By Chaplain (CPT) Michoel Harari, USA
A few years ago, I was deployed to MK Air Base in Romania, serving troops in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Poland. While there, we had an uncasing of the colors with over 800 soldiers in attendance. At the invocation for our unit, which occurred on the first day of the month of Elul, I dis cussed the meaning behind the shofar, and blew its notes for all to hear. The experience was awesome.
Although I always try to get to know all the soldiers in my unit, unfortunately I didn’t know that one of them was Jewish. He had Roman Catholic listed as his religion. Still, I knew him pretty well. He was always so positive and friendly, waving with a big smile every time he saw me.
As my time at MKAB was coming to an end, this soldier approached me and said, “You have no idea what it meant when you blew the shofar at the uncasing. All my friends were like, ‘What is that?!’ They had no clue what a shofar was. It was incredible to be part of it.”
I was shocked. I asked the soldier, “How did I never know that you’re Jewish?!” He said he had put Roman Catholic on his tag because he had been told that if you have tattoos you can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery. I quickly corrected this misconception and he was very relieved to hear it. As we talked, it came out that this soldier had grown up in an Orthodox Jewish family in New Jersey. He was one of nine siblings and had gone to a religious school as a child. I was so happy to have the opportunity to connect in this manner with a fellow Jewish soldier, and he felt the same. All because of the sound of the shofar.
Originally published in the Tishrei 5783 Jewish-American Warrior