Warning: The following post may exceed the recommended daily allowance for maternal boasting. Proceed at your own risk.
Due to various and sundry real life endeavors, I wasn’t able to write the traditional fast day food post on Sunday. Hopefully, however, THIS post will more than make up for my blogging lapse, because I think you’ll agree that it’s highly appropriate for the week of Assarah B’Tevet.
About a month after the CTO began his military service, he was traveling home from his base and found himself sitting next to another soldier from his unit.
They started talking, and during the course of their conversation, the soldier shared a wonderful story with the CTO.
As it so happens, this particular solider comes from a non-observant home and considers himself to be completely secular. (Although the unit in question was a hesder unit, there were a few secular soldiers there as well.)
Furthermore, in what can be taken as an unfortunate commentary on Israeli society, the soldier had apparently had very little direct contact with Orthodox Jews of any stripe.
Indeed, his impressions of his religious countrymen were largely gleamed from the media and basically consisted of stereotyped images of rock-throwing fanatics.
Thus, on the first day of basic training (i.e. tironut, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you), when he noticed that most of the other new recruits were not only religious but yeshiva guys (i.e. beinesh”im, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you) to boot, he got very nervous.
Panicked, he approached the commanders and requested that they transfer him to a unit with, in his words, “fewer kippot.”
But the commanders brushed him off with a dismissive “we’ll see what we can do,” and the soldier saw that he had no choice but to deal with his predicament.
So, he settled into army life and waited for the anticipated missionizing and religious coercion to begin.
Except that nothing happened.
In fact, as he admitted to the CTO during their ride home a month after their induction, he realized that he had been very wrong about the CTO and his fellow Torah scholars/soldiers.
They never tried to shove their beliefs down his throat.
They never looked down at him.
They never acted as if they thought they were better than him.
And at no point did they try to force him to do anything.
Instead, he said, the hesdernikim proved to be a group of nice, friendly, and nonjudgmental guys.
When the CTO got home and told us this beautiful story, YZG and I were amazed and, BA”H, incredibly proud.
Sadly, different sectors of Israel’s population don’t always have a chance to meet, and as a result, we are often left with false impressions.
Therefore, IMHO, the CTO and his friends caused an incredible Kiddush Hashem (a sanctification of Hashem’s Name), because thanks to them, the soldier now equates being a ben Torah with being a mensch.
“’ואהבת את ה' אלהיך.’ - שיהא שם שמים מתאהב על ידך… מה הבריות אומרות עליו? אשרי אביו שלמדו תורה, אשרי רבו שלמדו תורה. אוי להם לבריות שלא למדו תורה. פלוני שלמדו תורה ראו כמה נאים דרכיו, כמה מתוקנים מעשיו. עליו הכתוב אומר: ‘ויאמר לי עבדי אתה ישראל אשר בך אתפאר.’”
“‘And you shall love Hashem, your God.’ (Devarim 6:5) - [You must ensure] that the Name of Heaven shall become beloved through you… What do people say about him? Fortunate is his father who taught him Torah; fortunate is his teacher who taught him Torah. Woe onto those people who did not learn Torah. Ploni – who learned Torah – see how pleasant are his ways; how refined are his deeds. Regarding him it says, ‘And He said to me, you are My servant, Yisrael, in whom I take glory.’ (Yeshaya 49:3)”
(BT Yoma 86a)
May we all be privileged to reach out with love to our Jewish brothers and sisters and to bring achdut (unity) to Am Yisrael.