Mossa'ei Shabbath Qodesh Parshath Mass'ei 5768
Early last week, while tremping into work, I bumped into two more soldiers.
One was only just released from the army a couple of hours beforehand and was on his way home to shower and sleep for a very long time. Next on his agenda is to travel. I encouraged him to travel throughout Israel, instead of leaving for destinations unknown, like the popular avodah zarah-filled India. He agreed, and has planned to hike the Shvil Yisrael from Metulah in the north to Eilat in the south. He seemed intrigued by leaving for adventures outside of Israel after that, but hopefully not. I suggested that no one can escape from places of avodah zarah completely unscathed.
He eventually wants to go to college to study biology.
Just before he and I got into a tremp, another soldier appeared on the scene, a former student of mine, taking eighth-grade English with me seven years ago. I had just mentioned him, too, in the context of who I knew in his yishuv (town), Kokhav Ya'aqov.
He didn't have the greatest time in my class, but apparently I made up for it in the end. I came with his class on its end of the year trip to the Gallil and Golan. I was one of the few people who thought to bring a camera, before the prevalence of digital everything. I took photos of everyone and sent copies to those who were in each of them.
He smiled, and said he still had that photo from seven years ago. I haven't traveled much in Israel, but that trip was one of the best I've taken. Let's hope this soldier makes it through the next few months, the last of his service.
That night, I bumped into another former student. This one has been in yeshivah for the last four years, and expects to begin his IDF service shortly. In order to do so, he will have to leave his current yeshivah, and transfer to a yeshivath hesder. He will be leaving, albeit temporarily, his mamlachti yeshivah, and probably be going to Merkaz HaRav Kook. I told him that I approved of the change. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to list the books he will be able to read at "Merkaz," "unwelcome" at his current yeshivah, like Rav Moshe Tzuriel's shlit"a Mafte'ah to the Torah of Rav Kook ztz"l, and the compilation of Rav Kook's writings found in the Merkaz HaRav Kook genizah.
(Gee! I wonder how they ended up there? Could it be that someone, or some people, didn't want us to read certain writings of Rav Kook?)
It is crucial to protect our soldiers spiritually, as well as physically, something which the IDF does not do, rather the opposite.
My soldier friend who came to visit last Shabbath told me about the educational trip he was forced to take to the Kotel, the Western Wall. His unit was lectured on Islam and Christianity, not the two items highest on a Jew's list of topics he associates with an "educational" trip to the Kotel. The two topics were taught as fact, not within the context of the history of Israel's occupation by foreign forces.
One of the soldiers questioned the lecturer's take on Islam as one of the "truths" in the world.
He was "written up" for that.
So, where is this blog post going? I'm not sure. I suppose this is what some bloggers, and others, call a rant. Although, I always thought that "rant" had a negative connotation.
There are some yishuvim (towns) and many hill top communities whose residents would prefer to guard their own neighborhoods, rather that allow soldiers to do so. I agree. Not only will it make things less complicated, when "they" come to throw us out of our homes, it is an important act of taking responsibility for our own security, a move toward increased autonomy. (Did I say "autonomy?" I meant independence, of course.)
I am just exploring my own relationships with soldiers, the sons, and brothers, and fathers, and friends. Yet, I will also have to explore my relationships with the Jews who have to make decisions, decisions to follow orders contrary to Torah, or to refuse them.
Many soldiers avoided participation in the expulsion of Azza Jews three years ago. Golani and Nahal Haredi Brigades were kept far away from Azza, for fear of mass refusals to carry out orders. Yet, the IDF only wants you to know about the 62 soldiers who actually sat in jail for refusing orders.
If you're a soldier, and you're reading this, ask yourself this question: Which soldier will you be?
There's no shirking responsibility this time, no saying...
"I'm just 18 years old, and I'm confused by conflicting rabbinical opinions."
You had better do your research, and talk to your rabbis now, asking for hallachic sources, and rejecting "feeling" and hashqafic ones.
You are going to have to face this decision sooner than you think.
In the meantime, you'll have Jews like me on your back, pressuring you to think for yourselves and hallachicly so, and hopefully encouraging you as well.