July 24, 2024
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The 1973 Yom Kippur War was actually also the Sukkot War because it continued through Sukkot. A few years ago, a 40th anniversary of the war was held at Yeshivat Hakotel. The attendees – many of whom had fought in the war – remembered how, during the battles, they had sung the verses of Hallel. Some told of how they had lost friends in the mornings and then tried to rejoice and dance in the evenings, an attempt to recreate the simchat beit hashoeva of Sukkot. A holiday that is all about joy and nature had become a tense time of fears and bloodshed. It is interesting though, that even within the inferno, what bothered these religious soldiers were the halachic details of their situation. Hundreds of soldiers found themselves on Sukkot without the arba’a minim (four species), without holiday prayer arrangements, without Torah scrolls and, most importantly, without sukkot.

For example, then Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yeshayahu Hadari, told the following story: “It was Tuesday evening in the Suez Canal. The tension was tremendous. After two days of intense fighting and heavy casualties, Brigadier Avraham Baram briefed his soldiers before the next battle. He finished his brief by asking: ‘Is everything clear, does anyone have any questions?’ ‘Yes,’ said Yitzchak Tzfatman, a soldier from Yeshivat Hakotel. ‘Tomorrow night is the holiday of Sukkot. We would like you to get us some arba’a minim.’”

Rav Hadari continued: “After the war, this commander – who considered himself far from being Torah observant – said that if the earth had been shaking beneath his feet and swallowing him up, he would have been less surprised than from this strange request. The arba’a minim in the middle of a war?

“But Tzfatman insisted: ‘We must have the arba’a minim.’ And indeed, When Brigadier Baram submitted the request for equipment that evening, he added: ‘And send the arba’a minim too.’

“The next morning the arba’a minim arrived with the rest of the equipment.

“Tzfatman asked Baram to shake the lulav and say the beracha and explained to him that the fighters would merit from him doing this mitzvah. They would win the war. Along with the lulav, the aravot, hadassim and etrog, he also gave him a book written by IDF Chief-of-Staff Yigal Yadin.

“At the time, Yadin’s archaeological discovery of an ancient epistle had just been published. The fragment they had found described how during a battle during Sukkot, Bar Kochba insisted he had the arba’a minim. He had written a letter to a man named Yehuda Bar Menashe, informing him that he will send two of his own donkeys to the Ein Gedi area to be loaded with lulavim and etrogim for his entire camp.

“Tzfatman wanted to show Baram that even 2,000 years ago, during the war with the Romans, Bar Kochba also had the commandment of arba’a minim on his mind and was determined that his soldiers could observe the mitzvah.”


Sivan Rahav-Meir is the World Mizrachi scholar-in-residence and an Israeli journalist and lecturer.

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