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Chaim, The Lone Soldier, Comes for Shabbat

By Paula Stern
10/16/2010, 12:00 AM
I couldn't resist that title - this one's for Chaim.

The "Protectzia" worked - Chaim was able to go visit his family in the United States over the holidays. I was so happy for him; felt the same desperation that he just had to go; and such joy that he went. He called me the day he returned, and that too was a wonderful feeling. It's nice to know he loves us as much as we love him.

After getting this break, he had to return straight to the army and so this last Shabbat was the first chance he got to come over. It was also a Shabbat where we were happy to welcome another lone soldier. I don't have permission to tell his story - I can ask, but I didn't yet, so I'll just say that his mother contacted me after reading this blog. We've been in contact a long time now...and I've heard and watched from afar.

This was the first time he came for Shabbat and we were happy to have him. Shmulik drove into Jerusalem and picked up both guys close to Shabbat. We enjoyed meals, quiet times, talks. Perhaps I'll write about our second guest another time, for now I'll write about Chaim.

He looks wonderful - happy, healthy, beautiful. He's a calming force when he comes to the house - somehow he has patience for everyone. This week, he gave a short Dvar Torah at both meals. A Dvar Torah is a few words of wisdom about or from the weekly portion of the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible). There are some people who speak long and others who speak profoundly in just a few words. Chaim is a master at saying something meaningful in short sentences. 

I was tired and focused on serving food and seeing everything was on the table. I listened, loved it, and now can't remember what he said, other than remembering that I smiled after each one. I pushed him into doing the second one (he did the first one on his own). I would have let him out if he hadn't stepped up for the second one, but he did and I was glad in the end.

This week's portion was especially meaningful at our table. It was "Lech Lecha" - the portion that speaks of God telling Abraham to leave his home and come to Canaan, the land of Israel. He spoke of blessing Abraham and giving him a great nation. See, I'm remembering what Chaim said just by writing this. 

What was special was the Chaim tied it into almost everyone there at the table. We were the "old-timers" having been in Israel for 17 years. Two of our children were born here and know no other world. Chaim, our other lone soldier, and the family who joined us all came in the last few years. Like Abraham, we all picked ourselves up and moved to a far off land, to this land. Abraham was told that God would bless him. And, he was told that God would make his name great. 

There was, Chaim explained, other text in between these two promises - and the break was important. It signifies the time we have in this life to fulfill God's plan, to make ourselves worthy. Not to be sacrilegious, but it reminded me of a Garth Brooks song (did I ever mention I love country music?).

There's two dates in time
That they'll carve on your stone
And everyone knows what they mean
What's more important
Is the time that is known
In that little dash there in between

In some ways, this is what Chaim was talking about - it's what you do with your life that counts, more than the dates of birth or death. And this is what Chaim and our other guest, and Elie and Shmulik and Yaakov have done or are doing. They've dedicated some part of their life to doing something important - that little dash in between.
 
So serious, I've become...so let me go back to Shabbat. Major decisions loom ahead of both of these soldiers who visited our home this weekend. Each takes a path that has already taken them so far from the ones their parents envisioned for them. And on this path, they came and graced my home. It was a wonderful Shabbat - the Shabbat of lone soldiers, Chaim dared me to write...and so I have. And yet, with all of that, it's a funny name we give to these guys - lone soldiers...and yet we don't leave them alone, don't let them be lone. 
 
The other family who came today had asked if they could bring their lone soldier - but he had to cancel at the last minute; a neighbor wrote to me and asked how I'd gotten my lone soldier - they want one too. Abraham left his home and all that he knew...to come home to a special land that was promised to him - a land of milk and honey. Chaim has done the same in many ways and he brought me onion powder and chocolate! 
 
(Thanks, tons - to Chaim's mother - and to J.'s mother - my sisters in this soldiers' mother business, for sharing your amazing guys with me.)