With hearts full of love, we gaze at this ancient city of our people as we bless a new chayal, a paratrooper, who will begin service in the Israel Defense Forces this very week. He is dear to us, and we cherish him mightily. He is our grandson.
This young man called Aaron is the youngest in a family of five sons, each of whom has fallen deeply in love with this place, this Makom Kodesh we know as Israel. As his brothers before him, Aaron is fluent in Ivrit and profoundly committed to ensuring the safety of this holy space. He knows he will work hard and perhaps be in harm’s way to perform his duties.
As always, there are challenges. The enemies are at the gates, everywhere, from the ground beneath to the skies above, from the glistening sea to the mountains on high, to the spectacular desert landscape, from every direction, from nations near and far, from missiles which can land anywhere. And this protected boy of ours, who grew up in South Orange, a tony New Jersey suburb, will suddenly be in the throes of dangers he has never known, always unwarranted, never deserved.
And we, his only living grandparents, will worry and struggle intensely. Although we ourselves are now ancient, this experience will be, for us, frightening. Again! Our grandson Joshua was also eager for the challenge to give of himself as a guardian of the Land, as a chayal. And so it was then and it is now yet again. One can only hope that we are fit for this ride. Aaron deserves no less. As he is brave, so must we be. FDR taught us that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. I dare to differ. The only thing we have to fear is danger directed towards those we love.
The appeal of the IDF to young American Jews is legendary. From protected to protector in one not so easy step. Many have come before him and brought honor to the American Jewish community from whence they came. Now it will be our grandson, Aaron, and our bracha is that he returns safely and with the satisfaction of knowing he has performed stoically, confidently, and honorably.
This is a nation worth defending. It is beautiful and ringed with joy and laughter. Its great cities sparkle and are alive 24/7 while its suburbs grow speedily melding into its countryside. Distances are small and the dynamic city life is moments away
from the pastoral places. It is the ultimate, the home of the Jews.
We have had numerous status changes throughout our lives, in a familiar and typical pattern of growth. Marriage, births, sickness, health. Lives lived in America and in Israel. Loving a soldier may be among the most significant. We strive to be supportive and dignified in this phase of our existence.
When we recite the prayer for the chayalim, the Misheberach, when we ask God to guard them and bless them and protect them from our enemies, we aimq to protect the little boy we once knew who suddenly,w2 perhaps when we weren’t looking in his direction, stretched as a stick of bubble gum, to reach the height of a tall man. He will look handsome in his new uniform with his beret tucked in on his shoulder, and we, we will worry just as did those mothers and grandmothers and fathers and grandfathers, who came before us, and those who now also share their beloved children and grandchildren with the IDF.
Aaron is a talker, always has been. Many things fascinate him. He sits for hours at his computer learning those things. I know he would be a long term champion on Jeopardy. It sometimes bewilders me how many unrelated facts he knows. Remote rivers? Check. United States presidents? Check. Countries of the world? Check. International politics? Check. Mountain ranges? Check. Active volcanoes? Check. On and on and on. He knows many many things about places and people I’ve never even heard of, and once it has been learned, it has been learned forever and he teaches about it, especially if, like me, you are a Jeopardy “would-be”. Aaron can recall disparate topics with total accuracy and he loves to share them with an aging, forgetful savta, grandmother. But the most important thing for him to remember is to return to us strong and healthy. Indeed it is!
Dear God of our fathers and mothers, I implore You to watch over our beloved grandson, to walk with him and lead him and all those precious young people who also walk with him, in safety, so that he, and all of them, will one day rejoice and be blessed under the chuppah, the wedding canopy, in this Eretz we love. AMEN