At 11:40 the first shells fell. Minutes later they were trapped in an enemy crossfire. The Israelis were outnumbered, outgunned, and surrounded on both sides of the highway. Missiles crashed in dizzying succession.
Wheee, Boom! Wheee, Boom! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
Earth and asphalt erupted all around; the smell of sulphur filled the air. The tanks broke formation to return the fire. Armored turrets swung back and forth, up and down, as lithe as machine guns in the nimble hands of the gunners. Each volley was returned with double fierceness, but the Syrians overlooking the road bore down. Russian-made shells found their targets. Tanks exploded into raging balls of fire and twisted metal. With each bombardment the remaining tanks became more vulnerable.
The only way to save them was to silence the fire emanating from the building above the highway, an impossible task from the limited scope of a tank. Noam and his crew jumped down from their half-track to try a foot assault.
When they asked Noam why he had enlisted in the army he responded by paraphrasing Rashi's explanation of the verse promising delivery into the Holy Land. "And I will carry you on eagle's wings"...mutav yekanais hachaitz be velo be'achi- Better the arrow should enter me than my brother.
Noam advanced off the highway towards the source of the fire. The shells exploding right in front of him were blinding. The earth trembled. He was so exposed, so defenseless. But he was dauntless, determined to advance and protect his comrades. Noam concentrated and fired his machine gun continuously, fearlessly, moving steadily forward from tank to tank.
His unit was made up of hesder boys; in each Merkavah was a classmate and friend. If he could just get close enough to the building to detonate it, the tanks could fend for themselves.
Some three and a half kilometers to the north, a Soviet Milan missile was being loaded. Somehow the Israeli Airforce missed this launching pad.
Noam's crew followed on his heels. It wasn't too much further to the foot of the building. It was just a matter of time.
A Milan missile has a long white tail of smoke. After it lands, you can study its past.
Noam's crew moved as fast as they could. They had to charge. There was no time to crawl on their bellies...
This collection runs a wide gamut – it deals with some of the outstanding sages of our times and with plain people, with acts of heroism and with dedicated mitzvah observance. The common denominator is that, in Rabbi Teller’s eloquent telling, the stories (all of them true happenings) all convey inspiration, evoke the reader’s deep felt emotional response, and strengthen his attachment to Torah values, even as they hold his unwavering interest. They previously appeared in various publications – notably The Jewish Observer – and their re-publication in one volume now make them available in a more permanent form for a wider public which will surely warmly welcome them.
Reviewed in The Jewish Observer
Words of Praise
|“Rabbi Teller’s stories of Torah leaders and loving one’s fellow Jew strengthen faith and enhance mitzva observance. I bless with my thorough endorsement everything Rabbi Teller writes. He is accurate, pleasantly-worded, and provides an invaluable service to our People.”|
Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach
|“Hanoch Teller’s undoubted talent for narrative and his profound background in Jewish studies are evident in these stories which span continents and millennia. They range from the Seleucid Empire to the forests where the Baal Shem Tov walked with God and from Kennedy airport to the picture postcard village of Mathausen. Saintly shnorrers, the King of Gerar and a bejeweled he-ass rub shoulders in this fascinating – and highly instructive – collection.”|
Alex Berlyne, Literary Editor
|“Despite the spiritual and physical decimation of the Jewish people in our tragic recent past, there are once again young talmidei chachamim who teach and write Torah at the highest levels. Their job is to teach the simple and the learned how to read Hashem’s ‘handwriting’ in the events of Jewish history. But only those whose total dedication to both the ‘Torah of the yeshiva’ and the ‘Torah of the lives of Gedolei Yisrael’ is a harmonious unity, can recount the powers of the soul authentically. Hanoch Teller is one of the few who possess both that essential qualification in rich measure as well as a rare felicity and grace of expression. Thousands have found inspiration and fascination in his published work to date. It is the hope of many that the present volume will kindle aspiration towards all that is holy to our People, amongst those who dwell on its contents.”|
Rabbi Nachman Bulman
|“Hanoch Teller is an outstanding representative of the yeshiva world who is at the same time sensitive to the universal human concerns of learning and angst, faith and conviction. His stories express the deepest truths of the human soul, and make us proud to be Jews created in the Divine Image. In a generation of skepticism and despair, Once Upon a Soul is a beacon of light and a fortress of courage.”|
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin
|“A veritable celebration of Jewish survival, Teller’s Once Upon a Soul documents the indominitability of the Jewish spirit. No wonder the Jew did not succumb to 1900 years of wandering! These stories warm the heart and instruct the soul…A fascinating kaleidoscope of inspiration, a book you’ll enjoy reading and take pride in sharing with others. Ideal reading for every Jewish home.”|
Rabbi Nisson Wolpin, Editor