By Esther Scharf
Sunday, June 7 1981
Six F-15 escorts and eight F-16 fighter bombers roared off the runway from Etzion Air Force Base in southern Israel. The air was thick and tense. Prior to take-off, Lt. General Rafael Eitan briefed the pilots. "The alternative is our destruction," he said, displaying unusual emotion.
Israel's intelligence had recently confirmed that Iraq had intentions of producing weapons in their Osirak nuclear facility. The atomic bombs which the Iraqi reactor would be capable of producing from enriched uranium or plutonium could be as fatal as the one that landed on Hiroshima. Realizing the mortal danger facing the people of Israel, the Israeli government decided to attack. At 3:55 p.m., while the country innocently bustled about its daily activities, the fighter jets secretly took off.
Every detail of the mission was planned meticulously. The target was distant: 1,100 kilometers from Israel. The courageous group of elite pilots included Ilan Ramon, may his memory be blessed, as well as others selected from the crème de la crème of the Israeli Air Force's fighter corps.
After a tense but uneventful low-level navigational route, the fighter jets reached their target. At 5:35, they identified the reactor's dome, gleaming in the late afternoon sunlight. The enemy defenses, caught by surprise, opened fire too late. One minute and twenty seconds later the reactor to lie in ruins. All six planes returned home safely.
Israel – and the entire world – was saved from mortal danger.
* * *
June 7 1981, Day before Shavuot
An urgent directive from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, was dispatched from his headquarters in Brooklyn. The Rebbe instructed his emissaries around the globe to stop their usual pre-holiday activities and spend every spare moment "selling" letters in the Torah to Jewish children. The emissaries were then to send back a report on that same day exactly how much was accomplished.
Two months earlier, the Rebbe had explained the importance of writing Torah scrolls in which thousands of Jewish children will be partners through purchasing one letter for the minimal cost of one dollar. Through every child "owning" his own letter, hundreds of thousands of Jewish children around the globe would be united in one joint scroll.
In a public address, the Rebbe stated that “we now live in a world rent with confusion and turmoil . . . Nowadays, even a single deranged, demented, or frustrated individual who has access to a destructive button or trigger can upset an entire region or country. . . Such unprecedented chaos must be countered with unique measures.” The Rebbe continued that this new campaign for Jewish unity achieved through the communal children’s Torah – in addition to taking the natural steps necessary to achieve piece – would ensure peace in Israel and across the world.
The past two months had been full of activity, as thousands of children participated in this wide-spread campaign. But it was a mystery to all why on the day before Shavuot, amidst the many holiday activities, the Rebbe had suddenly deemed it crucial to obtain as many letters as possible. The emissaries followed his directives, while wondering about the sudden urgency.
At 5:36 that afternoon, the threat of horrific terror against Israel, and its repercussions around the world, was averted.
* * *
Could there be any connection between this dramatic miracle and the Rebbe's urgent directive?
You can draw your own conclusion, but let me just add one detail:
The following year, on the holiday of Chanukah, the Rebbe announced that he had received a letter about a certain prophecy in Daniel which was connected to the "Letter-in-the-Torah-campaign." The Rebbe was so enthusiastic about this find that he said it deserved an entire gathering just to share it.
The unique prophecy that so piqued the Rebbe's excitement was a verse in Daniel (12:1), discussing the wars prior to Moshiach's arrival: "Whoever is found in the Sefer [scroll] will be saved."
For some children and their families, purchasing a letter in the Torah scroll has had a far-reaching effect. The Rebbe told the following story during a Chassidic gathering on 17th Tammuz, 5741:
In Russia a small boy once asked his father, “Shto Takoye Sefer Torah?” - "What is a Torah scroll?" The child's father, who had been born many years after the Russian Revolution, had no idea. However, his curiosity had been aroused by his son's question and he asked him where he had heard about it. The child replied that someone had asked him if he wanted to buy a letter in a Torah scroll that was being written for children around the world.
"Ask some of the old people," suggested his father. "Maybe they know what it is."
The elderly Jews whom the child asked did remember what he was referring to and told him all they could remember about Judaism. Later on, the family sneaked into a shul in Moscow to see a Torah scroll for themselves. This was only the beginning of the family's return to their heritage.
On a number of occasions, the Rebbe would ask children during a private audience if they had purchased a letter in the Children’s Sefer Torah.
A French woman who had recently become religiously observant decided to visit the Rebbe for dollars. When it was her turn, the Rebbe gave her an extra dollar for her husband and three more for her children. The woman was very disturbed by this, because, although she had five children the Rebbe had only given her three dollars. She asked Rabbi Groner, the Rebbe's secretary, if she could submit a letter to the Rebbe requesting an explanation. The Rebbe wrote that he had given her the dollars for those of her children who already had a letter in the Torah scroll. Upon further inquiry, the woman discovered that only three of her children had been registered.
One day, a particular family was enjoying a picnic on the banks of the Sea of Galilee when one of their children went astray. After searching the area thoroughly, the family found her in the lake. The child was rushed to the intensive care unit at the Poriyah Hospital in Tiberias. When the doctors there managed to resuscitate her, she was transferred to the hospital in Afula. After a few hours of intensive treatment, his family was informed that the damage caused to her central nervous system meant that although she would live, she would be completely paralyzed.
The child's family was devastated. While they were still trying to absorb the shock, a young girl came to the hospital in accordance with the Rebbe’s mitzvah campaigns. When she heard about this terrible tragedy, she tried to comfort the family. She suggested that the child's parents buy a letter for their daughter in the Children's Sefer Torah. They immediately agreed to do so. The parents also wrote to the Rebbe asking for a blessing. In the answer that they received, the Rebbe asked if the child had purchased a letter in the Torah scroll. The parents were very pleased to be able to give a positive answer.
Two days later, the child's condition dramatically improved. By the time the girl visited the hospital during the following week, the child was already out of intensive care and well on the road to recovery.
A relaxing vacation in Teveria ended abruptly for the Cohen* family the morning their young daughter Orit nearly drowned in the Kineret. Though she was rescued alive, her prognosis was grim. At best, the medical staff predicted, she would remain in a vegetative state for life.
After having been transferred to a hospital in Afula, Orit was visited by Chana, a Lubavitcher girl on mivtzoim. Chana convinced the initially hesitant parents to buy Orit a letter in the Children’s Sefer Torah. She then took Orit’s name to the Rebbe, asking for a brocha for a refuah shelaima. The Rebbe immediately asked whether Orit had a letter in the Children’s Sefer Torah. Chana was glad to be able to answer in the affirmative. The Rebbe then gave Orit a brocha for a refuah shelaima. One week later, Chana returned to Eretz Yisroel and went to visit Orit, only to discover that Orit had been transferred to a regular ward and was on her way to a complete recovery, one which the doctors ascribed to being a complete miracle.