Josh Lehman

I don’t want to volunteer for the IDF

...but he will anyway, because the opportunity to defend the Jewish people is a God-given privilege

My name is Josh Lehman, I’m from Monsey, New York, and in two week’s time I will be volunteering for the Israel Defense Forces. In light of that, I suppose the title of this article needs some explaining.

I don’t want to join the Israeli Army, I really don’t. I don’t like the idea of taking orders, being overly physical, depriving myself of sleep, eating tuna, pushing off college, leaving my friends, leaving my family, speaking a foreign language, going to war, and quite frankly, green isn’t really my color. Many don’t join the army for several of the reasons just raised, and honestly they are very good reasons. Despite these setbacks my decision to go to enlist remains unwavering, and I would like to explain why that is.

I recently saw the movie “42”, which portrays the life of Jackie Robinson. Robinson was one of the first ever African-American Major League Baseball players and had to overcome many adversities in his life because of the racist nature of the United States at the time. He not only succeeded as a player, but also as a model for how a discriminated man can thrive in a segregated society. There is a scene in the movie where Robinson is up at bat and the opposing coach taunts him with racist slurs from the other dugout. The taunting clearly caused Jackie a lot of distress to the point where one of his white teammates stood up for him and told off the antagonistic coach. Jackie returned to his dugout and thanked the other player, but was quickly replied to with the following response: “You’re on my team, what am I supposed to do?”

When I think about the sacrifices that are made by the people of Israel to make this tiny country work, and I wonder if it’s my place to step up and help out, there is only one thought that comes to mind, “You’re on my team, what am I supposed to do?” I guess you can say this entire baseball analogy was just a way of saying “Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh L’zeh” (“All Jews are responsible for one another”), but somehow those words have lost their meaning. If we Jews are really supposed to view each other as brothers, then why aren’t the doors of the enlistment office flooded with Jews from all over the world looking to join. I know that if anyone’s brother lived under the threats and immediate danger that the Jews in Eretz Yisrael face on a daily basis, they would do everything in their power to help in any way possible. I suppose that’s where the issue stems from; whether we really view each other as a family or not.

Very often people will ask me if the army really needs me. After all, will one more soldier really make such a difference? The truth is the army really doesn’t need me, but the answer to the question lies in the upcoming holiday of Purim. Esther was sent on a mission to save the Jewish people from the hands of Haman, and even had to risk her own life in the process. After Mordechai asked her to approach King Achashveirosh, Esther expressed concern at the danger of approaching the king uninvited. It was then that Mordechai answered with the following: If you, Esther, remain silent at this time, the rescue of the Jewish people will come from someone else. Mordechai was explaining to Esther that the Jewish people didn’t need her specifically, as God has a plan to save us anyway. God’s plan will take place with you or without you. Your job, Esther, is to decide whether or not you want to be a part of that plan.

We are given opportunities by God to do amazing things with our lives. Whether or not we want to accept those opportunities is left for us to decide. The ability to fight and defend the Jewish people is one of the most amazing privileges that we have ever been given as a people. To choose to take part in such a privilege is our decision, because either way God has an agenda. I am choosing to be an active participant in the current stage of God’s plan for His people, and if that requires me to speak Hebrew and eat tuna, so be it.

About the Author
Josh Lehman was born and raised in New York. He is currently learning in Yeshivat Hakotel and studying in Mechon Lev in Jerusalem.
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