Ch, Capt Alan Kahan, USAF
In the military, there is no shortage of instances where we may find ourselves feeling isolated from family, friends and even spirituality—from faith. Within the Comprehensive Airman Fitness’ Spiritual domain, the United States Air Force lists the domain tenants as your “Core Values, Perseverance, Perspective, and Purpose.” The domain tenants are described as “one’s ability to adhere to beliefs, principles, or values needed to persevere and prevail in accomplishing missions.” You will find various definitions throughout different DoD publications, doctrine, guides and handbooks. For many, spirituality includes faith, however, not for all.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in his book, Studies in Spirituality, describes spirituality as: What happens when we open ourselves to something greater than ourselves. Some find it in beauty of nature, art, or music. Others find it in prayer, or performing a mitzvah [commandment], or learning a sacred text. Yet others find it in helping other people, or in friendship, or love. Spirituality is what tells us that “man does not live by bread alone but by everything that comes from the mouth of G-d” (Deut 8:3).
Below are six ways to maintain and even strengthen your spirituality and faith despite feeling isolated due to assignments, training or deployment.
Tip #1–Start from Within: Find your own unique way to feel spiritually fit and connect to it despite your circumstances. Make sure you define it, so you can nurture it. Do you recall a time that you felt spiritually fit? What contributed to it? What did it feel like?
Tip #2–Verbalize: Take time to give voice to your feelings and express gratitude for a specific instance in which you were able to see the hand of G-d in your daily life and activities.
Tip #3–Power of Music: Is there a song that you connect to? Continue to sing it. We tend to connect with music and their lyrics. The power of music can bring serenity and connect you to a more peaceful time. If the song is in Hebrew, learn the translation, and that understanding may be an even greater source of resilience.
Tip #4–Prayer: Pick a short prayer (such as the Shema) or Psalm that you feel connected with or drawn to and memorize it. This way you can readily access it no matter where you are or what is going on.
Tip #5–Rituals: What are some rituals that you can adhere to during your training or deployment? It most likely won’t be the same as back at home. However, doing a physical action can help you connect to G-d in an even greater way.
Tip #6–Connection: Many commandments and traditions in the Jewish faith are performed in a quorum or group. Whether you are a formal Lay Leader or not, try to find other Jews on your installation that you can celebrate Shabbat or a holiday with. If there are none, utilize technology to connect with others back at home or around the globe. Do your best to maintain a connection with others so it can be a source of encouragement and connectivity.
Originally published in the Tishrei 2023 issue of The Jewish American Warrior magazine.