All the old war movies used to say that. "Freedom isn't free." It sounded tough; but I didn't really get it as a teenager. I was a little more in tune with "Freedom ain't worth nothin' when there's nothin' left to lose." Bobby McGee resonates so much better to a young Liberal than does John Wayne. But then, life did what it does, in it's twisty-turny way. I ended up in the army. And I understood John a little better, and couldn't quite remember what it was I'd seen in Bobby.
Below you will see pictures of my delightful Purim celebration, interspersed with the words of the Purim of one of my soldier sons. Just to remind myself that all this delicious freedom I get to celebrate isn't free.
Purim 5772. Where was I?
I was not at a table with my family eating and drinking. I was not out delivering Mishloach Manot. I was not dressed in some goofy costume dancing in the streets of Jerusalem. For I am a soldier; and I have a job to do.
As the Fast of Esther came to a close, before I even put a morsel of food in my mouth, we were loaded onto Blackhawk helicopters and taken to the northern part of Israel to continue our week-long training exercise. We had been training the whole week in many different parts of the country. The week is meant to prepare us for the most extreme warfare conditions. We eat very little, sleep even less, march through the night, and execute combat exercises with fervor.
When the helicopters landed we marched a few kilometers to the meeting point. There, in a pitch black field far from our celebrating nation, a group of soldiers in battle gear, with one flashlight, read the Megilla.
Immediately afterward, we ate whatever food we had and drank as much water as possible to prepare our tired bodies for the 13 kilometer march to the next combat exercise location.
We arrived as the first rays of morning shone over the horizon. We stopped and curled ourselves up, fighting the freezing winds to try and catch some sleep.
We woke to the joyous shouts of some young Chabadniks chanting Purim songs and handing out Mishloach Manot. The religious soldiers again gathered together and read the Megilla. There was dancing and singing. The Purim spirit was felt by every person there, by every soldier.
From there we began a very long combat exercise and we became focused again on the mission, on our job.
Like that, Purim came and Purim went.
Why was I there? I was there because, as every Jew knows, although we celebrate the hanging of Haman, evil has yet to be vanquished. I was there because we live with the sobering reality that as we try to drink enough to confuse "blessed be Mordechai and cursed be Haman," our enemies know very well who Mordechai is and how badly they want him destroyed. Their hatred and Amalek's determination for our downfall allow us no days off. We must always remain vigilant and ready. In the days of the first Purim, Esther received permission to annihilate the enemies of Israel. We pray for the day that, just as then, we in our days will be given permission by the One True King to smash our enemies into dust and lay waste to evil for eternity. Amen.
For now, however, we will be out there training. Putting aside our individual lives for that of the Nation. Reading the Megilla under the stars, with camouflage paint and a smile on our faces. And as the officer remarked before he began to recite the blessing on the Megilla: "It may not be ideal; but one thing is for sure -- you won't forget Purim 5772.”
~ Yeshiva Bochur, aka Sage Zion, aka Exiled Warrior
Thanks, guys. Thank you for letting us celebrate, while you watched our backs. May you celebrate many happy, joyful Purims, with your wives and children and grandchildren, safe and free and all around you.