Sherut Leumi

The importance of volunteerism in Judaism.

Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Hirsch,

יום העצמאות 67
יום העצמאות 67
ערוץ 7
In 1998, my daughter Efrat did Sherut Leumi (National Service) in the city of Sderot. She taught Torah, Jewish holidays and mitzvot in eight schools, six of which were not religious schools (Mamlachti schools). After three months, the principal at one of the Mamlachti schools decided that she didn't want the Sherut Leumi girls spreading religion to her mainly secular student body, and she banned the girls.
The teachers threatened to strike if the girls were not allowed to continue teaching.

This lasted less than a week, because the teachers threatened to strike if the girls were not allowed to continue teaching the only Jewish content that the students were getting.

During the course of that year, the girls also turned their headquarters into an audio-visual teaching center about the mitzvah of kavod habriyot, respecting one's fellow man. They turned one room into an artificial jungle, complete with trees and green hanging vines, with audio effects that they produced at a local recording studio. Using the movie Lion King as their model, they asked the 1st-6th graders what jungle animal they wanted to be. When they nearly all answered "lion," a pull of a switch turned the thriving jungle into a ruin.

"See what happens if you're all lions?" was the lesson.

The presentation merited a visit from then-Minister of Education Yossi Sarid of the far-left Meretz party, who bestowed an award on the project, which was continued beyond that school year.

I tell this story because of the importance of volunteerism to Judaism in general, and of Sherut Leumi in particular. These girls go and spread Judaism to Jews who would get none. These girls can enter schools and homes to which no rabbi would ever be allowed to enter, because antagonism (sinat chinam) is so great.

In Pekudei, the Mishkan is finally built, with all its parts put in their proper places. Three donations have been described: the fixed half-shekels for the adanim (the silver bases for the boards of the Tabernacle) and the community sacrifices, and the voluntary donations for all the rest of the construction. In Pekudei, Moshe Rabbeinu gives an accounting of all these donated materials. We have been told (Shmot 35; verses 5-7) that the people were so moved by this project that, in a short time, they gave even more than was needed. When it came time to actually build, both the people and Moshe had difficulty carrying out the physical craftsmanship: the ex-slaves lacked much of the necessary technical artisanship to do the job.

Ramban (Shmot 35:21) therefore says that for those acts that they simply lacked the skill to complete, they finished up by employing a spiritual method of construction. Rashi notes (ibid, 39;33) that at the end, Moshe couldn't erect the Mishkan; it was beyond his physical abilities. So the Almighty told Moses to do what he could with his hands, and as for the rest, "it arose and stood on its own," with Heavenly help. The Aznayim L'Torah (38:21) even connects this idea to the famous Talmudic teaching that the third Temple will come down in a fire from Heaven (Rashi and Tosafot in Sukkot 42; Rosh Hashana 30): we will build what we can on Earth, and the Lord will send down the fiery essences ("souls") of the first two Temples, which were never destroyed. These Temples functioned all these thousands of years, with the Archangel Michael leading Temple services in Heaven. These Temples were "pawned as securities" (Rashi, 38:21 d'h hamishkan), awaiting the spiritual awakening of all the Jewish people.

It is the old spirit that moved all the Jews to donate and build the Tabernacle that we see today in the spirit of volunteerism throughout this country. I mention Sherut Leumi as only one example, but an important one, as it not only stretches out to all elements of Israeli society, but because it is in danger from many fronts. Sherut is
The old spirit that moved all the Jews to donate and build the Tabernacle that we see today in the spirit of volunteerism throughout this country.
important because its reach is worldwide; my next daughter, Noga, just returned from a year Sherut in Milwaukee, and girls are also in Europe and Russia. But not only is the Minister of Education, Yuli Tamir, trying to cut Sherut Leumi's budget and the number of girls (Tamir is fiercely anti-religious), but a movement is underfoot even among those who one would think would be among Sherut's main backers.

Chardalnikim, religious Zionists with a strong Chareidi bent, are coming out against the girls doing Sherut, saying that their greatest service is to get married and establish families. Not only is this ironic at the very time that we see Chareidi Rabbonim allowing women in their communities to go out and work, but these Sherut girls are entering secular establishments that no one else could gain entry to. It is noteworthy that in building the Mishkan, the women spun goat-hair into the coverings (Shmot 35:25-26). The women contributed with activity that was definitely outside the family sphere.

Sherut Leumi is good for the girls, good for the country, and good for world-wide Jewry. Heaven forbid that our Dati-Leumi Chardalnikim make the mistake of establishing a policy against Sherut Leumi. It would only play into the hands of the likes of Yuli Tamir, doing her nasty work for her. May the spirit of giving that moves these girls bring Heavenly help in the building of our Jewish National Homeland and Temple.


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