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The Challenges of the S300 Missile System & a Lesson for us

Friday, 31 May, 2013 - 2:55 pm

RusS.jpgIf you have been following news out of the Middle East this past week, you have probably been hearing about the S-300 Anti Aircraft Missile System that the Russians are planning to sell to the Syrian regime. Israel has been following this with some concern and has made several veiled threats that they won’t allow this system to become operational due to the dangerous potency that it presents to the IAF. You can be sure that in Israel and elsewhere people are working overtime to figure out how to avert this situation and stop it becoming a crisis.

The system is a unique Russian made anti aircraft battery that is one of the most sophisticated of its kind. It’s radar system has the ability to track more than one hundred targets at a time while simultaneously  targeting twelve of those targets. In addition, it has the ability to fight off electronic jamming systems that seek to mess up the system and its targeting methods.  Some in Israel advocate immediate strikes on the system before it becomes operational and some say that they will be able to successfully figure out counter electronic methods that will disable the system.

Fights in Chassidic Thought

In the Tanya, the foundational work of the Chabad movement, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi describes a scene in which two people of differing strengths are having a fight and a wrestle. He writes that it could very well be that one person is a lot stronger than the other person and had far more fighting talent, yet if the stronger person is lazy and isn’t motivated to defend himself properly, all his strength will go to waste and the weaker person may end up winning the battle.

In other words, strength alone is not the only deciding factor in one’s struggles, instead, the determination to succeed and the willingness to exert oneself are critical components of the ability to win the fight and overcome the adversary.

We all face many struggles in life and  at times we may find ourselves dealing with challenges that seem to be insurmountable, and we feel powerless to overcome and succeed. Our hands begin to shake and our hearts melt as the dread of the challenge seeps into our hearts and eats away at our mind and our ability to think clearly.  We feel like whatever we try won’t work, and sometimes right as we begin to overcome an aspect of the challenge we are lurched right into another struggle. To our eyes and feelings it may almost feel like we are facing an S300 system that will knock out any wind of our attempts to deal with our difficulties as we seek to overcome our challenges.

However, there is one element that can make the difference even against the greatest systems and challenges and can help us find a way to deal with every challenge and adversary that we face in our personal journey in life. This element is, “determination to succeed”. Determination, however, doesn’t come by itself, it’s not something you just eat, or a multivitamin you just take each morning. So how does one go about making determination a central component of whom we are?

A Lesson from the Spies

Perhaps the dramatic story in this week’s Torah portion of the first major intelligence disaster can shed some light on this important topic.

As we read the story, we see that Moses instructs the twelve spies to bring back intelligence of what the land of Israel was like, to report on the strength of the people, to see how they lived and what kind of fortifications they had, and to see what kind of produce does the land of Israel produce. We all know the rest of the story when they came back and ten of the spies gave over a terribly negative report on what they saw. They then instilled a terrifying fear into the hearts of their Jewish brethren as to what lay ahead of them in battle and the formidable enemy they were about to face on the field, and ultimately they changed the course of history and caused the Jews to be stuck in the desert for 40 more years.

At first glance, what seems to be the problem with what the spies did? Weren’t they not sent to find out and report precisely that kind of data and information?

The Three Words that Changed History

Many explanations have been given regarding this story, and I have always found many angles of this story to be so powerful and important, yet one talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe has always struck a chord in how I viewed this story. The Rebbe explained, that their mistake was not in reporting the data, since after all that is exactly what they were told to do. Rather their mistake was in adding just three words to their reporting when they added a conclusion and said “Lo Nuchal Laalot”, “we cannot ascend”. With these three words, they changed the course of history for the Jewish people, by pre determining that the Jews had no way to succeed and the mission was doomed to failure.

It was these few words that caused mass depression and hysteria and caused the Jews to give up hope and almost surrender to their nearest enemy. For in truth at no point of their mission were they ever told to make a conclusion and decision based on the data they had found. In fact quite the opposite, as they had already been promised by G-d that he will help them succeed in capturing the land of Israel, and at that point G-d had a pretty decent track record. Indeed, their job was more about reporting the data and then figuring out what the best strategies would be to deal with the challenges at hand, but not to make forgone negative conclusions. They may have been facing S300’S, but in truth they had the ability to succeed, and their challenge was more about figuring out the best way forward.

Me & You

This story is not an abstract piece of history, rather it talks to our own lives, as we go about life and deal with challenges on a daily basis and sometimes get hit with big ones too. Jewish thought teaches that when a challenge comes our way, we have to realize that we have also been given the tools to deal with that very challenge. If I am getting a particularly hard challenge, it means specifically “I” have the ability to deal with that challenge. It is this knowledge and belief, that G-d has given us the ability to deal with our individual and communal challenges that can serve as the source for our determination to persevere, overcome, and succeed.

Bottom line, next time you feel like you are dealing with a challenge that seems like a challenge of the scale of an S300, first and foremost we must remind ourselves before we even start to deal with it, that “yes we can succeed”. Following that kind of attitude, the determination to succeed is the automatic next step, and then although it may at times seem like we are the weaker element in the struggle, and the challenge may seem like a more formidable enemy, nevertheless with this empowerment and determination we can and will succeed.

I close with a hope and prayer, that as we seek to have a deeper determination to deal with our personal spiritual and interpersonal challenges and go forward with the knowledge that "yes we can", in turn, Israel is blessed with peace and success in dealing with all of its challenges both internally and externally and merit to true and ever lasting peace.  

Good Shabbos


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