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By: CSM Sam Yudin, CA ARNG

A man once had an audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe during which he discussed his plans for the future. He had taken a year off from his rigorous academic studies to attend yeshiva. The man had fully embraced his Judaism and wanted to abandon his academic pursuits to remain in yeshiva. He told the Rebbe of his plans and was shocked by the Rebbe’s response, “I want you to go back to university to get your PhD.” The man respectfully offered a counter argument, saying that if he returned to yeshiva, perhaps he could spread his passion for Judaism to students. The Rebbe answered, “You will accomplish more for Yiddishkeit [Judaism] with three initials after your name.”

When you joined the military, you were given “three little initials.” Your title took effect immediately. You did not need to spend long days studying, writing, and publishing academic papers before your title was earned.  You could save that sweat equity for later when you earned more senior rank and titles through your performance and demonstrated potential.  You raised your right hand and were bestowed with your new title through your oath. Just like the world was created when G-d spoke, your new world was created when you pledged that oath. Your oath, those words, thus has the potential to be more powerful for the introduction of good in this world than an advanced degree.

The Rebbe spoke to this man about how powerful three little initials after a name can be. How much more powerful are three initials before your name! It doesn’t matter your rank, as you have three little initials—your title—before your name.

However, even if you are not in a position of leadership, do not think that you don’t have the ability to make positive change. Nothing is further from the truth. There is no longer a distinction between leader and follower. We are all leaders. Even if you are not in a leadership position, you can be an emergent leader and lead through your positive actions, inspirational example, and exceptional accomplishments.

What better way to accomplish more for Judaism than to lead by example, especially from a more junior position? What better kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d’s name) than to be an exemplary service member by always setting an example, accomplishing our mission by exceeding the standard, and bettering our organizations and those around us? Whether the three initials in front of your name are PVT, CPT, CSM, GEN, or anything in between, the power to do good remains the same. Some services have more than three initials. That does not negate the potential to do good, but adds more letters to bear on improving the world around us and making a positive impact.

You have the power. What will you accomplish with your three little initials?

Originally published in the Passover 2023 issue of The Jewish American Warrior.