The entire Sefer Bereishit is full of stories regarding our Patriarchs and Matriarchs; the impact they had on the people around them and the Kiddush Hashem they achieved during the course of their productive and challenging lives. Yet as beautiful and inspiring as these stories are they are nonetheless stories of the past and it is difficult to imagine people around us in our midst who may fulfill similar callings.
Three weeks ago our daughter Nechama was drafted into TZAHAL. Nechama is an observant young lady and she knew she was going to be in a unit together with 25 non-observant young women. While she was eager to partake in her unit she was a bit anxious regarding how things would pan out for her being the only religiously observant person on her base. The first week after she was drafted was Sukot and the chayalot (women soldiers) were allowed home for the holiday but they were told that the first Shabbat back when they returned would be on base and so they were instructed to prepare accordingly as they would not be going home for two weeks. As such the chayalot began to compare notes on their “whats app” group, texting one another about what they should bring with them to base so that they could all make things a little more enjoyable for Shabbat together in the army. A number of girls suggested they bring a “boom box” so they could play music, dance together and make some noise. Immediately this suggestion was nixed as a number of chayalot reminded the group that Nechama was observant of Shabbat and it would be unfair that she could not partake and disrespectful of her way of keeping the Shabbat; and so it was agreed that everyone would bring board games so that Nechama could partake. When Nechama told us of this exchange I told her (tongue in cheek) that she had not even spent that much time with the other chayalot and she already was having a positive influence on her surroundings.
The week passed by and on Friday Nechama called us from base in an emotional state. She explained that she was nervous spending Shabbat on base as the only observant soldier and she explained that her secular officer sat the chayalot in a circle the day before and asked them what Shabbat meant to each of them. Some said that Shabbat was about going to the movies, some said going out to eat and some just welcomed the chance to sleep. Nechama responded that Shabbat for her was her mother’s Challa and chicken soup, and with that she was brought to tears and she left the room. A few of her comrades came over to her and told her that they understood that she was the only religious girl and they reassured her that they would be going to the Beit Kenesset with her on Shabbat. When I heard this, I reminded Nechama again of the impact she was having considering the short amount of time she was in the army and I told her that if she was lonely or sad over Shabbat she should remind herself of the Kiddush Hashem she was fulfilling through her service.
Motzaei Shabbat, Saturday night Nechama called and told us the following story. Shabbat morning she went to the Beit Kenesset and by the time she came back for Seudat Shabbat, all of the other chayalot were already in the middle of eating. Nechama found some grape juice and approached the table to make Kiddush in order to join her fellow soldiers. One of the girls motioned to her to sit down and join them to which she explained that her Abba makes Kiddush while standing and so she too would stand for Kiddush. Suddenly, all 25 chayalot stood up and respectfully remained standing in anticipation of Nechama’s Kiddush for Shabbat. Nechama was overwhelmed with emotion and she had to excuse herself and walked out of the dining hall. The non-observant officer approached her and told her as follows,
“Nechama, there are 25 chayalot inside who never heard Kiddush in their lives. They are now waiting for you to make Kiddush for Shabbat please take this opportunity and recite the Kiddush for our dining room”; and so she did.
Yes my friends, the stories of our forefathers and their lives may have happened long ago, but their memories and the lessons they leave us continue to resonate within us, presenting us with opportunities to fulfill Kiddush Hashem to this very day.