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Mission Accomplished?

Friday, 20 August, 2021 - 7:42 am

When President George W. Bush stood on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003 under the banner stating “Mission Accomplished,” it turned out to be a bit premature. The success of the war in Iraq is still hotly debated today.

And, now, the United States is in the final stages of pulling out its last troops – while the Taliban reestablishes its control over Afghanistan.


Nearly twenty years after September 11, 2001 we are left to reflect on the horrors of that tragic day.  The lives lost, the families broken and the collective pain of our nation.  Add to that the constant inconveniences, reminders and concerns that continue to affect us in airport security lines, job applications and our pocketbook.

If we look at the hard facts on the ground, it may be tempting to argue that we have lost.  Yes, we finally got bin Laden, but ultimately hundreds of millions of people’s lives have been changed forever.  Yes, our enemies cannot compare to the most powerful army on earth, but our own people are at risk every day – not to mention the countless Afghans whose future and safety is far from certain.

So, what is the end result of all our efforts?


Perhaps a look into this week’s Torah portion, Ki Teitzei, can shed some light.

The opening words of the parsha are, “When you go out to war on your enemies, the L-rd your G-d shall deliver them into your hands.”

At face value the Torah is offering the world’s best guarantee. Almighty G-d Himself assures the Jewish people of success in battle. But a deeper look at the wording also offers some insight into how we can attain such triumph. The Torah does away with the expected language of ‘When you go out to war with your enemies,’ instead opting for “When you go out to war on your enemies.” What does it mean to go to war on your enemies?

The Chassidic masters, quoting from the Talmud, help us understand this verse. “One who wrestles with a filthy person becomes dirtied, as well,” say the Sages.  Would this suggest that we never engage in warfare? Rather, the wise Rebbes explain, we must never reduce ourselves to the level of our foes. We must always retain the higher ground.  If we remain above them, we will triumph.


If we look at the essential conflict between the jihadists and America as simply “us against them,” we are in danger of allowing them to be perceived as victors.  But if we recognize that America is a country built on the fundamental principles of life and liberty, the war is not us against them, rather it’s us over them.  They can destroy the tallest buildings in the land, but our moral rectitude stands taller.  They have cruelly murdered thousands of lives, but our commitment to life itself shines brighter.

If we believe that our true power lies not in military might but in the freedom and values of a nation, under G-d and indivisible in its quest to secure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – we are indeed guaranteed that we will always prevail.

Now, let’s do a mitzvah to keep shining the great light.  And then indeed we will have accomplished our mission. Guaranteed.

Comments on: Mission Accomplished?

Lynn Bradescu wrote...

Thank you Rabbi. I needed this!!