A Soldier's Sensitivity / Anna's Divine Providence

Thursday, 15 August, 2013 - 11:56 am

Most of the Torah’s instructions regarding war can be found at the end of last week’s Torah portion and flowing into this week’s Torah portion. Among the issues covered are, G-d instructs us how to offer peace, how to approach a siege, how to deal with certain populations, how to maintain an army, and how soldiers should conduct themselves during war.

However in the middle of the passages that deal with war, the Torah interrupts to address the discovery of an unidentified corpse outside a city. The city elders and the priests need to come and perform a ceremony and declare “our hands did not spill this blood.” This passage conveys Hashem’s great pain over needless loss of life.

Context is very important in the Torah. As such the placement of this passage in the middle of the section on war is somewhat curious. I recently heard a beautiful solution to this issue. The Jewish soldiers that went to war needed to banish their fear and somewhat suppress their sensitivity in order to fight the righteous battles of G-d and defend their people against enemies who wished to destroy them. Being involved in war, destruction and killing, soldiers can encounter a difficulty in reacquainting themselves with the sensitivity that was suppressed and once again heighten the value of each and every human life. Therefore the Torah inserts the passage about the tragedy of death, seemingly out of context, because it is just the lesson needed to maintain the balance needed to be mindful of the value of a human life.

Last fall we introduced you to a local artist named Anna Gil, who created a series of paintings called Letters of Light focusing on the Hebrew Alphabet. Following successful exhibits at two French Quarter galleries, Anna encountered a strange phenomenon. Even though the exhibits went well each of the galleries expressed a similar sentiment when they asked her to remove her work, “we do not want to be known as the ‘Shalom Gallery’ around here.” It seemed that her work was too Jewish to be featured in their galleries.

Anna was feeling very down after being informed by yet another gallery that they did not want her work. She arrived home and opened her laptop where she saw one of her pieces on the screen. She thought it strange because she did not recall leaving it open. When she took a closer look, it was part of an email from in which they were asking to feature her work in a blog section called Art for the Soul. She felt that G-d had given her this amazing sense of uplifting after feeling so down from her earlier encounter with the gallery. This is an example of what is known as Hashgacha Pratis or Divine Providence. The hand of Hashem can be discovered in the most unexpected places or times. Anna’s feature can be found at Her work was featured last weekend at the National Jewish Retreat’s Living in Joy art show. She has also done exhibits in Venice and Paris. For more on her work see

Mazel Tov to Ephraim Ashurov upon his upcoming marriage to Esther Shalumov.

KVT and Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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