Dear Future Soldiers,
So you've decided to join the IDF, and it goes without saying that life as you know it is about to change. Your idea of a vacation will shift drastically from a trip to the Bahamas to a Yom Siddurim, and the idea of a new car is surprisingly less enticing than a cool addition to your gun. The army is another world where orders are orders but it almost doesn't matter because you won't understand them anyways. The best I can do to mentally prepare you is to tell you that many have done this before you and many will do this after you. And now it's your turn to accumulate your stories of funny Hebrew miscommunications and how you got off base that one time to do that one crazy thing.
My first week in training was a little bit of a shock to me. You see, in the initial stages of the army everything is done through permission from your commanders. From eating, to blowing your nose, to going to the bathroom, everything that you do you do when time is allotted for you to do it. So I remember this one time my commander asking if anyone needs to use the bathroom. Sheepishly I raised my hand and walked to the bathroom with my commander like I did with my teachers in kindergarten. I walked into the bathroom stall and sat down and almost immediately started facing a bombardment of yelling from my commander. It only took this confused little American 5 minutes to realize that the commander didn't ask if anyone needed to use the bathroom, he asked for a volunteer to clean the bathroom. So I was sitting on the toilet being yelled at by some 18 year old holding a mop and for the first time I thought to myself "Man, I so can't do this."
We recently entered Sefer Devarim, in which Moshe gives his final speeches to the Jewish people. This was it, right before he dies and his people enter the land of Israel, the completion of a mission that Moshe spent his entire life leading up to, Moshe has one last chance to relay a final pump-up message to his people. It's interesting though, because when Moshe was first asked to be the leader of the Jewish people he initially gave an excuse. Hashem told him that he was to be the leader of the Jewish people and Moshe responded that he couldn't. Why? Because he had a speech impediment. He wasn't fit to lead this nation out of Egypt into Israel because he couldn't speak well, or had stage fright or something. But then Sefer Devarim starts out with the following pasuk: "These are the words that Moshe said to the entire Jewish people..." He was giving this final speech to the entire Jewish people! How can it be that he thought that he couldn't lead the nation because of a speech impediment but then be giving over speeches to an entire nation?!
Sometimes in life we put these mental barriers on ourselves. We tell ourselves we can't do something and very often it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The second you let yourself off the hook from all of your insufficiencies, and the second you realize that you can do whatever challenge it is that you're facing, well suddenly it isn't as much of a challenge as you had initially thought. There's a saying in the army, "HaKol B'Rosh", it's all in your head. There are no physical challenges in the army, or emotional challenges, or spiritual challenges, only mental challenges that you set up for yourself. Once to tell yourself you can do it, all of the other obstacles fall away.
As I said in the beginning, many have done this before you and many will do this after you, and now it's your turn. You can 100% do this and at no point you should you feel like you are going through this alone. We are all with you.
Good luck and Godspeed,
Josh Lehman just completed his army service as a combat soldier in the Kfir Brigade. This coming year he will be studying in Yeshivat Hakotel as part of the Hesder program.