This morning I laundered my prayer shawl, the one I use for Shabbat and holidays.

Why? It's obvious to me, but maybe not to you – so I'll explain.

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We Jews, see, we have this festival – Simchat Torah (literally: rejoicing in the Torah) when we dance with a book, an authentic Torah scroll. Beforehand, during the holiday of Sukkot (literally: booths) every day we hold four species of plants common to the Land of Israel that represent different types of people in the Jewish nation, and with them we circle the reading table where we place the Torah and read from it from time to time. That symbolizes the people of Israel in a circle around the Torah, symbolizing that the Torah is the center of our way of life, thoughts and emotions. Then on the Simchat Torah we hug the Torah in our hands and dance around the table which also symbolizes the nation of Israel.


Officially we're supposed to circle the reading table seven times – but in practice we dance about seven hundred times around the table in the evening and then again in the morning. Wearing my woolen prayer shawl for the morning prayers and dancing seven hundred times around the reading table makes for a lot of sweat, so by the end of the day my prayer shawl is soaking wet.
Now do you understand why I needed to launder my prayer shawl?

This woolen prayer shawl has to be hand-washed. I learned how to hand-wash clothes while doing reserve army duty in the Jordan Valley. Temperatures there in the summer reach 40 degrees centigrade and since we're issued only two sets of fatigues for thirty days, survival of sanity depended on learning how to wash my uniform.

When I was first assigned to my reserve battalion I was one of the youngest soldiers. The veterans taught me lots of cool and important stuff – like how to use regular soap to clean your body, wash your hair and then do laundry in a sink.

"Just put your shirt in the sink till it's wet. Then rub it all over with soap," a wise veteran – who took the time to enlighten a youngster who mistakenly thought laundry needs a machine – told me. "Then rinse it and when there's no more soap coming out of the shirt – you're done!"

So I did my prayer shawl in the same manner – only since it's quite large I had to use the bathtub and not just a sink. As I was hanging it up to dry I thought of those wise guys in my battalion:

"Hey! Those guys really took me under their wings and taught me the important stuff in reserve duty: finding a bed comes before reporting to your commander, and food comes before all. They also taught me laundry.

"Yes, well, they also taught me how to properly use a machine gun and a 52 mm mortar. They also taught me the proper infantry walk while on patrol, how to clean my rifle easily and how to do every task with joy and efficiency."

Only in later stints of reserve duty did I start to ask them about their past. It dawned on me that they were all veterans of the Yom Kippur War. They all had battle stories to tell: some harrowing, some heroic, some tragic – but with all the seriousness of the topic they were still able to tell me their stories in optimistic good cheer and with a healthy love of life.

So the most important over all lesson they taught me, mostly by example, was a quiet strength to deal with whatever crisis or need arise, for themselves, for their families and above all: for their country. And they taught me to do all that without fear, fuss or being finicky.

So, ya, there's a wave of terrorist attacks all over the country – but if you go on with life and don't become full of fear – the terrorists have lost the fight. Do your laundry – like the brave and wise veterans of the Yom Kippur War taught me – and you've won the struggle for the Land of Israel and the Jewish state!
 
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