June 17, 2024
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Tefillah Is Our Personal ‘Iron Dome’

Last month, Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Eretz Yisrael attempting to kill civilians—men, women and children. Most of the rockets targeting populated areas were shot down by the Iron Dome defense system. Still, Iron Dome was at times overwhelmed by huge simultaneous barrages of rockets. With Hashem’s help, there were only a small number of deaths compared to the huge number of rockets fired.

When klal Yisrael left Mitzrayim, until shortly before they entered Eretz Yisrael, they had a foolproof “Iron Dome.” The Clouds of Glory covering the Jewish nation protected them from any harm. They also served as a climate control system to keep the temperature surrounding Bnei Yisrael comfortable, even in the burning heat of the desert days and the bitter cold of the desert nights.

In the last year of their desert sojourn, however, Aharon HaKohen passed away and the Clouds of Glory surrounding klal Yisrael dissipated. It was in the merit of Aharon HaKohen that we had the clouds, and our enemies quickly noticed the change and launched a fierce attack. Indeed, the Gemara notes they were attacked specifically then because they saw that the Clouds of Glory had vanished. This is indicated in the pasuk that mentions Aharon HaKohen passing: “Vayiru kol ha’eidah ki gavah Aharon”—all the nations saw that Aharon had died. The Gemara says the word “vayiru” can be read as “viyara’u”—the nation was now exposed and visible to all, due to the dissipation of the Clouds of Glory.

The Midrash notes that although the pasuk says that the Canaanite king of Arad saw that the Jews traveled by “the way of the spies and he attacked Israel,” it was really the king of Amalek who disguised his people as Canaanites when they attacked. Amalek had attacked Bnei Yisrael once before after they passed through the Splitting of the Sea. Then, we were protected by the Clouds of Glory—a kind of “force field Iron Dome,” and Amalek was only able to reach the stragglers, the sinners who were banished from the protection of the clouds. Now, with the clouds removed, Amalek saw it was a fortuitous time to attack klal Yisrael.

Amalek attacked derech ha’asarim, by the way of the spies. Rashi says this is the southern side, the direction the meraglim (spies) used to enter Eretz Yisrael. Bnei Yisrael might still have had the merits needed for Divine protection despite the clouds being gone, but Chazal tell us that Amalek had the ability to attack the Jewish nation because of the sin of the meraglim. That sin caused us to be vulnerable to attack. This teaches a powerful lesson: when we perform mitzvos we build fortresses that protect us. In contrast, our aveiros (sins) create minefields that can harm us.

Why did Amalek dress his soldiers like Canaanim? The Midrash explains that Amalek knew the Bnei Yisrael would daven to Hashem to be saved. Amalek learned his lesson about the power of tefillah (prayer) from his first battle against Bnei Yisrael, where Moshe stood on top of a mountain flanked by Aharon and Chur, with his hands raised to heaven, spurring the Bnei Yisrael to daven to the Almighty and thereby defeat Amalek. Now Amalek was trying to sabotage the prayer of the Jewish nation. They thought their disguise would lead to a prayer for protection against someone else so they could be victorious. They knew Hashem fulfilled specific requests.

However, the Jews heard the opposing soldiers speaking the language of Amalek. It became unclear who they really were, so the people davened to be saved from their attackers in general, without specifying who that might be.

Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk adds a twist to this Gemara. Bnei Yisrael already had a promise from Hashem that they would defeat the Canaanites so they wouldn’t need to daven to prevent an attack from them. Therefore, Amalek played a trick by dressing up like the locals so Bnei Yisrael wouldn’t bother davening. True to form, Amalek was clever, but their spoken words heard by Bnei Yisrael were their undoing.

In our own lives, we also have our Iron Dome—tefillah. Tefillah is a powerful force that is available to us at all times. This “system” is always active, always at the ready. We just need to lift our eyes toward heaven and ask for the specific help we need.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara-learning program. PTI has attracted adult Jews of all ages from all over northern New Jersey for its learning programs. Fees are not charged but any contributions are always welcome. Beyond PTI, Rabbi Bodenheim conducts a weekly beis midrash program with chavrusa learning in Livingston plus a monthly group in West Caldwell. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit pti.shulcloud.com.

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