Miracles of World War II

Man in tallit praying at the Kotel

Since the word Holocaust has found its way into regular news reports, it is time to look back and review some of the events that happened during World War II.

In the spring and summer of 1942, the world was covered with a dark cloud of the hakenkreuz (swastika) flag. The Nazi flag flew all over Europe, except for England. The German army was stopped at the gates of Moscow early in December of 1941, by ‘Hahem’s General Winter’; but the army was still entrenched in a large area of Russia.

The U.S. was in the war against Japan and Germany, but did not have enough time to build the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’ consisting of planes, ships and tanks and the armed forces to use this equipment. Factories were quickly changed to run 24 hour shifts to build tanks instead of cars. This was accomplished by engineers, workers and even CEOs who have never even seen a tank. This fact seems to be one of the hidden miracles of the war.

During the first six months of 1942 the U.S. was pushed back in the Pacific theater. In June the U.S. achieved the first victory over the Japanese navy. This is known as the “miracle of Midway”.

In the summer of 1942 Britain lost a stronghold, Tobruk, in North Africa. General Rommel was about 60 miles from the Suez Canal. This was a dangerous time for the yishuv in Eretz Yisrael and the countries in the Mideast. Rommel claimed that if Hitler had given him two divisions instead of making him a top general, then he would have succeeded in crossing the Suez Canal. At that time, Hitler was more concerned with the mass destruction of Jews in Eastern Europe. He started building Auschwitz and other camps. The use of bullets to kill thousands of Jews on in Babi Yar on Yom Kippur of 1941 proved to be too inefficient.

We remember on a daily basis how the Bnai Yisrael left Egypt and then were pursued by Pharaoh at the Yam Suf. In the summer of 1942 the yishuv in Eretz Yisrael was in a sense, standing at the Yam Suf, just as the Bnai Yisrael were, when they left Egypt. There existed the fear that Rommel (Pharaoh) would soon be in Jerusalem. A book by Tom Segev, The Seventh Million, describes events at this critical time. A policeman noted in his diary that on a certain day, it seemed to him that all the Jews came to the Kosel to pray. The yishuv leaders had a variety of plans should the Nazis reach Israel, including: self-defense, a Jewish Agency-in-exile, mass suicide or ‘cooperation’ with the enemy to save some lives or lighten the oppression.

An article in Mishpacha Magazine, in the December 10, 2008 issue describes a remarkable event that occured at Kever Rochel. It was an intensive prayer vigil that prevented the Nazis from entering Eretz Yisrael. This is what Reb Shleimke writes in his notebook in Tammuz, (1942). Some 60 people arrived. Mekubalim, talmidei chachomim, businessmen, and simple workmen from the Iraq community, dressed in sackcloth, with ashes on their heads. They prayed from morning straight to the following morning. They blew the shofar dozens of times throughout the night and wept bitterly, shouting to Hashem to have mercy upon His people. “Never again shall a despised enemy enter the gates of Jerusalem. The Gates of Tears are never sealed” At the end everyone shouted seven times “Rommel will not come.”

Then some events happened in the general war effort. The British army was given a new general named Montgomery. General Rommel leaves North Africa on sick leave. His substitute suffers a heart attack. The U.S. sends new tanks for the British army. Mussolini, who expected to ride on a white horse in a victory parade in Egypt, receives the same fate as Haman did in the Purim story.

The clear lesson for today is that Ein od milvado. In Psalm 146:3 it says “Do not rely on nobles nor on human beings.” The Art Scroll footnote says – Even when rulers help Israel, it is because G-d has influenced them to do so. We are always under Hashem’s protection. The Midrash Says, when B’nai Yisrael stood at the Yam Suf, the Egyptians fired arrows and missiles at them. Hashem intercepted the missiles through the Clouds of Glory. In modern terms, many missiles have been thrown towards Israel, but the iron dome (Hashem’s cloud) has intercepted them.

Mass rallies in Tel Aviv and before the government may have their place, but constant prayer rallies at the Kosel and Kever Rochel will surely help to end the fighting in our favor and bring the captives home. So that as in Psalm 126, “When Hashem returns our captives, we will be filled with laughter and glad song.”

This letter was published in Yated Ne’eman, Shevat 5784.