Drasha Shvi’i Shel Pesach 5762 - Before the battle in "Operation Defensive Shield"
The splitting of the Red Sea as a model of strategic decision
Since Passover 2002, Pesach has a special significance. That year, after the terrible attack at the Park Hotel in Netanya, the IDF, including our brigade, the Armored Corps (576), went on the “Operation Defensive Shield”. In those days I served as deputy brigade commander.
Our brigade was assigned the task of conquering the eastern sector of the city of Nablus (Shchem), which was the terrorist capital of the Shomron. Together with us were the paratroopers and the Golani Brigade, which were intended to conquer the Casbah and the Western sector. The conquest of the city was supposed to begin on the seventh night of Passover (Shvi’i Shel Pesach). The brigade’s headquarters were on the campus of the Alon Moreh Yeshiva, in the Yishuv’s highest place overlooking Nablus. Near nightfall, after we had almost completed the preparations, the mission was delayed by a day. The postponement allowed us to gather in the Beit Midrash of the Elon Moreh Yeshiva for a festive prayer of Shvi’i Shel Pesach. Despite the fatigue, the Religious Brigade soldiers and the officers did not give up, and asked me to speak about ordinary things during Tfilah. In my speech I wanted to link the ideas of the seventh day of Pesach and the splitting of the Red Sea 3314 years before our fighting. I will not forget what I said with extreme fatigue.
We began with the question: What is the difference between Pesach and Sukkot? The Gemara (Sukkah 47a) says:
אמר ר' יוחנן אומרים זמן בשמיני של חג ואין אומרים זמן בשביעי של פסח
"Rabbi Yoḥanan said that one recites the blessing: Who has given us life, sustained us, and brought us to this time, on the eighth day of the Festival, as the eighth day is a Festival distinct from Sukkot, and one does not recite the blessing of time on the seventh day of Passover because it is not a Festival distinct from Passover". 'time' -(Shehecheyanu). We asked: Why is Shemini Atzeret considered an independent holiday and you say 'Shehecheyanu', whereas the seventh of Pesach, where we commemorate the historical event of the splitting of the Red Sea, is not an independent holiday and we do not say 'Shehecheyanu'?
We also mentioned the words of the Gemara (Arakhin 10a:51)
מאי שנא בחג דאמרי' כל יומא ומאי שנא בפסח דלא אמרינן כל יומא דחג חלוקין בקרבנותיהן דפסח אין חלוקין בקרבנותיהן
“Why is the Chag [Sukkot] different, that we say [Hallel] on each day, and why on Pesach do we not say [Hallel] all days? And the Gemara answers: “of the Chag [Sukkot] are separate in their sacrifices; [those] of Pesach are not separate in their sacrfices”. In other words, on Sukkot every day is a festival in itself and has special sacrifices, while on Pesach all sacrifices are the same!
And so, we asked why?
We explained that Pesach is actually one event and that the process that begins with the Exodus from Egypt on the first day culminates in the splitting of the Red Sea on the last day. At the stage of the exodus, the process was still "reversible" and could be changed by Pharaoh's army, which was able to bring the people of Israel back to Egypt. The "decisive point" of the exodus was the splitting of the Red Sea and the drowning of Pharaoh's army ס֥וּס וְרֹכְב֖וֹ רָמָ֥ה בַיָּֽם "Horse and driver He has hurled into the sea." Therefore, the seventh day of Pesach should not be regarded as a "moed" in itself, and so, Shehecheyanu is not to be recited, because every single day of Passover has no meaning in itself, but only one component of the total.
We wanted to learn from here a model for the importance of 'defeat' in battle. As long as the battle does not come to an end and you have a victory over someone, it is not to be considered a success, even if it exhausts the enemy and hits them hard. In battle, there are no “victory points” there is only a knockout.
