What is it about heroism that moves us so much? Why is it that when we witness human beings putting their lives on the line to help another we feel so inspired that we tell their stories long after they are gone? We write books about them, and memorialize them in film. Why?
There is no way selflessness, heroism, and sacrifice could bring us to tears if it wasn’t connected to something at the very core of who each of us is and why we are on this earth. When we see another person going beyond himself, it awakens our own dormant hero. That part within us rejoices in the purity of giving to another without any thought of personal gain or recognition.
I am blessed beyond what I can express with being surrounded by those people in the Jewish nation who were in circumstances where, without exaggeration, this kind of pure heroic giving took place every day. I’m talking of course about the injured hayalim — soldiers — I have met through my involvement in Hope for Heroism. I realized recently, however, that there are those among the Jewish people whose heroism and selflessness is no less great than our injured soldiers, albeit largely unrecognized.
In 2006 Captain Roi Klein was involved in one of the most brutal battles in the second Lebanon war against Hezbollah terrorists. Roi and his soldiers were caught in a terrible ambush in the village of Bingbel. Space in this article does not allow me to go into detail of the battle, but of the dozens of grenades thrown by the terrorists at Roi and his soldiers, one suddenly landed right in the midst of them. Imagine for just a second that you were there. In that terrible moment, what happens next?
Without hesitation Roi did what he felt he must do to take care of his soldiers. He leapt on the grenade in an attempt to protect their lives.
Two of the soldiers who were near him at that moment told me that as Roi landed on the grenade, he said the “Shema Yisrael” prayer, with the fervor and passion “they write about in the books of the Prophets.” Roi remained alive for a few seconds after the blast. He instructed his soldiers to radio what had happened to their commanders and then passed from this earth, leaving behind his wife and two children.
In Israel, after Roi was buried, his chevruta (Torah study partner) began to write down all of the Torah insights Roi had come up with while they were studying. He published them under the name “With All of Your Heart,” a line from the Shema prayer Roi recited before he died. I often study this small book of writings on Shabbat; it’s incredible.
Aside from all of Roi’s soldiers, there are other heroes in this story, but I want to focus specifically on his wife and his mother. Are they, and all the wives and mothers of these soldiers, not heroic and selfless in ways we could never understand? They are giving their children and husbands to Am Yisrael so the rest of us may be safe. I don’t think I could possibly put into writing the level of daily sacrifice they make for the rest of us. The wives and mothers of our injured soldiers are the silent heroes of the Jewish nation. Their level of giving can only be described as at the level of “what they write about in the books of the Prophets.” They are the living Jewish heroes of today, and when Jewish history is written, their chapter will shine as brightly as any.