September 11, 2013

Our soldiers, our sons

I was so busy preparing for Rosh Hashanah, I had little time to contemplate. Overwhelmed by the upcoming three-day chag; preparing menus, cooking meals, hosting overnight visitors, and making last-minute dashes to the grocery store, I had no time to think.

I made a long checklist and detailed menus, crossing off each item as it was done. Yet when I had completed everything, I felt empty. Lighting the candles and welcoming Rosh Hashanah, I stood and watched the flames flicker across the room. A new year arrived. And I felt unsettled.

The tablecloth was white, the flowers lavender. Exotic dishes representing the symbolic Rosh Hashanah foods filled the table: purple beets, plump dates, bright orange gourds, sweet saffron beans and rice. It all looked so festive and promising.

Our guests arrived and we all sat down to our meal. I looked around and felt the same emptiness. And then it hit me. My eldest son was not with us.

Weeks ago, when he first told me his army schedule, I knew he was not going to be here. But I did not know how I was going to feel and just how much he would be missed.

That evening, Jewish families around the world walked to synagogue together, and over the next few days, they gathered for the special Yom Tov meals, and relaxed in the afternoons. Yet here in Israel, where so many of our sons and daughters are doing army service, there is a void. Knowing my son was standing with a gun guarding a settlement while we feasted was especially hard for me.

These are the times when the army sacrifice is most keenly felt. Do these soldiers want to be standing on hilltop outposts? Or guarding hostile borders? They would all rather be home with family and friends, yet they realize they have the most important job of all.

Going into this holiday, we all knew the political situation here was tenuous and, as Observant Jews, none of us would have access to news or phone calls for three days. But because of these soldiers, my son included, the rest of the country was able to go to shul peacefully, pray, walk about leisurely, eat lavish meals with friends and reconnect spiritually.

It is in our soldiers’ merit that we can focus on this connection. When I davened in shul, I closed my eyes tightly and begged for peace. I want my son at my side. We all want our children home.

The IDF is an extraordinary organization comprised of soldiers from diverse backgrounds, each with unique stories. The Israeli Army recently put out this heart-warming video wishing us all a ShanaTova.

During the holidays, we should pause and take the time to think of the soldiers who ensure we can celebrate in peace.

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