirms that military intelligence either played down or totally ignored all information indicating a war was about to break out. Infatuated by their military might, and obsessed by concerns over their personal prestige, in the end the upper military echelons were caught by surprise.

“Where is the air force?” the commanders of the outnumbered and outflanked Israeli forces called out, again and again. “Where are the planes we counted on to help us, to bomb the bridges and the advancing tanks, to slow the ground forces?”

But the planes and tanks were nowhere to be seen. The Israeli leaders had relied solely on armaments, and their own might and capabilities, and sowed a path of utter destruction.

Elsewhere in this issue, we find the precise opposite of this approach.

In Kinyan magazine, Hamodia is privileged to present an exclusive conversation with one of the greatest Torah luminaries of our time, Maran Hagaon Harav Ovadia Yosef, shlita.

The revered leader of Sephardic Jewry has dedicated his life solely to the service of Hashem and His Torah, and in the process he has merited to change the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews and “restore the glorious crown of Torah” to a significant portion of Am Yisrael. When others destroyed, he built. When hundreds of thousands of Sephardic Jews fled Arab lands and arrived in Eretz Yisrael in the 1950s, the Zionist organizations, with the active participation of the Israeli government, did all they could to rip Sephardic Jewry away from their minhagim and religious way of life. For thousands of years they had faithfully adhered to their magnificent mesorah, and now every effort was made to turn them into a “new Jew.” We can’t fathom the mesirus nefesh it took at the time for Harav Ovadia Yosef to become the gaon he became, and l’hachzir Torah l’yashnah, to return the crown of Sephardic Jewry to its previous brilliance.

His brilliance in Torah and his clarity in psak have made him a living legend, a beacon of inspiration for all of Torah Jewry.

Harav Yosef is famed for his phenomenal memory and his knowledge of all parts of the Torah. But when asked in the interview how one can retain what one learns, he makes no mention of having a good memory or sharp intellect.

“The best and healthiest segulah for remembering one’s learning is diligence and delving into the learning. Review your studies over and over; that is the only way to remember,” he declares. He also stresses the crucial importance of utilizing time, relating how in his youth, on Friday nights during the time it took for everyone to get organized and sit down before Kiddush, he had a Gemara in his hand. “[I would] finish an amud or two, as much as was possible. I finished entire Gemaros during this time.

“And the main thing is to learn with joy,” Harav Yosef adds. “Pekudei Hashem yesharim mesamchei lev. If a person is worried and nervous, he will not be able to delve into the matter and understand the practical halachah.”

During these days of joy, may we merit the wisdom to inculcate ourselves and our children with proper emunah and bitachon and dedicate our very being to a spiritual calling, for only then will we find true happiness.

Let us hearken to the message of the sukkah, and commit ourselves to looking upwards towards our Father in Shamayim as our only source of security and protection.

Through the s’chach, we can see the light of the stars. In this issue, we read about a time of darkness but also about a great light. May we all merit a joyful and uplifting Yom Tov.