As mentioned before, my son's yeshiva is based only 3 km from the Lebanese border. Being so, he was not able to return since the beginning of the war, because it's now a closed military zone. Last week, during the lull in the fighting, his Rosh Yeshiva received permission to drive there and pick up their things that we left behind, and my son was one of four that was selected to join him.
He told me that it's completely different than how it used to look. What used to be a quiet village, is now flooded with soldiers, tanks and APCs. The rooms and beds of the yeshiva now serve as housing for the soldiers and the courtyard is where the weaponry are kept.
When they arrived, they offered to put on tefillin (which they brought with for this reason) to any soldier that wanted, and most in the area took the opportunity. Afterwards, the soldiers gave them a tour of the immediate area and what they were seeing. He got to go inside an APC, hold fully loaded weapons, try on different helmets, and (my favourite) use night-vision goggles. None of this could be photographed of course, since it was completely against the law (anything with an ID number on it cannot be photographed or held by a civilian). However, one soldier sent me photos of him with a generic helmet in the driver's seat of an unmarked truck (and he received a pair of army socks as a gift, since they are the only things that don't have numbers).
He asked one of the soldiers what they have been doing, since for them, it's a stalemate. He pointed to a group of soldiers and said, "You see them? They'll be going out with their drone for a two-week mission later tonight." So, he got a small taste of a soldiers life, and with that, appreciates their sacrifice even more.
I always knew my kids would have a completely different upbringing than I did, but to this extent?
The Nesivos Shalom writes that this Shabbos is a very special Shabbos, for it contains two different aspects of emunah, faith.
The first aspect is the basis of faith, that there is Hashem and He created and runs the world. The second aspect is that the Jewish nation was chosen by Hashem and therefore has a personal relationship with him. Both of these aspects are found at the end of Shema which we say twice a day, "I, Hashem Your G-d, who brought you out of Egypt."
"I, Hashem," is the first aspect. There is Hashem, and only Hashem, in this world.
"Hashem Your G-d," is the second aspect. He is OUR G-d who took US out of Egypt, and not some godlike figure that is playing a giant game of "Sim City" with us (20 points, if you understood that). And even when we were in the spiritual depths of Egypt, Hashem still kept an interest in us and saved us.
On Shabbos, at Kiddush, we say over how Hashem created the world in six days and rested on Shabbos. This is the basis for Shabbos and the basis for the first aspect of faith. He, and only He, created and runs the world.
On Chanukkah, we remember the miracles that He performed for us, during those dark times. Despite the large amount of assimilation into Greek society and the increasing distance that the Jewish nation chose to make between them and Hashem, when a small group decided to make a stand, Hashem "closed the gap" between them, and made them victorious. He reminded us that He still maintains a relationship with us, despite our flaws.
And now, on Shabbos Chanukkah, we bring both of those aspects together, "completing" our faith in Hashem.
After writing this Dvar Torah, I heard a talk given by Rav Reuven Leuchter, whom I recommend everybody listen to. He spoke on the war and said that we have learned two things so far (which are connected exactly to what is written above). First, we learn that there is Hashem in this world. We are well aware of the greatness of Israeli intelligence. Yet, Hashem decided to close the eyes and ears of everybody on that day. The chances of everybody making the same mistake at the same time to allow such a tragedy to occur is ever so slim. Hashem wanted something big to happen, even though it goes against the regular way of the world, and it happened. We see clearly Hashem's hand in everything so far. Second, we see that Hashem has a personal connection with the Jewish nation. After the attack on October 7th, we saw, starting from October 8th and on, a huge rise in antisemitism around the world. Even before Israel could think of launching a counter-offensive, people were in the streets protesting the Jews. And this is what is so frustrating for most Jews. Hamas launched a horrific offensive and yet so many in the world not only blame the Jews, but many have gone so far to even deny what occurred! If any other nation was attacked, world sympathy would have been pouring out for them. However, the Jews, as always, are different.
Even the non-Jews who support Israel, are baffled by the world's reaction. Even THEY see that the Jewish nation is being treated differently than any other nation. They don't understand why and it drives them just as crazy. However, we know that it is because WE have a connection with Hashem that goes well beyond nature.
Even in the current darkness we see both aspects of faith, Shabbos and Chanukkah, coming together. Not only does Hashem run the world, but we are both tied very closely together.
Have a wonderful and meaningful Shabbos/Chanukkah.