A Father’s Tefilah
The very first time we meet Moshe Rabbenu after his infancy, he “went out to his brothers,” which Chazal understand to mean that “he set his eyes and heart to feel their pain.” I offer the following in that vein. It is an unredacted version of a letter I received by email about a week ago from an old friend. It will be painful for many to read; it will get others angry. I think that the potential gains in some of us feeling the pain of others is worth the risks involved.
Rashi was one of our great commentators in the chumash and other Jewish books which we have been learning for hundreds of years. Today a young boy who received his 1st ‘Tzav Giyus’ or in the rest of the world, outside Israel, it’s called the ‘draft’ notice. The 16 3/4 year old sabra spent the first few weeks after his arrival into this world in Jerusalem classified by the doctors who perform miracles as agents of HKBH, as a ‘pag,’ or in the terms in the rest of the world, a ‘premie.’
The month of his birth was Adar 1, as in 1997, there was as there will be in 2014, 2 Adars, in which to rejoice and have a double ‘simcha.’ There is the Purim Katan on 14 Adar 1 and the Purim Hagadol which we celebrate with a feast, a megila, and many other joyous acts on Adar 2.
This morning at 8 am the father of this 16 3/4 year old lad went through the final checklist of papers that his son needed as they embarked on the highway to the ‘Lishkat Giyus’ on Rechov Rashi in Jerusalem. Rashi was learned yesterday during parshat Vaera as Moshe negotiated with Pharoah to let my people go, many many centuries ago to get to Jerusalem one day. Rashi has his commentary which explained to us the verses as spoken by Moshe Rabbeinu, his brother Aaron, the big kohen, and Hakodesh Baruch hu’s instructions.
As father and son approached the IDF draft and processing office to observe the first ‘Tzav Giyus’ per law, the father slowed down and stopped his car. He looked at his son, the premie of 1997, who today stood 6′ tall and was slim and very good looking with his tzizit hanging out on all four corners from his shirt, shed a tear, and wished his son, “Bhatzlacha, Eema and I love you.”
Rechov Rashi had no commentaries this morning on the last days of Tevet and of 2013. The young soldier to be, holding his sefer shmot to study between the long hours of ‘processing’ with the IDF, began the 6hour process to be grilled and drilled and examined by the IDF officers and doctors. Rechov Rashi is very close to the community of Geula in Jerusalem.
The view from the car by the father was surrealistic as the black hats, black suits, and same tzizit was protruding from the 17 and 18 year old boys who were not going to the IDF draft center today.
They had no intention of walking the street of Rashi as they had the excuse of the IDF, which is here to protect all Jews, is not their “Tosfos’ or ‘Rashi.’
The young boy was searched by the guard at the IDF draft center and the father watched as the gate locked behind him to go forward to become an official conscript for the IDF, the army of our giborim and heroes of Am Yisrael. The father left the street and observed as he drove away, the scores of other 17 and 18year old boys rushing with their chumash in hand to the beis midrash of Geula’s streets. The IDF was for whatever reason, not the road of Rashi 5 in Jerusalem which this boy has just entered which would change his life.
The ‘premie’ of 1997 had all his paperwork and 6hours later, texted his father and mother, that in spite of his first few weeks as a premie in 1997 in Jerusalem, the IDF had just told him that he was a 97 profile. The 97 means that the boy with the long tzizit and large kippa sruga was labeled a combat front line soldier in a year or two per the IDF rating system. His Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Adin Steinsaltz would be proud of one of his talmidim.
He left the IDF office and walked on that Rechov Rashi to catch a bus to go back to his yeshiva as he was just in the middle of his 11th grade learning with his chavrusa and class. The father called his son and asked where are you? “I just left Rashi street and am in the bus to go back to my yeshiva high school to continue my day’s seder and Abba, I was granted a 97 profile”!
The young boy was going back to learn the same Torah, the same Gemara, and the same Navi together with Rashi tonight as did the others in Geula. The only difference is that this premie of 1997 was classified by the IDF as ‘combat ready.’
It is now late at night in Jerusalem, Rechov Rashi is quiet without the lineup of drafted soldiers to be waiting to report for their registration per law and obligation of this country. The Rechov Rashi in Jerusalem is filled with those other boys, 17 and 18, who have skipped their notice by law to show up at Lishkat Giyus of the IDF.
The father called his son and asked what is he learning now? “I am learning Rashi on the parshat ‘Bo’ and more Rashi on the Gemara” “Abba I like Rashi, it had extra meaning for me today as I walked Rashi’s street.” The father was bewildered as those strolling on Rashi tonight, although respecting them with their black hats, suits, and tzizit out, were not concerned about Rechov Rashi as they too learned. Their parents will not lose 3 years of sleep as their sons are ‘kravi’ and front line protectors of Am Yisrael.
It is late now and this father has to find his windshield wiping sunglasses to help with the tears and say, thank G-d, our son, survived the premie world of a few weeks in an incubator in 1997. Thank G-d, our son, the yeshiva boy, was bestowed the honor of a 97 profile for combat and front line duty, not too far in the future.
Yes, Simcha, who was born in Adar 1 in 1997, is another yeshiva high school student of Eretz Yisrael, who chose to walk into the Lishkat GIyus with his Chumash Shmot, tzizit out, but ready to serve and protect Am Yisrael from the Amalakites of 2014 of today’s Megilat Esther.
We can only pray and pray that Simcha, a smaller kohen than the ‘rank’ of Aaron Hakohen Hagadol, is able to bless this nation with his prayers, with or without Rashi for many more years.
May Hashem take care of all our soldiers who entered the gates of the IDF draft office today on Rechov Rashi. Maybe we need Tosfos to explain why the other 17 and 18 year olds do not serve this country in uniform or alternatively, in national service. The beis midrash of their lives has the same sefarim as does the beis midrash of the ‘premie’ of 1997 who today, dropped the 19 and got a 97 profile by the IDF for combat and front line.
Laylatov from the proud father and mother,
dried out from tears trying to understand Rashi.
We will make progress towards achieving shalom between different groups only when we try harder to see things through the eyes of others. For many of us, this means tearing ourselves away from news sites (print and digital) that we preselect because they only report what we want to hear. By isolating ourselves, we miss out on the tone and the inflection of the people impacted by the problems of the day, even if we think we have the dry facts. This is true in regard to the dati-leumi soldier; to the sincere kollel family battling to put food on the table; to the homeless in Tel Aviv; to the embattled non-charedi citizens of Beit Shemesh victimized by election fraud and vilification. (Mercifully, the planned rally for 50,000 against the Israeli government has been “postponed,” so at least at the moment we don’t have to think about just how the good citizens of NY would react to such a scene, let alone the not-so-good enemies of the Jewish people who relish such public spectacles.)