“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”—Exodus 19:4
The Torah portion for this week is Yitro, which means “Jethro,” from Exodus 18:1–20:23, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 6:1–13.
Between June 1949 and September 1950, Israel ran a secret operation known as Operation Magic Carpet. During that time, 380 flights were made between Yemen and Israel, rescuing more than 49,000 Jews from Arab countries where they were being oppressed.
When the Jews being rescued boarded the planes that would airlift them to Israel, they were sure that the messiah had come. They had never seen planes before, and to them, these were the “eagles” prophesized about in the book of Isaiah: “They will soar on wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31). To the Jews of Yemen, those airplanes were God’s eagles that would carry them home. And that’s how Operation Magic Carpet became more popularly known as Operation Wings of Eagles.
The Jews of Yemen weren’t completely wrong. Although they were still waiting for the messiah, they were experiencing the miracles foretold by the prophets. The Jewish people were on their way home, and like eagles, they took flight.
The children of Israel who left Egypt for Israel went on “eagles’ wings,” too. In this week’s Torah reading, God told them, “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” The children of Israel certainly didn’t fly on airplanes, so just what did God mean?
The Jewish sages explain that all other birds carry their young in their claws because they are afraid of high-flying predators that soar above them. But no bird flies higher than the eagle. The eagle only has to worry about men below. So it puts its young on its wings. The eagle places itself between its young and any danger. If anyone wants to take a shot from below, they will have to deal with the eagle first.
Like an eagle, no one is higher than God. And like an eagle, He protects His children with love. When God took the children of Israel out of Egypt, He placed the “Pillar of Cloud” between them and the Egyptians. The Egyptians would have to get through the cloud if they wanted to reach the Israelites. But God would not let them. He miraculously kept them safe from harm.
Today, God continues to bring His people back to their ancient homeland. And He continues to do this “on wings of eagles” – with miracles, compassion, and love. Here at The Fellowship we are part of that miracle, together with our Christian friends around the world. Our aptly named ministry, On Wings of Eagles, helps needy and persecuted Jews around the world come home to Israel and create a new life.
We invite you to join us in the fulfillment of this ancient prophecy unfolding in our times. Together we can help those eagles take flight!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President