Sep 8, 2011

Idealism versus Filial Obligation


Within the past few weeks I have read two articles about Israeli soldiers that I have found disturbing.  I know that my view is derided by some people, but I stand by it. 

Here goes.

One article, in part, was about a mother who prayed for a child for ten years and finally gave birth to a son.  The IDF exempts "only children" from service but this young man insisted on fighting anyway.  On four separate military missions he was the lone survivor of his unit.

In another article, I read of a 19 year old, his mother's only son (though not her only child), who enlisted in the IDF.  He told his family that if the soldiers were drafted into war, he would waive his rights as an only son to fight on the front lines.

The choices we make in life are based on a combination of factors.  For example, if I host people for Shabbos my motivations can be a mix of 1) wanting to do a mitzva 2) wanting to ensure that people have a proper Shabbos meal 3) wanting to have a lively, interesting Shabbos table  4) wanting to see myself as a good person who hosts people.  Our motives are hardly, if ever, pure; that's being human, although we should strive to do everything l'sheim shomayim, for the sake of heaven and not in order to be rewarded in any way.

Both articles portray these young men as heroes, as selfless individuals, who fight for their country, for their brethren.  What perturbs me is that their decision to fight when the IDF considers them worthy of exemption is at the expense of their mother's feelings.  The IDF doesn't need them; the IDF is not desperate for soldiers; the IDF exempts them because of their special status, but they choose to fight anyway.  Did they consider their mothers' feelings when making this decision? The articles don't say anything about that.  Was a rabbi consulted to weigh their desire to defend their country versus their singular status and their Kibud Eim responsibilities?

As laudable as defending our Jewish brethren is, as commendable as love for Israel is, as expressed in idealistically volunteering to serve the IDF, there are other ways to serve one's country and one's people, ways that don't make a mother cry.

1 comment:

  1. while I agree that in the case of IDF duty, only sons should avoid the front lines, in general there are times when a son wants to do something very badly, like marry a girl that the parents don't like or enter a profession that the parents disagree with and he has to choose between his desires and his parents' happiness.
    Going into battle puts a person at a higher risk for death that daily life does not entail but any person's life is at the mercy of Hashem and a person does not have to deliberately enter a risky situation to chas v'sholem, have his life taken.