By HaRav Shaul Yisraeli, zt"l
Moshe Rabbeinu warns of two, almost mutually exclusive dangers. The first is the feeling of "How will I be able to conquer them" (Devarim 7:17). The second is "Your heart will be haughty and you will forget Hashem who took you out of Egypt ... and you will say in your heart, ‘my strength and the power of my hand produced these attainments’" (ibid. 8:14-17).
Around a year ago [the summer before the UN Partition Resolution] the greater fear was from the statement of gloom. Even after the decision made in Lake Success [the seat of the UN at that time], there was still a lot of doubt in our hearts: how could we stand up to all of the wicked plots and great powers that stood up against us? Well, the wonder happened; a great miracle happened here, a greater one than anticipated. If we compare the attainments to the losses, we will have to conclude that the success was many times greater. The greatest successes were in situations where there were negligible casualties.
"How will I be able...?" According to the laws of nature, there was no possibility. Two wonders occurred. One, of course, was the victory itself. The second was the fact that we did not lose our senses by asking "How can we?" The question was not asked even though it logically should have been, and even in retrospect the clear answer could have been that we could not.
However, now we stand before the second danger: "Your heart will be haughty, and you will forget ..." When people lack belief, the incredible victory turns into an exaggerated self-appraisal of brilliance and unlimited pride about our power, wisdom and bravery. We should note that the Torah attributes the haughtiness to forgetting. If we would read now the words of those who helped shape our national strategy, such as Silver and Ben Gurion, we will find the tormented spirit of the upper echelons of the defense establishment on the day the state was declared. Projections fitting of Iyov were heard from all sides, while we had so little in hand with which to fight. If we remember this and remember how we overcame, how David stood up to Goliath, and understand that this was only with Hashem’s help, then we will be saved from the haughtiness. We should also remember the human sacrifices that we needed to bring and make sure that we do not trivialize the sacrifices they made and the success they enabled.
Another pasuk (Devarim 10:12) exhorts us to view things properly: "What does Hashem demand of you? Only to fear ..." The demands are mainly about fear of Hashem, and "... to love Him" and through our actions make Him loved by others. The machaneh Shechina (those of the camp who are aware of the Divine Presence) must protect the honor of the encampment and make our paths and actions worthy of making Hashem beloved to all.