He was called up on the first day of Protective Edge but at that time he was seriously ill with mono. The doctors told him not to go, the officers told him not to go, and family members told him not to go. I told him he wasn’t a slacker, rather he was sick but he felt guilty not being with his unit. Day after day he felt better and better until there was no holding him back. His wife and children gave him their blessings to don his uniform. So two weeks after the beginning of the war he came to Shilo to say goodbye.
Signaling to make a right turn onto the highway at the Shilo junction, I saw his car turn left from the highway to the Shilo access road. I was caught unawares since I hadn’t expected him so early. There was too much traffic for me to make a U-turn. I had noticed a police car on the shoulder of the road several hundred meters behind me so decided it wouldn’t be prudent to put my car in reverse. Impatient with my indecision the driver behind me laid on his horn. I waved him around me and he took off.
Wavering, I saw that my son had parked his car on the opposite side of the road. Hesitating no longer, I punched the emergency light, put on the hand brakes, turned off the motor, and jumped out of the car. I ran to my son. He ran to me. We met in the middle of the road right in front of the policeman. I grabbed him in a bear hug and he grabbed me. He thought I was crying but I was laughing. I wouldn’t send him off to war with tears. Those came later.
All over Israel mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, and loving spouses have sent their soldiers off to war.
Those soldiers are sorely missed and some of them have left and are not able to come home again.
|My husband blessing my son before he left|
As I write these words it is Rosh Chodesh Av, the first day of the Hebrew month of Av. It is a day where we intensify mourning for the first and second Holy Temples which were destroyed two thousand years ago on the ninth of Av. We’re commanded to mourn their destruction but it’s a challenge because we have no true idea of what we’re missing.
We never saw the Holy Temple is its splendor. We never heard the Kohen Gadol announce HaShem’s name in the Yom Kippur service. We never smelled the unique smell of the incense. We never tasted the taste of a holy sacrifice. We never felt the special stones in the Courtyard of the Holy Temple. No, we have no idea the extent of what we are missing.
Here in Israel, though, we do know what it is to miss our soldiers. With our longing for them to come home safely we’re doing our utmost to show our appreciation. The soldiers marvel at all the caring people, some who have travelled as far as two hundred kilometers or more, braving rocket attacks, with vehicles full of presents from individuals and corporations, presents that range from baked goods to underwear, from trays of restaurant food to over-the-counter medicines, from sleeping bags to prayer shawls, and more. They tell stories of strangers living near the army camps who have opened their homes for them to use their showers 24/7. They tell of guest houses that have offered free accommodations for wives who’re able to visit. Names of soldiers, both healthy and wounded, are given out for everyone to include in their prayers. Volunteers are in place to help the families left behind. The stories seem too fantastic to be true but they come from reliable sources. Such an outpouring of love!
Our rabbis teach us that the Second Holy Temple was destroyed because of senseless hatred. Today in Israel we are witnessing incident after incident of senseless love. It doesn’t make sense that when a lone soldier from America is killed in battle thousands upon thousands who never met him in his life attend his funeral. It doesn’t make sense that hundreds and hundreds more come to the hotel where his parents are staying to express their sympathy and support. It doesn’t make sense that the injured soldiers are inundated with gifts and notes from complete strangers.
It’s now nine days until Tisha B’Av, nine days until we fast, sit on the ground, and mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple. We have nine more days. Perhaps we can continue with our senseless love and finally bring the redemption we have been longing for. Then our soldiers can come home and we can rebuild The Holy Temple together.
Kohen Gadol: head Cohen