The principle of defeat is found in the Torah in several places (Devarim 20:19-20):
כִּֽי־תָצ֣וּר אֶל־עִיר֩ יָמִ֨ים רַבִּ֜ים לְֽהִלָּחֵ֧ם עָלֶ֣יהָ לְתָפְשָׂ֗הּ ... וּבָנִ֣יתָ מָצ֗וֹר עַל־הָעִיר֙ אֲשֶׁר־הִ֨וא עֹשָׂ֧ה עִמְּךָ֛ מִלְחָמָ֖ה עַ֥ד רִדְתָּֽהּ׃
"When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it… you may cut them down for constructing siegeworks against the city that is waging war on you, until it has been reduced”. עד רדתהuntil you have broken down the city’s wall and other fortifications. (Rashbam ibid) - the breach of the wall. But it will only be completed by the total conquest of the city "until it is conquered" (Unkelos ibid). And even then, the occupation will not be completed until it is translated into power and sovereignty. This (the word רדתה) means “subduing”, and the meaning is, thou shalt besiege it until it becomes submissive (Rashi ibid). The Torah's demand to reach a clear and unequivocal defeat will only preserve the achievements of victory over time.
This demand is emphasized with regard to the war over the land. Moshe warns: " וְאִם־לֹ֨א תוֹרִ֜ישׁוּ אֶת־יֹשְׁבֵ֣י הָאָרֶץ֮ מִפְּנֵיכֶם֒ וְהָיָה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר תּוֹתִ֣ירוּ מֵהֶ֔ם לְשִׂכִּים֙ בְּעֵ֣ינֵיכֶ֔ם וְלִצְנִינִ֖ם בְּצִדֵּיכֶ֑ם...׃
“But if you do not dispossess the inhabitants of the land, those whom you allow to remain shall be stings in your eyes and thorns in your sides... “(Bamidvar 33:55 and also Yehoshua 23:12)
The people of Israel paid a heavy price for the absence of a defeat on the inheritance of the land. The tribe of Issachar was the exception to the rule (Bereishit 49:15): " וַיֵּ֤ט שִׁכְמוֹ֙ לִסְבֹּ֔ל וַיְהִ֖י לְמַס־עֹבֵֽד׃
“He bowed his shoulder to wage wars and to conquer new districts for he (Issachar) dwelt on the marches — and the enemy became subject to him as a servant to pay tribute”. (Rashi ibid). Those who decided not to be negligent had the privilege of living in their own land and enjoying the tax imposed on their inhabitants.
The principle of defeat was a guiding principle in the Davidic army:
אֶרְדּ֣וֹף א֭וֹיְבַי וְאַשִּׂיגֵ֑ם וְלֹֽא־אָ֝שׁוּב עַד־כַּלּוֹתָֽם׃
אֶ֭מְחָצֵם וְלֹא־יֻ֣כְלוּ ק֑וּם יִ֝פְּל֗וּ תַּ֣חַת רַגְלָֽי׃
“I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not turn back till I destroyed them. I struck them down, and they could rise no more; they lay fallen at my feet”. (Psalms 18:38).
The pursuit of the enemies must continue until the mission is accomplished וְלֹֽא־אָ֝שׁוּב עַד־כַּלּוֹתָֽם "and I will not turn back," even if the execution involves difficulties and life-threatening situations. אֶ֭מְחָצֵם - must act with determination without hesitation at full strength. וְלֹא־יֻ֣כְלוּ ק֑וּם And they will not be able to rise' - the absolute defeat will preserve the achievement of victory over time. Lost in a prolonged war, in repeated rounds, we will erode the capability of the people. The defeat will make it possible for the nation to have the necessary calming security to direct all its national resources to building and creativity.
The Netziv dealt with the issue of defeating in his interpretation:
“On Shaul Hamelech it is written: אֶל כָּל אֲשֶׁר יִפְנֶה יַרְשִׁיע “Wherever he turned, he caused vexation.” And on King David it’s written:
וַיְהִ֥י דָוִ֛ד לְכָל־דָּרְכָ֖ו מַשְׂכִּ֑יל...
"David was successful in all his undertakings"
In both the intention was that they were succesful in their wars.
The Nafka Mina between the two: there is who overcomes the war and does not conquer his opponent. And only knocks them down and weakens them. Cannot be successful with his nation. But convicts the opponent. And there is who overcomes and conquers. That is the success of the nation, etc.
Shaul would only weaken and convict his opponent. And David was a conqueror and placed his commissioners in Edom and Moab and all the nations he conquered, etc." (Haamek Davar Bamidvar 24:8)
He who convicts his opponents, weakens them only for an hour. Until they are strengthened in a few years. And after that, there will be the necessity to keep safe" ('Haamek Davar Devarim 33:11).
We signed our words with hope and prayer to Hashem to grant us to win and defeat…
Judging from the results, our prayers were heard for a while.