Ask More Questions: The Battle

For more on this series, see The Fighter and The Slam Dunk.

Who: A Jewish rabbi/army chaplain with nearly 40 years experience (rank of Colonel)

The question that led to the story(ies): “What do you wish more people would ask you about?”

The Torah, the Jewish Holy Book

The Torah, the Jewish Holy Book (Wikimedia Commons)

The Battle

She knew she wanted to become a rabbi when she was 11 years old.

At age 17, she began compiling a document of enlightening quotes from a wide range of authors. It is now over 40 pages long.

She shares a favorite, from author Henry James:

“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

Another document contains a carefully curated list of her favorite passages from the Torah. Entry number ten on the list is from Exodus, chapter 34.

“The only time in the Torah that God talks about God’s description,” she says.

“Adonai. Adonai. A God who is compassionate and gracious, abounding in faithfulness and truth. Extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin.”

She has been on multiple deployments to Europe and the Middle East, and she is in charge of the largest deployable medical command in the world. When advising other chaplains, she tells them to practice the ministry of presence.

“Go be where the soldiers are,” she says.

Her mind is a deep pool of knowledge and experience, and she wants nothing more than to share with others what she has learned.

And yet, she fights an ongoing battle with herself.

“I’m insecure enough that if 100 people compliment me, I’ll wonder about the 101st,” she laughs.

It reminds her of a Jewish teaching.

Always carry two pieces of paper in your pocket,” it begins.

One paper should read: “The whole world was created for my sake.”

The other should say: “I am but dust and ashes.”

“Wisdom,” she says, “is knowing when to read which paper.”


Note: For any concerned journalists out there, this is not a journalistic piece. I’ve chosen to leave out names. Quotes and paraphrases are based on notes I took shortly after the conversation. The stories themselves are based solely on the memory of the storyteller.


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