Shabbat was almost ruined by a helmet. Or a wall. Take your pick, as the ability of either to ruin my day of rest is a cheerless tale. My troubles started Wednesday morning when my company was tested, for the first time, on the bochan maslul, the IDF obstacle course that has been the bane of combat soldiers for decades. The course has soldiers run three circular loops in full gear, with the middle loop passing through a variety of obstacles that run the gamut from jungle gym to rope climb and even a wooden pyramid. The rope and balance beams had given me trouble in the past. Yet today, with timer set and everyone roaring to go, I was stonewalled by the most prosaic of obstacles. Yes, I was stopped in my tracks by the wall.
The wall, next to the rope climb, is considered the toughest obstacle. Having never had a problem with the seven foot high wall in the past, I did not understand how one failed to throw themselves over the wall after a quick sprint, jump and kickoff. So when I failed to get over the wall on Wednesday morning, failed again and again some twenty times, I was no less befuddled. And frustrated. And when I finally finished the course in a ghastly time of 12:30, I was downright ashamed.
Ashamed and exhausted beyond measure—soldiers run most of the course at neo-rabak, i.e. edge of collapse—I failed to realize my combat helmet had stayed behind at the course on my return to base. At the firing range hours later (after having failed to check my gear as required before leaving the base), I was convinced someone had misappropriated my helmet when it was nowhere to be found. One of my commanders was kind enough to suggest otherwise. When he would not tell me anything else, I spent a good hour sprinting around the base before tracking it down.
As I ran through the midday heat, I knew full well that I likely had earned myself an extra Shabbat on base as punishment for abandoning my gear. My unit has high standards and guys have lost a free Shabbat for less egregious transgressions. And so when my commander announced, in the regular end of the week discussion, that my only punishment was ga’gash, I was overjoyed. Ga’gash, army acronymed slang for taking the last bus on Friday that will get you home before Shabbat, felt like my commander was granting me a free Shabbat I had thought was already lost. And what better gift could one ask for then the gift of Shabbat?
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