The joyful feeling before a wedding is usually contagious. However, for people struggling to make ends meet, or those with no family to rely on for help and support, greeting this special day with a smile is difficult.
Shraga, a soldier in the Israeli army, was faced with just that situation. Shraga is from an ultra-Orthodox Israeli family where Bible studies are encouraged and joining the army is discouraged.
His brothers before him all attended a prestigious yeshiva (Jewish seminary) and succeeded in their studies. Hoping for the same outcome, Shraga followed suit. Unfortunately, he found the studies too challenging and struggled socially.
Realizing that he could better serve the Holy Land and its people by protecting both, he left the seminary and joined the Israeli army (IDF). “You can’t image my parents’ disappointment when I left yeshiva,” Shraga told Breaking Israel News. “They were heartbroken as this went against the expectations of our community.”
To his great despair, he was cut off from his family, forcing him to move into a “Bayit HaChayal” (soldiers’ home). “I was living with other soldiers estranged from their families or soldiers who moved to Israel by themselves and are defined as lone soldiers in Israel,” he explained.
There is actually a Biblical premise for Shraga’s decision to support the Jewish people through joining the IDF. Two of Jacob’s sons,Yissachar and Zevulun, were blessed through their partnership of learning and working: Yissachar studied the Bible while Zevulun physically supported him.
In Deuteronomy 22:18, Moses blesses the tribes of Yissachar and Zevulun by saying, “Be joyful Zevulun in your going forth, and Yissachar in your tents.”
Rashi, a medieval rabbi and author of the most comprehensive commentary on the Bible, explained, “Zevulun would dwell at the harbor and deal in business with ships, thereby sustaining Yissachar who would study the Bible. Therefore, the verse mentions Zevulun before Yissachar, because the studies of Yissachar came through Zevulun.”
This Biblically-established relationship has become a model throughout the generations for cooperation between those who can study and those who can support students of the Bible, whether financially or physically. Yet Shraga’s family didn’t see things this way. Though he thrived in the army, he could not go back to his home.
Shraga met a lovely girl and looked forward to starting a new family of his own. However, shortly before his wedding, he found himself in an apartment empty of the most basic amenities.
“I had no money and no idea how I would get the furniture and appliances needed to start our new life,” he said to Breaking Israel News. “Then, one of the lone soldiers told me about an amazing organization called Karmey Chesed. They had helped this soldier with a warm and generous heart and we prayed that they would help me too.”
Shraga contacted Yehuda Weingarten, a Karmey Chesed volunteer and the son of Aryeh Weingarten, director of the organization. “I was immediately comforted when speaking to Yehuda,” continued Shraga. “He told me that through their Green Charity Program, I would receive refurbished furniture and appliances. They would also do what they could to get me some money to start our lives.”
Good to their word, Karmey Chesed delivered furnishings to the struggling couple at no charge. “Without Karmey Chesed’s generosity and care, we do not know how we would have managed,” he told Breaking Israel News.
“We are grateful that we were able to help Shraga and his new wife to start their life in a positive way,” said Yehuda Weingarten to Breaking Israel News. “As it states in the Talmud, we are especially commanded to bring joy to a bride and groom. How fortunate to be part of Karmey Chesed which strives to fulfill Biblical decrees every day.”