By my sword and my bow – Front line and Rear-  Rabbi Yitzchak Shapiro

By my sword and my bow – Front line and Rear- Rabbi Yitzchak Shapiro

Parashat Vayechi – The "home front" gives moral support to the front lines

Ya'akov tells Yosef before his death: "And I have given you an additional portion more than your brothers, which I took from the Emorites by my sword and my bow." What's special about the sword and bow that they are mentioned particularly?

 These two types of weapons represent two types of warfare, each with its own rules. There are two main differences between the sword and the bow, in terms of the effect on the enemy and the action of the attacker:

In terms of the enemy, the sword affects an enemy at short range, in face-to-face combat, while the bow is intended to strike a distant enemy, in the back lines.

 In terms of the method of operation, the warrior holds the sword with his outstretched arm, and he puts all his physical energy into that hand striking directly at the enemy. However, one using a bow invests his strength in bending it back, gathering the reflexive strength together and aiming, until he lets go at the right time and direction, at which point the arrow flies forward by itself towards the target.

 King David lamented on Shaul and Yehonatan: "To teach the bow to the Children of Yehudah; isn't it written on the Book of Straightness?" Our Sages reach us that the "Book of Straightness" refers to B'reishit. Where in B'reishit lies a hint that the children of Yehudah use bows? – Ya'akov blessed Yehudah: "Yehudah, you, your brothers shall thank you, your hand is on the nape of your enemies," – what kind of warfare requires a hand beside the nape? That refers to the bow. (Avodah Zarah 25a) The bow is the weapon with which one needs to take the hand back opposite the nape!

 Thus we learn, the bow-archer invests his energy in his nape (rear) and strikes the rear of the enemy, while the sword-handler utilizes his front and strikes the front of the enemy.

We strike the Rear by Virtue of the Rear

What is all this coming to teach us? What deep message is hiding here?

 Sword and bow serve as examples of warfare in general. Every war has a front line and a rear: the soldiers and security forces who do the actual fighting are the front; the civilians at home and work are the rear. The struggle itself is on the front lines, but its roots, the will to fight and the feelings of strength and justice – these come from the rear!

 When the army fights by itself, without help from the rear, that's like a sword. That kind of fighting has the advantage of hitting directly at the foe, but it lacks the rear's moral support. When the army only fulfills orders instructing it to fight in certain places, it might be able to succeed in its theater, but it lacks the real and internal power to fight. In such a situation, we don't strike deeply enough in the enemy's rear, only at the present individual terrorist. There is no root-solution of eradicating the terror-chiefs and their operators.

 Only a genuine and active rear can guarantee powerful and effective warfare. Only when the civilians at the rear demand tough fighting, will the military receive strength for fighting.

[Based on the teachings of Rav Yitzchak Ginsburgh in his article " To teach the bow to the Children of Yehudah".]


 Today, when the security forces (their commanders and those who send them) do not fight the Arab enemy like they should, they fear losing supposed "cooperation" and hesitate to strike at those who arise to kill us – the rear needs to know that it depends on them! If every Jew and Jewess will understand and declare that there is a need to fight, that there is strength and power to fight, we can bring about real warfare and a real victory. We can't stay quiet and hope that "something will happen" in the security hierarchy. They might have "good swords", but to win, the bow of the rear is essential to give an active support to the war.

 Furthermore: unfortunately, the improper functioning of the government and the army made many villages and neighborhoods throughout the country into "front lines", and that situation seems to give the "rear" no choice but to actually participate in the fighting. We need to be prepared for that, and with G-d's help may we merit Yehudah's blessing, "your hand is on the nape of your enemies."

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