By the Grace of G‑d
Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5734 [May 22, 1974]
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Chaplain Israel Heber
Elmendorf Air Force Base

Due to a very crowded schedule, this is my first opportunity of congratulating you on your extraordinary Zechus of initiating the project of the first Mikveh in Anchorage for the Alaskan Jewish community, which you accomplished, with G‑d's help, as I am informed by our mutual friends, the Rabbonim who flew in to participate in this great event.

As for the importance of this matter, I need hardly emphasize it to you, since your own initiative is best proof of being fully aware of it.

However, on the basis of the dictum of our Sages, "Encourage the energetic," I wish to express my confident hope that you are doing all you can to make the Mikveh a busy place, frequented regularly not only by the women who directly benefit from your good influence but also by their friends and acquaintances who will be induced by them to follow their example. And while this kind of religious inspiration is a "must" wherever Jews live, it is even more so in the city and state where the Mikveh has just been established for the first time. It is well to bear in mind that a "Jewish heart is always awake" and responsive to Torah and Mitzvos.

It is significant in this case that the one who merited the great Zechus of establishing the Mikveh is a person in military service. For, military service, by definition and practice, very aptly illustrates the basic principle of commitment to Torah and Mitzvos, namely, na'ase ("we will do," and then) v'nishma ("we will understand").

Moreover, the soldier's duty to carry out the orders of a commanding officer and carry them out promptly and to the best of his ability, is in no way inhibited by the fact that in civilian life the soldier may be vastly superior to his commanding officer in many respects. Nor does such a circumstance diminish in the least the soldier's self-esteem in obeying the order. On the contrary, by not allowing any personal views to interfere with his military duties, he demonstrates his strength of character and integrity.

The same is true in the area of Torah and Mitzvos. One may be a very rich man - in the ordinary sense, or rich in know-ledge of the sciences, or in other achievements in public life. Yet, when it comes to Halachah, the Law of Torah conduct, he accepts it with complete obedience and dedication, on the authority of a fellow-Jew who had consecrated all his life to Torah study and Torah living and is eminently qualified to transmit the "Word of G‑d - the Halachah."

A further point which characterizes military discipline also has a bearing on the subject of Torah and Mitzvos. In the military, no soldier can claim that his conduct is his personal affair; nor can he take the attitude that there are many other soldiers to carry out military assignments, but he will do as he pleases. For it has often been demonstrated in military history how one action of a single soldier could have far-reaching consequences for an entire army and country.

Every Jew is a soldier in the "Army of G‑d," as is often emphasized in this week's Sidra - kol yotzei tzovo, "everyone going forth as a soldier." And he is bound by the same two basic rules: To carry out G‑d's commandments promptly and fully, without question (na'ase before v'nishma), and to recognize his responsibility to his people ("All Jews are responsible for one another"), hence the consequences of one good deed. To quote the Rambam: "Every person should always consider himself and the whole world as equibalance. Hence, when he does one Mitzvah, he tips the scale in favor of himself and of the whole world" (see it at length in Hil. Teshuvah 3, hal. 4).

May you go from strength to strength in all that has been said above, in all aspects of Yiddishkeit, which includes also influence to promote among non-Jews the observance of the basic Seven Mitzvos, with all their numerous ramifications, which are incumbent upon all mankind and the foundation of human society.

At this time before Shovuos, I wish you and all our brethren at the base as well as the community, a happy and inspiring Festival of Receiving Our Torah, with the traditional Chasidic blessing - to receive the Torah with joy and inwardness.

With esteem and blessing,