By: LTC Moses Scheinfeld, USA
One of the greatest Jewish warriors of all time, King David, expresses the essential Jewish belief in G-d’s “individual supervision,” or known colloquially as Divine providence, in his Psalm 33:13-14: “The L-rd looked from Heaven; He saw all the sons of men. From His dwelling place He oversees all the inhabitants of the earth.”
Simply put, we believe that G-d is deeply and intimately concerned about the life of every single one of
the 8 billion human beings on planet Earth. And the corollary is also true: Each human being is capable of having a close, personal, and intimate relationship with his/her Creator.
The following anecdote was my personal taste of G-d’s watchful eye over me and my Soldiers:
In 2004, I was deployed in support of combat operations as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) to Ramadi, Iraq. My unit, out of Fort Riley (Kansas), was 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry (Iron Rangers), 1st Brigade (Devil Brigade), 1st Infantry Division (Big Red One). There were over 5,000 Soldiers, Marines, and Airmen on our FOB Junction City (Forward Operating Base). My unit alone, the Iron Rangers, had over 1,000 Soldiers.
As far as I knew, I was the only Jewish Servicemember in the entire unit—and I personally met most of
these Soldiers. The Iron Rangers distinguished themselves during combat operations in Iraq, engaging in battles ranging from over 1,500 Soldiers (twice northwest of Fallujah) down to ambushes by 9-Soldier squads to prevent the emplacement of IEDs (improvised explosive devices).
When the Iron Rangers returned to Ft. Riley in September 2004, we went on block leave – 1,000+ Soldiers scattering to the 4 corners of our greatest of nations, the United States of America. We moved as quickly as we could to be reunited with our waiting families. I spent my block leave in New York City with my parents, of blessed memory, and with the woman who would eventually become my wonderful wife. Then I spent some time in Chicago with my brother and his family.
In late October 2004, the time came for all the Iron Rangers to return to Ft. Riley and begin training again. About 12 of us returning from block leave met up outside one of the terminals of Kansas City International Airport. We hopped onto an Army shuttle that would take us on the 135 mile trip back to Ft. Riley. The shuttle first dropped off the dozen enlisted Soldiers who lived on post. Then the shuttle dropped me off last at my home in Junction City, right outside of Fort Riley.
When we arrived at my townhouse, the driver handed me a green military-style backpack. The backpack
was quite similar to mine, but did not belong to me.
As the driver and I looked at each other, wondering what had happened, my cell phone rang.
“Is this Captain Scheinfeld?”
The voice on the other line said, “I have your backpack.” I reacted in relief, but then came the next question:
”Are you Jewish?”
I paused. “Yes, I am. Why do you ask?”
The soldier explained that when he realized he had taken the incorrect backpack, he looked inside it to find out to whom it belonged.
He continued, “I saw your tefillin. I’m Jewish too, and I’m also an Iron Ranger.”
Specialist (SPC) Andrew Sosnick had been with a small contingent (about 50 Soldiers) at a COP (combat
outpost). Not being on the main base of FOB Junction City, we never met in Iraq. But G-d did plan to have us meet.
What are the odds that we would be on the same shuttle? That he would take my backpack because they looked nearly identical? That the person who took it would be the only other Jew in a unit of a 1,000+?
As Iron Rangers, we had served together for nearly a year in Iraq; I again was astounded at the fact that
we were the only two Jewish Soldiers in a unit of more than 1,000. And, by Divine Providence, we finally came together at the time and place of G-d’s choosing.
SPC Sosnick is a true hero. After RPGs hit his BFV (Bradley Fighting Vehicle), he pulled his platoon leader out of the burning BFV and helped save his life. Extremely tough, incredibly intelligent, and supremely reliable, SPC Sosnick was highly respected and beloved by his peers and command.
It was a true privilege to then have this remarkable Soldier, one of the absolute best in the Iron Ranger battalion, at our table in Junction City not only for Pesach, but also for Shabbat and Chanukah as well. We are in contact until this very day.
I am still touched by this story, which demonstrates that Divine Providence is very real. While we cannot know the answers to why things happen as they do, we know that G-d watches, G-d cares, G-d protects, G-d helps, and G-d heals.
As the Three Weeks approach and we reflect upon the calamities and tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people over the last 3,500 years, we should commit ourselves – heart, soul, and might – to improving, strengthening, and deepening our relationship with our Creator. We do this through the intense study of Torah, through the passionate observance of mitzvot, and most, most importantly, through the heartfelt performance of acts of kindness and charity to all human beings with whom we share G-d’s earth. And in doing so, may we be found worthy of and merit the Final Redemption.
Originally published in the Summer 2023 issue of The Jewish American Warrior magazine