Dozens of senior IDF officers, air force pilots, and elite unit troops are getting that little extra spiritual push that helps them get through the tough exercises and combat training: A five minute daily phone-in Torah lesson via conference call.
The phenomenon began seven years ago when a religious air force cadet was concerned that he would end up losing his connection with the religious world, something which had happened to some of his religious friends in the military.
In order to keep the embers burning, he contacted a relative who is also a rabbi. Every night at 7 pm the cadet would call the rabbi through Mirs Push to Talk services and would then receive a guidance and a torah lesson from the rabbi who would also answer any queries or philosophical issues the cadet had.
Rumors of the lessons took flight and not just in the air force: Religious soldiers and officers who heard about the project, did some digging around, discovered the mysterious rabbi’s phone number and joined the daily lessons.
The number of participants grew and according to one soldier who participates in the project, the list held by the rabbi now includes 130 troops and officers. He told Yedioth Ahronoth that among the participants is one Golani Brigade assistant commander, air force pilots, an IDF colonel and elite unit troops.
The soldier noted that over the years the lessons took on a fixed routine. Each lesson begins on the hour from 7 pm and until midnight and is five minutes long. Those interested in taking part use their Mirs devices to call the rabbi’s exchange and then the lesson begins.
Each lesson is divided into three parts: Advice from the Mishna tractates of Pirkei Avot, daily Halacha and Q&A. During the Q&A stage all participants can listen in on the different questions and answers.
‘Elite spiritual unit’
The project was soon nicknamed Mirs Yeshiva a play on words – as one of the most famous yeshivas in Jerusalem is the Mir yeshiva.
"It gives me energy for the day ahead. We’re like an elite spiritual unit," said Aviad, 24, an officer in the Golani Brigade who joined the project last year. Sometimes there are dozens of participants and sometimes there are just three.
The soldiers say that the rabbi keeps a roll call and follows up with a call to remind those who haven’t phoned in for in the daily lesson.
The lessons are even held in combat situations. The soldiers stated that the rabbi held his lessons during Operation Cast Lead and the Second Lebanon War.
"There were lessons where we were listening in on from a post in the middle of an Arab village or while carrying out the final stages of preparation for an operation," said David, a former officer in an elite unit.
Recently, a few of the participants finally got a chance to meet their rabbi as well as each other when they were invited to the rabbi’s daughter’s wedding in Bnei Brak.
The IDF Spokesman preferred not to comment on the story.