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Always be Armed

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

“God led the people around by way of the desert to the Red Sea, and the children of Israel were armed when they went up out of Egypt. Moses took Joseph’s bones with him, for he [Joseph] had adjured the sons of Israel, saying, God will surely remember you, and you shall bring up my bones from here with you.” (Exodus 13:18-19)

The connection between the Israelites leaving Egypt armed and Moses removing the remains of Joseph from Egypt requires explanation. Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz (1550-1619) addresses this issue in his commentary Kli Yakar. He explains that, just as the Jewish people would take the Holy Ark containing the tablets of the Ten Commandments with them to war (symbolizing that the merit of the Torah protected them and assisted them in defeating their enemies), so, too, before the giving of Torah on Mt. Sinai, spiritual protection was essential for their victory. Joseph, who was an incredibly righteous individual, had the Ten Commandments spiritually etched on his bones. The Torah teaches us that Moses considered the spiritual merits of our nation to be essential weapons in our national security and success.

By collecting Joseph’s remains upon leaving Egypt, Moses teaches us a critical lesson. Although we are obligated to arm ourselves with physical weapons, we are never to forget that the nation of Israel needs spiritual weapons for its protection as well. Without the spiritual weaponry of Torah and mitzvot, our national security would be significantly compromised, heaven forbid.

We are fortunate to live in a time when the Israel Defense Force is well armed and at the cutting edge of military technology. However, we dare not forget that there were times when Israel was militarily weaker than our neighboring nations who attempted to destroy us on numerous occasions. God saw the spiritual merit of our nation and, miraculously, protected Israel. Even today, with our powerful army, we need to understand that our ultimate protection comes only from God and that our spiritual armament is as essential as ever.