Being in the military means that I don’t always get a choice about where I am when the High Holidays hit. I have spent more than one away from home. Bosnia (with services at Tuzla Main) and Kuwait with services at Camp Doha come to mind. This year, once again attending with military as my family, at least I did not have to worry about a weapon.
It is easy to be senior in rank and attend services. It is much harder to be in basic and have to ask for an exception. There is always training, exercises, PT tests. One excuse or another for why a young soldier can not be released.
The military preaches religious accommodation but I am not really sure that it happens with all that much frequency. Not when drill sergeants are ordering soldiers to eat and drink. Many of those who attended had one injury or another – it just might be why their units were willing to release them.
Attendance for the Torah service was about 20 – the Rabbi and I being the only two not fitting into the “young, male attending basic training/AIT” category. People drifted in and out over the day. About 40 were present by the time we got to Havdalah including a small contingent from the current OCS class. Even more than the bagels and cream cheese, the Coke was welcomed. New rules prohibit caffeine in basic training. Go figure – I don’t get it.
What I certainly know is that this day is necessary for me – looking back over the past year, figuring out how I can do better. Repeating certain prayers almost endless has them sink in – limiting my ability to avoid issues to which I would rather apply blinders.
Since the day has multiple services and will proceed at its own pace – the absolutely best thing to do is stick the watch in the pocket and not look at it. Not once or twice in frustration at how slowly time seems to be crawling, but not at all. Especially as the sun sinks and there is still part of Neilah to complete.