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אל יתהלל חוגר כמפתח

Written by שי טחן, 6/3/2024


Let not him who straps on his armor boast like he who takes it off.

אל יתהלל חוגר כמפתח


The story of the rabbit and the turtle, often known as "The Tortoise and the Hare," is a classic fable tale that has been passed down through generations and goes as follows:

Once upon a time, there was a speedy and boastful rabbit who loved to brag about how fast he could run. He would often mock the slow-moving turtle, claiming that there was no way the turtle could ever beat him in a race.

Tired of the rabbit's taunts, the turtle finally challenged the rabbit to a race. The rabbit, amused by the turtle's audacity, accepted the challenge, thinking it would be an easy victory.

The race began, and the rabbit quickly sprinted far ahead of the slow-moving turtle. Confident in his speed, the rabbit decided to take a nap under a tree, thinking he had plenty of time to catch up and win the race.

Meanwhile, the determined turtle continued to plod along at a steady pace, never stopping or becoming distracted. Slowly but surely, the turtle made progress along the racecourse.

When the rabbit woke up from his nap, he was shocked to see the turtle nearing the finish line. Panicked and realizing his mistake, the rabbit sprinted as fast as he could, but it was too late. The turtle crossed the finish line first, winning the race.

The moral of the story teaches the value of persistence, steady effort, and humility. Furthermore, the story serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of boasting over victory and underestimating one's adversaries.

We constantly hear the enemies from the north and south declaring how they will crush the Jewish nation if they dare to make the mistake of opening a war or even firing at them. They threaten to destroy the people and send the soldiers back in bags. This type of talk brings to mind a discussion brought down in the book of Melachim (מלכים א, כ, יא)

As Ben Hadad, the king of Aram, prepared to attack Israel, he gathered much horses and chariots and started to boast his victory even before defeating Ahab, the king of Israel.

He sent messengers to him, saying, 'Thus shall you speak to Ben-hadad: 'Your silver and your gold will soon be mine; your most beautiful wives and children also will be mine'.

Ben Hadad boasted with his great army and claimed, with an oath, that all the dust of the destroyed Samaria, which he planned to demolish, would not suffice to fill the clenched fists of his many soldiers.

Ahab, king of Israel, replied: "Let not him who straps on his armor boast like he who takes it off."

Meaning - Do not brag before you have won the battle. The one who straps on his armor is the soldier who puts on the belt before the battle. The one who takes it off is the soldier who unfastens or removes the belt from himself after returning from the battlefield. This expression comes to teach a person not to boast about their future successes, lest they be unable to prove their words with deeds.

edit: However, we should delve deeper into this phrase. Is the problem with bragging merely a moral issue of arrogance, or is there more to it? The commentaries explain that the problem here also includes a practical concern: when someone feels that victory is already assured, they may not put in the necessary effort to achieve it. Conversely, when someone is not overly confident of victory, they will strive in various ways to secure it.

This is precisely what happened to Ben Hadad, who was completely confident in his victory, allowing himself to drink to excess in his tent before the battle, only to be defeated by Ahab. Similarly, the moral lesson from the story of the rabbit and the turtle is that while the rabbit became complacent and fell asleep, the turtle continued to put forth all its effort to reach the finish line.

The idea of feeling victorious before the battle due to a sense of strength is emphasized in the words of the Mishna(סוטה מב,א) . It describes the words spoken to those preparing for war, including this very point. The Mashuach Milchama said: "Remember that they come to war championed by flesh and blood, and you are coming championed by the divine Shchina. The Philistines came championed by Goliath. What was his end? In the end, he fell by the sword, and they fell with him. The Ammonites came championed by Shobach. What was his end? In the end, he fell by the sword, and they fell with him. But as for you, you are not so reliant upon the strength of mortals: 'For the Hashem goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.' This pasuk refers to the camp of the Ark of the Covenant that accompanies them out to war."

The Gemara elaborates on this, saying: "He stood before Hashem with brazenness and stated: 'Choose yourselves a man, and let him come down to me' (שמואל א, יז)." The word "man" is referring to none other than Hashem. In other words, Goliath said he wanted to fight Hashem.

Now, let's not deceive ourselves, as we are also guilty of much of the same arrogance. We, too, have let our guard down and miscalculated the enemy. While they were arming themselves to the teeth, building tunnels, and plotting, we were complacent. If only we wouldn't be so arrogant in thinking that we are so powerful and mighty that no one would dare to start a war against us, we could save many lives and avoid the ongoing conflict.


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