Turning the army into a place of 'Yiddishkeit'

'Tzalash' group aims to foster religious observance in the army. 'When you break it down, the army is the easiest place to be religious.'

Yoni Kempinski,

Tzalash event
Tzalash event

Arutz Sheva spoke with Yaron Levy, director of the “Tzalash” organization, during the “Bchol Levavcha” conference held in Tel Aviv by the Ramat Gan Yeshiva.

“Tzalash deals with empowering religious soldiers in the army,” Levy explained. “The idea is to turn the army into a place with more a feeling of Yiddishkeit, where people don’t find it a challenge to be religious, but where they can continue growing religiously during their service.”

Levy addressed the common phenomenon of boys coming out of the army less observant than they went in. “The environment in the army is very diverse, and very secular. Maintaining the same religious lifestyle they were used to before the army, the learning and praying, is just not the same - you’re tired, you can’t concentrate. Plus, due to the fact that their environment is secular, whenever they have some free time, everything is pulling them towards things that don’t fit into a life of Yiddishkeit.”

In order to combat this phenomenon, Tzalash organizes various projects for soldiers. One project Levy mentioned sees soldiers attending Torah classes at the meeting points where they later travel to base. Another project assigns each soldier of a unit a specific section of Gemara to learn, so that together they will have studied the entire tractate.

“We complete over 500 tractates a year with this method,” he said, adding that the program means that “When the soldiers have free time, that’s what they want to do. They want to learn together and continue growing that way.”

According to Levy, Tzalash is also able to inspire non-religious soldiers to become stronger in observance, after they are influenced by the enthusiasm of observant soldiers involved in Tzalash programs. “When they see the religious soldiers so enthusiastic about what they’re doing, that’s the magnet.”

He said that, while the right perspective can cause one to see that army service is actually conducive to the strengthening of Jewish observance, this fact is not always so easily felt.

“When you break it down, the army is actually the easiest place in the world to be religious, because you are immersed in a mitzvah from the day you enter to the day you leave. The thing is, it’s a different religious experience. You could be patrolling around in a car on Yom Kippur. It’s not like Kol Nidrei in yeshiva.”

“To that end,” he explained, “we have a lot of booklets we give out which have words of Torah for the soldiers, helping remind them what they are actually doing [as soldiers], because they are truly doing an amazing thing the whole time.”

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