I have a colleague who is a beloved teacher and masterful storyteller.  He often recounts his experiences while serving in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) during the late 1970s and early 1980s. He recently related the following story:

“In January 1979, during my years of service in the IDF, on a very cold rainy January day, I was part of a six-man team manning a machsom – a security checkpoint.

“That day, we were stationed outside the beautiful Muslim city of Tulkarm in the West Bank, east of Netanya.  We stopped each car to check the driver’s IDs and license plates to ensure that they weren’t on any terrorist lists.  It was boring and tedious, especially on a cold day, and we were eager for our shift to end.

“One of the members of our team was a Druze named Salach.  The Druze are fiercely loyal to Medinat Yisrael and are highly committed, disciplined soldiers.  Salach was an outstanding soldier.

“At one point, a black Mercedes station wagon pulled up to the machsom.  The driver of the elegant car was a stately, elderly Muslim man, wearing a sharp blue pinstriped suit.  In the back were six young children, ranging from about two to eight years old.  Each was holding a wrapped package on his/her lap.

“Salach routinely approached the window, and the driver handed Salach his identification papers.  The driver explained that he was taking his grandchildren to a birthday party outside of Tulkarm.  We checked his license plate and ID, and everything looked good.

“I was about to wave him through when Salach suddenly thrust the front of his gun into the driver’s jaw and, in Arabic, ordered the driver to place his hands on the wheel and not dare take them off.  While keeping the index finger of his right hand firmly on the trigger of his gun, Salach gingerly stuck his left hand into the car and pulled the car keys out of the ignition.  He then calmly told me to call the military police.

“The police arrived and investigated.  It turned out that in every one of the boxes on the laps of those children were two sticks of dynamite, packed with gravel to amplify the damage, with a very primitive windup device that easily could have gone off and blown up the car and the people inside it.

“Afterwards, I asked Salach, how did you know there was something suspicious?

“Salach replied, ‘Tell me, if you want to give your friend a birthday present but don’t have the proper box for the gift, would you place it in a shoebox?’ I replied that you definitely could use a shoebox.  But what does that have to do with anything? He told me to be patient and continued, ‘And if you didn’t have wrapping paper, might you use a paper bag, taped down nicely?’ I agreed again, still not knowing where he was going with this.  ‘What if you didn’t have ribbon; could you use regular string?’ I nodded again.  ‘And if you didn’t have Scotch tape, could you use duct tape or masking tape?’ I nodded again.  Salach then said, ‘But, I’m sure you agree that you would never use electrical tape to tape up a gift.  Electrical tape is used for wires, not for a birthday present.  It just doesn’t look nice.’

“Salach then explained that while standing next to the car, he noticed that, in the corner of one of the packages the tape had become slightly undone, and it was retaped with electrical tape.  That tipped him off that something was wrong.

“It is incredible that this evil man was willing to risk the lives of his own grandchildren to perpetrate his evil.”

One of the points that impressed me about the story was Salach’s vigilance.  He was able to notice one small piece of tape in the corner of a box on the lap of one of the children in the back and realize that there was something strange about it.

Such is the responsibility of a guard. By definition, a guard cannot be lackadaisical or nonchalant. At all times, he must be focused and conscientious.

Those who are Shabbos-observant are not referred to as m’kaymei Shabbos – those who fulfill Shabbos – but rather as shomrei Shabbos – those who guard Shabbos.  The Torah instructs us: “V’shamru B’nei Yisrael es haShabbos – The Jewish people must guard the Shabbos,” and we sing on Shabbos about “Ha’shomer Shabbos, ha’bein im ha’bas – The one who guards Shabbos – his son with his daughter – it is pleasing to Hashem like a Minchah offering on a flat pan.”

Similarly, observant Jews are referred to as shomrei Torah u’mitzvos – those who guard Torah and mitzvos.  To be a Torah Jew entails not only observance but also effort to upkeep, preserve, and ensure proper Torah observance.  With so many laws and details to adhere to, one’s observance cannot just be another facet of his personality.  It requires commitment that encapsulates his entire being, and he must always be wary of letting his guard down when in the line of duty.

In a similar vein, we refer to Hashem as Shomer Yisrael – the Guardian of the Jewish People.  During the Seder on Pesach, we bless Hashem who guarded His promise to Yisrael.  Hashem does not merely preserve the Jewish People; He is also the Guardian of the Jewish People.  A parent not only provides for a child but is constantly worried and concerned with his/her child’s welfare and growth.  That is how Hashem relates to us, as well.

The Baal Shem Tov emphasized that Hashem relates to us with hashgachah pratis – particular vigilance and affinity.  That is indicative of His love for us.

We guard His Torah and He guards His people. 

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, a rebbe at Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, New Jersey, is a parenting consultant and maintains a private practice for adolescents and adults. He is also a member of the administration of Camp Dora Golding for over two decades. Rabbi Staum was a community rabbi for ten years, and has been involved in education as a principal, guidance counselor, and teacher in various yeshivos. Rabbi Staum is a noted author and sought-after lecturer, with hundreds of lectures posted on torahanytime.com. He has published articles and books about education, parenting, and Torah living in contemporary society. Rabbi Staum can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. His website containing archives of his writings is www.stamTorah.info.