Love From Iraq

Reposted from Rabbi Cohen’s Blog

I just got off skype with Daniel, the Captain of the unit Temple Beth Sholom adopted.  It was so wonderful to see him and spend some time catching up.

All of Daniel’s troops are doing great!  In fact, his unit was just given an accommodation for being so well run and not having had an serious incidents!  Daniel is extremely proud of all of them and the work they are doing.

Right now, the unit and everyone on the base are working toward getting things together for the Iraqi people to be able to take care of themselves.  He is so proud of all the work they are doing and the Iraqi people are gracious for the assistance they are receiving.  When Daniel first went to Iraq, they used bullets to communicate, but now, they are using words to share knowledge and strategies to allow the country to finally be under its own rule.  The possibilities are exciting for Daniel and all the troops serving.

I asked Daniel if he heard about the company citing Biblical verses on their equipment. He jumped up saying, “you have to see this!” He pulled out a very expensive gun sight that he says is top of the line.  However, he refuses to use it because it has a Biblical verse printed on the side.  It says, “Numbers 8:12” which reads, “The Levites shall now lay their hands upon the heads of the bulls; one shall be offered to God as a purgation offering and the other as a burnt offering, to make expiation for the Levites.”

While Daniel’s high powered sight has a verse from the Hebrew Bible printed on his equipment, still the idea of using it is out of the question for him.  He is appalled that someone sees fit to use their Christian Evangelical beliefs to justify printing such verses on military equipment.  There have been those from Trijicon, the equipment company, who say that our military personnel are fighting a holy war.  Is this not what the Muslim fundamentalists also say? Therefore, this high powered sight remains in its case in Daniel’s room.  Thank goodness he’s in a relatively safe place.

He is very open about his Jewish identity, with his travel mezuzah (a gift from TBS) hanging on his room door.   It gives him a closer connection to home being that he is the only Jew on his base.  He celebrates the holidays from there and I’m sure he’ll have to skype with his parents for Passover seder, for as he said, “if I’m not at my parent’s house for seder, I’ll get my tuchus kicked.”  And we can expect to see him at services at TBS.  He loved our services here last summer and then in December because it was exciting and fun.  It was not what he remembered from childhood and it lifted his spirit.

Hey, this is what I’ve been trying to remind people – Shabbat services are not your childhood Shabbat services.  They are lively and fun! They should lift our spirits so that we’re not bored.  Trust me, if their boring, then I’m bored too.  And no one wants a bored rabbi! Maybe Daniel’s enthusiasm could inspire more people to come out and try it again.

Daniel will be returning for R&R in a couple of weeks.  Hopefully, we will see him for Purim. He’s so excited to come back to see us all and we will be very excited to see him as well.

Until then, there is love coming from Iraq, and we’re sending lots of love to Iraq and all of Daniel’s troops!

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