The Ultimate Sacrifice

June 16, 2024

Few things are more powerful than a father’s love for his children. Throughout the Bible, we see many examples of fathers who were willing to sacrifice everything for their sons and daughters.

One of the Biblical stories about fatherly love that I find particularly moving comes from an unlikely place. It’s the story of Judah, son of the patriarch Jacob. Judah’s story is both a demonstration of loyalty to family as well as fatherly (and brotherly) love. Take a look. 

Judah’s life took a tragic turn when his two oldest sons died, leaving his youngest, Shelah, as his only surviving child. Later, when famine gripped the land, Judah traveled to Egypt with his brothers to beg for food. The Egyptian vizier demanded that the youngest brother, Benjamin, stay behind as collateral. Judah could not bear the thought of his father losing another son. He stepped forward and offered himself in Benjamin’s place, willing to become a slave so that his brother could go free.

Judah’s selfless act echoes through the ages, a testament to the depths of a father’s devotion. He was ready to give up his own freedom and future to spare his father the unbearable agony of losing yet another child. Judah’s willingness to sacrifice himself shows the purest expression of a parent’s love.

Thousands of years later, another Jewish father made the same courageous choice. His name is Sa’ar Axelrod.

Sa’ar is a 36-year-old tech worker who was living a peaceful life in central Israel with his wife, Sharon, and their infant son. Most recently, the young couple have been eagerly awaiting the birth of their second child, a daughter. But everything changed on October 7th, 2023. After the Hamas Massacre of over 1200 Jews and Israelis, and the subsequent war against Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah rockets began raining down on Israel’s northern border as well. Israel was being attacked on multiple fronts.
And Sa’ar was called up to serve in a combat unit defending his country on the Northern border. He would spend the next five harrowing months on the front lines, leaving behind his happy life and young family.

For Sa’ar, defending his country is about more than just duty – it’s about securing a safe future for his people and, more importantly, for his own children. He put his life on the line so that his son and unborn daughter could grow up in a world free from the threat of rockets and terror. Every day he spends on the battlefield is a sacrifice he makes willingly for the ones he loves most.

Then, the unthinkable happened on the morning of February 14th, 2024. A missile scored a direct hit just 5 meters from Sa’ar’s position. With only seconds to make it to the safe room, Sa’ar was hit. Injured, he lay in a pool of his own blood, his body pierced by shrapnel. His skull was fractured, and Sa’ar incurred a traumatic brain injury. In those agonizing moments, most of Sa’ar’s thoughts were of his 10-month-old son. “I told myself there’s no way he’s going to grow up without his father,” Sa’ar later recalled. He thought of his pregnant wife Sharon, left alone to raise their children. They needed him. He needed them. He had to survive.

Miraculously, Sa’ar held on to life in those critical minutes until rescue arrived. An officer tended to his wounds, at first telling him he just had a “little scratch” to keep him calm when in truth, he was in grave condition. Sa’ar was airlifted to a hospital for emergency surgery to remove shrapnel, repair his intestines, and stop the bleeding that nearly claimed his life. He is now spending months in the hospital recovering from his traumatic brain injury, nerve damage, and other devastating injuries.

Like the biblical Judah, Sa’ar put the welfare of his children above his own life. He was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice so they could have a beautiful and meaningful future in Israel. Yet, a Sa’ar lay, broken and bleeding on the battlefield, all he could think about was his family. Ultimately, his love for them gave him the superhuman strength to stay alive.

Today, Sa’ar remains hospitalized, undergoing intensive rehabilitation with a long recovery still ahead. He faces mounting medical bills, lost income, and an uncertain future. But his one driving goal is to heal so he can return home to his children. “My biggest dream is to return home and lift my baby with both hands,” he says. “That’s what I’m thinking about every morning and every night before I go to sleep.”

This Father’s Day, let us honor courageous fathers like Sa’ar Axelrod, who exemplify the eternal truth that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another. Like Judah before him, Sa’ar was willing to give up everything to be there for his family and to create a safer world for them to inherit.

As we reflect on the sacrifices made by biblical fathers, let us also remember the challenges faced by modern-day Israeli families like the Axelrods. If you feel moved to help, your contribution can make a meaningful difference in supporting Sa’ar’s family during this difficult time. By coming together as a community, we can express our appreciation for those who dedicate themselves to ensuring Israel’s safety and well-being.

Please consider taking a moment to pray for the healing and well being of our friend Sa’ar. The prayer is included in Hebrew, English, and transliterated below.
You can find this prayer and others in our new Prayer Book, Stand By Me, which allows you to connect to thousands of years of Jewish prayer and tradition, providing you with the words you need to speak to God about what matters most to you. You can purchase your copy, TODAY by visiting the Israel365 store.

Prayer for a Man Who is Sick

מִי שֶׁבֵּרַךְ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיַעֲקֹב מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן דָּוִד וּשְׁלֹמֹה הוּא יְבָרֵךְ וִירַפֵּא אֶת (פלוני בן פלונית), הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא יִמָּלֵּא רַחֲמִים עָלָיו לְהַחֲלִימוֹ וּלְרַפְּאֹתוֹ וּלְהַחֲזִיקוֹ וּלְהַחֲיוֹתוֹ, וְיִשְׁלַח לוֹ מְהֵרָה רְפוּאָה שְׁלֵמָה מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם לְרַמַ”ח אֵבָרָיו וּשְׁסָ”ה גִּידָיו בְּתוֹךְ שְׁאָר חוֹלֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, רְפוּאַת הַנֶּפֶשׁ וּרְפוּאַת הַגּוּף, הַשְׁתָּא בַּעֲגָלָא וּבִזְמַן קָרִיב. וְנֹאמַר אָמֵן:

Mi shebbeirach avoteinu avraham yitzchak veya’akov mosheh ve’aharon david ushelomoh hu yevarech virappei et  (insert the name of the sick person, son of the sick person’s mother’s name), hakkadosh baruch hu yimmalle rachamim alav lehachalimo ulerappe’oto ulehachaziko ulehachayoto, veyishlach lo meherah refu’ah sheleimah min hashamayim lerama”ch eivarav ushesa gidav betoch she’ar cholei yisra’el, refu’at hanefesh urefu’at hagguf, hashta ba’agala uvizman kariv. Venomar amen:

May He Who blessed our fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses and Aaron, David and Solomon, bless and heal (insert the name of the sick person, son of the sick person’s mother’s name). May the Holy One, blessed be He, be filled with mercy for him, to restore him to health and to cure him, to strengthen him and to invigorate him. And may He hasten to send him from heaven a complete recovery to his 248 bodily parts and 365 veins, among the other sick people of Israel, a healing of spirit and a healing of body; Now, speedily, and in a time soon to come, and let us say, Amen.

Sara Lamm

Sara Lamm is a content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. Originally from Virginia, she moved to Israel with her husband and children in 2021. Sara has a Masters Degree in Education from Bankstreet college and taught preschool for almost a decade before making Aliyah to Israel. Sara is passionate about connecting Bible study with “real life’ and is currently working on a children’s Bible series.

Sara Lamm

Sara Lamm is a content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. Originally from Virginia, she moved to Israel with her husband and children in 2021. Sara has a Masters Degree in Education from Bankstreet college and taught preschool for almost a decade before making Aliyah to Israel. Sara is passionate about connecting Bible study with “real life’ and is currently working on a children’s Bible series.

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