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How the IDF Unity Torah Was Born

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When Rabbi Shuey Biston of Chabad of Parkland, Florida, visited the Re’im Base on the Gaza border, he was deeply taken by what he saw.

Re’im Base was the only border outpost that withstood Hamas’s murderous attacks on October 7, and now Biston was visiting as part of a delegation of Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis who visited Israel in the weeks following the attack to show solidarity, bring comfort and encouragement, and hear firsthand the tales of the survivors.

One such story took place in Re’im, where Avigdor Dickstein, a Lubavitcher chossid who serves in the IDF, retired to bed following joyous Hakafot, dancing with the Torah on Shemini Atzeret evening. But a scant few hours later, he awoke to a nightmare. As sirens sounded, Dickstein rushed to his assigned position in the base’s War Room, from where the response to any attack would be coordinated. Soon, the distant booms of impacting rockets were replaced with the far more ominous sounds of automatic weapons fire as swarms of terrorists attempted to overrun the base. 

Dickstein related how, outnumbered, the soldiers of Re’im fought back bravely, standing their ground at great personal cost. More than thirty IDF soldiers died fighting on that dark day. As the attack intensified, Dickstein ordered the surviving soldiers to take shelter in the base’s gym, while he called in an air strike—dangerously close to their location—that succeeded in wiping out the force attacking them. It took the IDF twelve hours to completely regain control of the base.

When Biston visited a week and a half later, Dickstein was still on post, directing units in the area. When Biston asked this war-weary hero what they could do for him, the conversation came back to those Torahs they had danced with, hours before the world went mad. The base’s Ashkenazi Sefer Torah was in bad shape, Dickstein explained. 

On the spot, Biston made a commitment that he would find a way to replace the Torah, to bring the light of G-d’s teachings once more to a place that had seen such loss—and such heroism.

In the months preceding the First Lebanon War in 1981 and again after war broke out in 1982, the Rebbe campaigned for a Torah scroll to be written and that every IDF soldier should have a letter in the Torah. The Rebbe spoke about the protection this mitzvah would bring. 

“Concerning those tasked with protecting the Jewish People and the Land of Israel to the extent that they even risk their bodies and their lives, a concerted effort to unite them is surely fitting,” the Rebbe said. “So that they become ‘like one man with one heart’ through one Torah scroll in which each soldier will have a letter.” 

The Rebbe went on to say that by uniting through the Torah scroll, each soldier will carry the strength of 304,805 soldiers—the number of letters in the Torah—and that certainly, the enemies of the Jewish people will wish to avoid war.

Now, as war again raged in Israel, Biston recalled the Rebbe’s words. 

With the support of Chabad of Parkland and the Rok Family Shul—led by Rabbi Chaim and Deenie Lipskar—the IDF Unity Torah was launched.

Biston would return to Israel on a second visit, and this time he would bring along a parchment scroll upon which a sofer—scribe—outlined the first few hundred letters of a new Torah scroll. They would give the brave defenders of the Holy Land the opportunity to write a letter, to join in the protection of the Torah scroll.

They initially planned to begin the writing of the Torah in Kibbutz Be’eri, the site of one of the worst massacres on October 7. But as they drove toward Be’eri, they passed a tank column. Engines revved and soldiers scrambled to load up, and it was clear that this column was about to roll into Gaza to engage the enemy. 

“As we watched the soldiers prepare to enter Gaza, we realized that we needed to start writing this Torah right here, right now,” Biston told “The soldiers began lining up, eager to join in the unity Torah.”

As the writing commenced, one officer asked Biston whether he could write a letter for a soldier who wasn’t there.

“He told me that this soldier was under his command during fighting in Gaza the night before. Tragically, he had lost his life,” Biston said. “Now, with a choking voice, he asked if he could write a letter in this soldier’s memory.”

The officer wrote, and Biston looked on, sobbing for the sacrifice these soldiers had already seen.

Then it was on to Be’eri, where another tragic site met them. As they set up the table with the Torah scroll, the head of the local chapter of Zaka—the Israeli organization focused on ensuring that Jewish remains are brought to burial in accordance with Jewish law—walked over and told us his story.

He had just identified the mutilated remains of a child, and despite years spent tending to the deceased, what he had seen now put him in a crisis of faith. “What am I doing here,” he wondered. “But then I saw you,” he said. “And I realized that I’m here because I’m doing a mitzvah—the mitzvah of bringing the dead to burial—and ‘One mitzvah leads to another mitzvah.’ Now I have the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of writing a letter in the Torah.”

As the war continues, the Torah is making its way around the land of Israel, uniting its defenders in Divine protection. 

For more information about this campaign, visit

As “Second Front” Threatens to Flare Up, Chabad Works Tirelessly for the Jews of Israel’s North

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Metulla, Israel, is all but deserted today.

As mortars, rocket artillery and missiles are launched by terror groups into Northern Israel, the Israeli military has evacuated border towns and has ramped up operations in the north, with thousands of armored vehicles making their way to the area. 

In Metulla, several thousand feet from the border with Lebanon, Rabbi Moshe and Bracha Leah Sasonkin have spent decades manning Chabad’s northernmost post in Israel—Chabad of Metulla, which they founded in 1990. Despite growing challenges and the evacuation of the area, Chabad of Metulla has been on the ground providing vital support. After seeing his wife and family to safety in the northern town of Afula, Rabbi Moshe Sasonkin returned to Metulla, checking in with the soldiers to see what they needed and offering them the opportunity to put on tefillin in between red alert sirens.

Since the evacuation, the Sasonkins have been in touch with community members, ensuring that they are cared for during this upheaval. They’ve also visited families who have lost loved ones to terrorist attacks. The Sasonkins received thousands of letters and cards addressed to Israel’s soldiers, and Rabbi Moshe Sasonkin plans in the coming days to distribute them to the forces defending Israel’s northern border.

Working Day and Night in the Golan

In the Golan Heights, as reserves flow in and tanks rumble toward the border, Rabbi Sholom Ber Hertzel of Chabad of the Golan Heights isn’t getting much rest. “We are here the entire day and night in the Golan, reaching out to soldiers anywhere and everywhere,” Hertzel told, speaking as he exited a shelter, following a red alert in response to suspected terrorist infiltration.

“We have a logistics center where people are bringing things and we are providing them to the soldiers. We have two food trucks to improve morale with free food; a meat truck and a dairy and pareve truck,” Hertzel detailed. The trucks circulate from base to base across the Golan Heights, offering kosher food and the joy that accompanies every visit from the “Chabadnikim,” as the shluchim are often referred to.

Soldiers line up for made-on-the-spot sandwiches and meals, and those awake at night especially appreciate the cups of freshly-brewed espresso, the beans ground on the spot.     

Chabad of the Golan is also working to provide for the soldiers beyond their physical needs, providing pairs of tefillin and putting them on together with the soldiers, providing tzitzit, gathering the soldiers to perform the mitzvah of separating challah, and generally doing their best to boost morale.

“Yes, we are outside our homes doing our shlichus, doing what’s needed right now, the entire day and night, giving whatever the soldiers need, and encouraging the Jewish Nation.”