The Lone Soldier

I imagine what the great Torah luminaries of history would have sacrificed to be here in my place - to wear the uniform of an Israeli soldier. I am fulfilling the dreams of and longings of two thousand years.<br/>

Rabbi Yehuda HaKohen,

 Rabbi Yehuda HaKohen
Rabbi Yehuda HaKohen
The Judean sun beats down, pounding our backs. Sweat covers us, burning our eyes, causing the dirt to stick to us. We are soldiers of Israel. Or at least training to be. It is what G-d wants. I have trouble distinguishing between the blisters and bug bites on my hand. My arms ache and my muscles shiver from over-work. I don't think I can do anymore push-ups. Every so often, HaShem expresses his compassion by sending a cool gentle breeze to refresh us. I close my eyes and smile as I savour G-d's gift. Not only the gift of the breeze, but the gift of allowing me the merit to serve as a fighter in the Jewish army of the reborn State of Israel.

How we have yearned for so long. I try to keep reminding myself of this as my training grows more intense. My knowledge of the Hebrew language is poor, and I often become frustrated. I feel stupid and it saps my strength; drains my motivation to be here. I have to struggle. To remind myself of the greatness of this mitzvah - to take responsibility with the future of my nation. To have an intimate relationship with HaShem as I participate in bringing the Redemption of the world. I imagine what the great Torah luminaries of history would have sacrificed to be here in my place - to wear the uniform of an Israeli soldier. I am fulfilling the dreams of and longings of two thousand years.

Night falls and it is time for a run. Finally a chance to feel self-worth. No feeling like an idiot. No talking in broken Hebrew. Just pushing my body to its limits as I request for G-d to strengthen me. My sergeant leads us. The run is hard, but I feed off of it. I remind myself that pain is merely weakness leaving the body. G-d strengthens me and I excel. Others try to submit, but I offer them encouragement to continue and pull them along. We train for war in the breathtaking hills that the Maccabees lived and fought in. Our souls transcend history.

The sergeant stops. So do we. He begins to speak to us in a commanding voice. I feel great admiration and love for him. He is training our hands for war - turning us into weapons. He is making me a more efficient servant of HaShem. Bringing me closer to G-d. I don't understand what he is saying, only a word here and there. So I imagine what he is saying. What I would say if I were in his position. And I inspire myself with my own imagination of his words. We continue our run and I feel empowered.

We return to camp in time for dinner and to pray. And then we prepare our things to go home in the morning for Shabbat. I live alone. My family still resides in the Kingdom of the Cross. Like hostages of Eisav, in a land not their own. I hope they come soon. I try to use Shabbat to rest and replenish my emunah.

And then, on Sunday morning, I must return to the base. I don't feel as if I have had enough time off. I am running late to meet my unit in Jerusalem. I hail a taxi. The driver is suprised at the combination of my uniform and the lack of Hebrew skills. He listens to a Torah tape as we drive. We are truly a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation. The national expression of G-d reborn in our Land, to bring light to the world.

We arrive at the spot. So many soldiers. Finally I find my unit. Only last week, they looked like a motley groups of boys thrown together by fate, now they appear as serious fighters. All strong and tanned, in their olive-green uniforms. On their heads, kippot of various colours and sizes. On their backs are strapped M-16 rifles. And on their belts, each have a pair of magazines. Some have thick beards and peyot flowing from their ears to their shoulders. I look at my uniform and realize that these are the holiest clothes a person can wear. I bathed in the mikvah this morning; my soul shines bright through the uniform, and I feel ready for another week in the army of G-d.

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