Thursday, September 20, 2007
From the Far Flung Seas
The world was created in Tishrei, all of it from pole to pole and continent to continent, land and sea, mountain and sky formed in this month of Tishrei. On Rosh Hashana Adam and Chava were created and their descendants spread across the whole earth.
This Rosh Hashana finds the men and women of the US army and navy and air force stationed across the world and those of whom are Jewish will be celebrating Rosh Hashana in all the scattered places across the world that they are, from the land to the sea and the wide oceans and even the air. From America to Europe and the Middle East and even the Pacific and asia where Jews traditionally have not gone.
In the Pacific at the US bases in Japan and South Korea, from the US Navy's Yokosuka Naval Base to Okinawa, to Guam in the Philipines and Kobe in Japan, Rosh Hashana services will be taking places. Guam and Kobe have Jewish communities with their own services which personnel will be able to join.
At the Yokosuka Naval Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan, chaplains will be specifically flown in to hold Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services. In South Korea, where American troops help democratic Korea hold the line against the forces of Kim Jong Il's Communist dictatorship, Jewish soldiers from all across the Korean pennisula will be gathering in Seoul for prayers under Chaplain Avrohom Horovitz.
The matter is not as simple as it sounds. Jewish chaplains have been wounded in the Korean war, though none fatally. Al Jolson, born Asa Joelson in Lithuanaia, son of a cantor who became a famous Jewish entertainer in America, starring in numerous shows, musicals and even movies including most famously the Jazz Singer. During the Korean War, he traveled against the advice of his doctors to entertain American Troops there. He spent months there entertaining the troops and continued on even though he developed a bronchial infection of which he finally died. And the lights of broadway were dimmed for ten minutes to mark his passing.
There is a famous story told about a Jewish soldier on Yom Kippur during the Korean war. A Jewish Marine corporal named Abraham Geller was engaged in combat at the Seoul-Kaesong road and under fire by snipers. It was Yom Kippur and difficult as it was to pray under those circumstances, Abraham Geller did his best. After encountering a company of North Korean soldiers near Seoul, Corporal Abraham Geller saved his Captain's life and took a bullet meant for him. The bullet penetrated his abdomen and several loops of his intestines. It would under ordinary circumstances have caused peronitis as the contents of the intestines would have spilled out into the body which would have been fatal, but according to the military surgeons, what saved Geller's life; was that there was no food at all in his stomach.
The name of Tishrei in the Hebrew alphabet runs backwards from the latter letters to the earlier letters, Tof Shin Reish Yud. So too the Jewish presence in the pacific seems backwards and the Jewish presence in the US military seems backwards defying many anti-semitic stereotypes. Yet this Rosh Hashana the Jews of the US Army, Navy and Air Force will be praying to G-d to bring peace on the anniversary of the world in the farthest corner of the world where many Jews died in the second World War to bring peace.