web analytics
November 26, 2014 / 4 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Reflections On A Grandson’s Enlistment In The IDF

Weiss-050412

I have long felt the holiest Jews are members of the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces. At countless rallies I’ve called out from the heart, “Blessed is the nation that has as its army the Israel Defense Forces.”

My feelings about Israel’s army have become even more personal. For the first time a close family member, our eldest grandson, Gilad, has enlisted in the IDF. I always felt the Israeli army was part of my family, but Gilad’s entry takes it to a different level.

In our history we have lived through the periods of two sacred Temples. There were differences between these eras. The first was ushered in by force, the second was not. The first was a prophetic time, most of the second was not. The first included the ten tribes, the second did not.

Yet these periods had much in common. Specifically, they were periods of Jewish power. When the Temples were in existence, we were sovereign in our own land. We had an army. We were able to protect ourselves.

After the destruction of the Second Temple, we lost this power. We were no longer sovereign in our land and no longer had the ability to fend for ourselves. We were dispersed all over the world.

There were extraordinarily positive developments that unfolded during this two-thousand year history, including the writing of the Babylonian Talmud, the early commentators, the development of mystical and chassidic thought, the Mussar movement and much more.

But there was a big negative. During this period of powerlessness we were exiled from virtually every country we lived in. We endured horror after horror: crusades, inquisitions, pogroms and, ultimately, the Shoah.

One of Israel’s basic messages was and will always be Never Again – never again would Jews under attack have no place to go; never again would we allow our fate to be in the hands of others; never again would we be defenseless. From powerlessness we transitioned back to power.

Power, however, has its challenges, as it can be abused. For this reason, built into the very fabric of Israel’s army is the concept of tohar haneshek – purity of arms. Yes, there have been moments when individuals have veered from this ethical course. But they were few and far between.

The IDF is central to the Jewish mission of being a light to the world. Only in Israel can this mission of ohr lagoyim be carried out on a national level. And only with Tzahal can this mission be protected.

All this is the backdrop of a blessed merging of my identity as a proud Jew with the tremendous personal hadar I feel as Gilad joins the Golani unit of the IDF.

Gilad was twelve when he and his family made aliyah. During the first year he would sit in the back of his classroom, unable to speak Hebrew. By the end of that year, he was president of his class.

As Gilad entered high school, I wondered whether he and his siblings would be able to adapt to Israeli society and accept the responsibility of serving in the army. Never will I forget the Friday night I prayed with Gilad – then just fifteen – on a Jerusalem hilltop. He turned to me and said, “Look at this beautiful city; one day I will have the privilege to defend it.”

As Gilad was finishing high school, he went for his first army interview. He shared with me that one of the questions he was asked was what he wanted to do in the IDF. “I told them I wanted to be a fighter.”

He continued: “They asked me, ‘Why do you want to be a fighter?’ ”

My heart dropped. I hoped Gilad was not going to say he wanted to be a fighter in order to, God forbid, kill Arabs or show strength gratuitously. That is not what the Jewish army is about.

“I told them,” he said, “I want to be a fighter because Israel has done so much for me. I want to give back.”

I offered thanks to God that I had experienced this moment.

For two years after high school Gilad attended a program that helped prepare him emotionally, spiritually and psychologically for the army. And then, just a few weeks ago, my daughter Elana and son-in-law Michael took Gilad to the army post in Givat HaTachmoshet, Jerusalem.

My wife and I were almost six thousand miles away in New York. Gilad called for our blessings. Toby blessed him that he would always have heavy socks and insulated underwear to protect himself from the cold and stay hydrated in the heat. This, she told me, is how she outwardly blessed Gilad. But deep down she offered the more serious prayer, from a loving grandmother, that Gilad be safe; that he, together with all the soldiers of Israel, be protected and come home.

And I, as a grandfather who never served in the IDF and now has lived to see his grandson reach this holy moment, offered this prayer: “May God bless you and keep you and protect you as you protect Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael. May your passion to defend Israel be coupled with thoughtfulness and a recognition of all of Jewish history that has brought you to this moment. I am proud of you and love you to the end of the world.”

I keep thinking about what my daughter Elana, who is blessed with nine children – seven boys and two girls, the youngest just a year old – recently said to me. “Abba, I will be the mother of a soldier for the next twenty-two years.”

I offered another prayer: May peace come to Israel and the world well before then.

Rabbi Avi Weiss is founder and president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. His parshah column appears weekly in The Jewish Press.

About the Author: Rabbi Avi Weiss is founder and president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Reflections On A Grandson’s Enlistment In The IDF”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Posted to Twitter in Ferguson, MO by St. Louis County Police: "Bricks thrown at police, 2 police cars burned, gun seized by police. Tonight was disappointing."  Their motto is, "To protect and serve."
Pro-ISIS Group Says ‘Use Ferguson Flames to Fuel Terror in America’
Latest Indepth Stories
Red Line Obama

“What’s a line between friends?”

West_Bank_&_Gaza_Map_2007_(Settlements)

Unrest in YESHA and J’m helps Abbas and Abdullah defuse anger, gain politically and appear moderates

Thousands of rabbis pose in front of Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters in Brooklyn on Sunday during the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries.

A “Shliach” means to do acts with complete devotion and dedication in order to help bring Moshiach.

Arabs create opening for terrorists to walk the security wall between Ramallah and Jerusalem and Ramallah.

The pogroms in Chevron took place eighty five years ago, in 1929; the Holocaust began seventy-five years ago in 1939; the joint attack of Israel’s neighbors against the Jewish State of Israel happened sixty-six years ago… yet, world history of anti-Semitism did not stop there, but continues until today. Yes, the primitive reality of Jews […]

“We don’t just care for the children; we make sure they have the best quality of life.”

“Why do people get complacent with the things they’re told?”

Arab opposition to a Jewish State of any size was made known by word and deed in the form of terror

Operation Moses: First time in history that non-blacks came to Africa to free blacks from oppression

As Arabs murder and maim Jews, Jordan’s leaders bark the blood libel of “Israeli aggression.”

Perhaps attacking a terrorist’s legacy broadly and publicly would dissuade others from terrorism?

R’ Aryeh yelled “Run, I’ll fight!” Using a chair against terrorists to buy time so others could flee

Riot started when Muslim students wore the Pal. kaffiyeh and Druze students demanded them removed

The “Media” didn’t want us to know what a kind, giving, loving young woman Dalia was.

A “Palestine” could become another Lebanon, with many different factions battling for control.

Maimonides himself walked and prayed in the permissible areas when he visited Eretz Yisrael in 1165

Having a strong community presence at the polls shows our elected officials we care about the issues

More Articles from Rabbi Avi Weiss
Rabbi Avi Weiss

Yitzchak thought the Jewish people needed dual leadership: Eisav the physical; Yaakov the spiritual

Rabbi Avi Weiss

Perhaps deep down Eliezer did hesitate. In his heart of hearts, he may not have wanted to succeed.

To be fully saved means not only to come out physically unscathed but emotionally healthy as well.

Having herself been victimized by Pharoah, Sarah should have been more sensitive to Hagar.

Noah and his wife could not fathom living together as husband and wife and continuing the human race

If one hurts another human being, God is hurt; if one brings joy to another, God is more joyous.

The Sukka: Even if you find it difficult to come to the synagogue, the synagogue will come to you.

Ba’al Shem Tov: “Hashem, too, is crying; as much as He is looking for us, we rarely look for Him.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/reflections-on-a-grandsons-enlistment-in-the-idf/2012/05/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: