Soldier Mom: Sewing My Son’s New Rank On His Uniform

It has now been close to three years since my son was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Recently he received his latest military rank. He is now a Sergeant First Class. As I prepared to sew my son’s rank on his uniform I remembered the long time ago words of my dear friend, Jeremy Goldberg, z”l (of blessed memory).  
Jeremy was an American Orthodox Zionist Jew, and I am a Modern Orthodox Zionist Israeli Jew with a strong feminist streak. Long before I got married, moved to Israel, had children, and became widowed, Jeremy and I had a loud friendly discussion about who should wear a Tallit (Prayer Shawl) and who should lay Tefillin (Prayer Phylacteries). I remember that Jeremy wasn’t being very persuasive until he said: “Ok, so will you please consider this: When the son of a loving and strong Jewish mother puts on his Tallit, it may be considered as if she has put on a Tallit. This is because it is the mother who physically takes care of her son’s Tallit and on a spiritual plane, in living an observant life it is the mother, by her own example, who teaches her son to follow the Mitzvot (Commandments). Think about it, there is a clear way to saying that David HaMelech (King David) was as strong and capable as he was because his great-grandmother was Ruth. So we can say that male children who have strong mothers inherit a special strength from them.” I wasn’t entirely convinced but I liked the creativity of his comment enough to award him “match point”. Truly, it has ended up that Jeremy, z”l, was correct, I am the one who sends my son’s Tallit to the dry cleaners and washes his Tallit Katan and because my son was orphaned at age 9 months, his religious training has been entirely my responsibility.     
I thought about that long time ago conversation as I prepared to sew my son’s new rank on his uniform. In my world view there is a clear parallel between caring for my son’s Tallit and sewing on his new military rank. In the same way that I taught him the Mitzvot, I taught him to love and serve Israel. To be sure it is my son’s duty to serve, it is his uniform and it is his military rank, but I am his mother, so it is, that in caring for his IDF uniform and sewing on his new rank, it is as if I too put on that uniform.   
“For the sake of Zion, I will not keep silent, and for the sake of Jerusalem, I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth like radiance and her salvation, like a flaming torch.” (Isaiah 62:1)  May the Mighty and Merciful G-d of Israel bless and protect all soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces.  Kol HaKavod L’Tzhal (All honor to the IDF!) 
My son's IDF uniform with his Sergeant First Class rank sewn on

My son’s IDF uniform just after I finished sewing on his new Sergeant First Class rank


2 responses to “Soldier Mom: Sewing My Son’s New Rank On His Uniform

  1. Fine, but why ought taking care of her son’s tallit exclude wearing one of her own?

  2. Miriam, excellent question! I wrote above: “I wasn’t entirely convinced but I liked the creativity of his comment enough to award him “match point”.”
    Today I think that for a woman to decide to wear a Tallit is a matter of personal and individual choice. To read more about women and tallitot may I refer you to my blog post titled: “Minority Report: Women Wearing Kippot and Talitot” it appears in the December 2012 file here on IsraeLighty.

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