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Wednesday, December 6, 2023 - 23 Kislev 5784
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The Secret Weapon

It was the holiday of Sukkot, 1973. During the Yom Kippur war, a few teachers from the Taanach area in Israel decided they wanted to take a break from the atmosphere of war in the north and celebrate Simchat Torah with their parents in Jerusalem. The group consisted of three couples, the men – members of the local Kollel – their wives – teachers in the Chabad school in Taanach – and two babies, about half a year old. The group hired an Arab taxi driver to take them to Jerusalem.

Achmad, the driver, arrived and picked up the couples and their belongings. The most precious item each of them had was their set of Four Species, on which they would make a blessing each day of Sukkot. The route to Jerusalem followed the Jenin highway, through Sh’chem (Nablus) and continued via Rammalah and El-Bira to eastern Jerusalem. In those years, it was perfectly safe for Jews to drive through the West Bank.

The road to Jerusalem consists of many twists and turns. The driver knew the road like the back of his hand, and usually made quick time to Jerusalem. Suddenly, on one of the turns between Jenin and Sh’chem, on a very narrow road with an abyss on the right side, the driver began to slow down. There was a huge traffic jam and the driver got out to see what was going on.

The driver came back and reported that the jam had begun a week earlier, on the second day of the war, the day after Yom Kippur. An Israeli tank was being rushed to the Golan Heights, where it was needed for reinforcement on the Syrian border. The tank had slipped and fallen in to a ditch. Soldiers had tried to lift it out but were unsuccessful. The soldiers put in tremendous effort to get it out and every day a more sophisticated machine was brought, but nothing helped. The tank remained stuck at a dangerous angle.

Many drivers turned around, deciding to give up on their travel plans. Achmad suggested the same thing, because the tank had been stuck for a few days already and no progress had been made. There was no point in just sitting there.

The couples hadn’t prepared anything for the holiday of Shmini Atzeres, and they wanted to celebrate Simchat Torah with their parents. They had no choice but to wait for a miracle that would extricate the tank and enable them to travel onwards.

Another hour went by and Achmad came back with another report. The heaviest equipment had been brought in, but the results were the same. Nothing. They simply could not raise the tank. The passengers got out to stretch their legs. Despite the chaos around them, the scene was pastoral with a magnificent view of the Shomron. Hundreds of Arabs stood in groups and discussed the war against the Yahud. And in the midst of it all were three Chassidic couples, with the men wearing their Chassidic garb which did nothing to conceal their Jewishness and their affiliation with Chabad.

The Chassidim decided to follow Achmad and see what was going on. They walked to where the tank had fallen and saw the soldiers trying to do the impossible, remove the tank that had fallen deep into the abyss on a dangerous angle. The tank could easily turn over and crush those standing near it.

The Chassidim went back to the taxi, took their set of Four Species and went back to where the soldiers were. There were many more soldiers than they had seen at first. Many of them had been there from before Sukkot and had not yet recited the blessing on the Four Species even once.

The soldiers caught sight of the Lubavitchers with their Four Species and were very moved by the sight.

“How did you come just now?” they wondered.

“The Rebbe sent us to you,” they said.

“How did the Rebbe know to send you here, to this forsaken place where we’ve been for days?” The Four Species were passed from hand to hand as the soldiers took their turn to recite the blessing. When the last of the soldiers finished with the Four Species, they all made one last effort to extricate the tank. Did I say another effort? A final effort? It entailed no effort because the tank slipped out of the place where it was stuck for a week, as though someone had smeared grease underneath it.

Without further ado, the tank was raised up. When the soldiers ascertained that the tank was in good condition they put it on the trailer and it was immediately sent to the Golan front.

The jubilant Chassidim returned to the taxi. Even Achmad was satisfied. They got to Jerusalem on time with a wonderful story of the mitzvah of the Four Species, the Jewish people’s secret weapon!


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