These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[Alumni Guest Post] D’var Torah: Parashat Vayakel-Pikudei

Posted on March 8, 2013 by The Director of Digital Media

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Daniel Shibley (Year '11, Fellows '12) blogs honestly
and openly about his thoughts on being drafted into
the Israeli Defense Forces after making Aliyah:

Israel Flag

Israel Flag (Photo credit: Felix_V)


Building of the Mishkan takes center stage in the parasha this week. Moshe asks the Israelites to give to the construction project, to sacrifice some of their personal property for a common goal. He does not place specific demands upon the Israelites, instead asking that they give as they are so inclined. Obviously there are both strengths and weaknesses to this fundraising strategy. What would have Moshe have done if there was insufficient materials? Fundraisers the world over no doubt cope with this reality on a daily basis, which is why we often hear speeches in American synagogues on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah asking us to turn down tabs on an index card to indicate the exact amount of our pledge or Israel Bonds purchase.

But what about physical sacrifices or sacrifices of time, or a combination? I am not attempting to diminish the contributions of donors and Israel Bonds purchasers, especially since I fall into both these categories. But Betzalel himself along with those who actually built the Mishkan had an extraordinarily difficult task to undertake. Although I refuse to compare myself to Betzalel, the great builder of the Mishkan, I can not help but also feel a different kind of burden that comes from knowing that I have to serve in the IDF, for this will be both physically demanding, mentally demanding, as well as hold a monopoly on my time. Donations of money to Israeli causes, purchasing Israeli products, helping lone soldiers, and lobbying legislative bodies and heads of state are all valuable and necessary ways to sacrifice for the State, but for some reason the army still feels different, even when weighing potential service options.

I am not complaining about having to serve, but trying to figure out the most appropriate service option is weighing heavily. There are goals that I want to accomplish, jobs I want to do, and people I would like to meet, all of which will be put on hold during my military service. I am constantly asking myself is a longer “more serious” service better or is a shorter “get it over quickly” service the preferable option? Thousands of Israelis face their mandated service every year, each pressing the pause button on life until the service is complete, so I am hardly alone, and yet sometimes it does feel like a solo endeavor.

With regard to my army service, what will be or what will not be, both remain to be decided, just as Moshe’s plea for building materials was perhaps an open request with an unknown result. I can only hope that at the end of my service that I am able to view this process in the rear view mirror as a worthwhile contribution, a necessary sacrifice for the collective building and defense of the State of Israel.

Shabbat shalom.