By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, April 11, 2008

Miluim, army reserve duty, is one of the remarkable characteristics of life in Israel. After completing regular army service at age 21, most people are called up for a round a month of miluim until they hit age 40. (Until recently it was 55.)

For some, miluim is a time to receive essential training and skills updates. For others (generally those closer to 40), it’s a period of mind-numbing boredom as the army tries to find something for you to so that doesn’t overstrain your ageing legs. For most, it gives a unique feeling of contributing to the country.

A miluimnik is someone who regularly does his miluim service, without looking for excuses to avoid it.

Miluim in the Bible means consecration for a particular task. Last week’s parashah, Shemini, speaks of the miluim of the priests at the inauguration of the sanctuary. It comes from the verb l’maleh, meaning to fill — in this case with the knowledge to fulfil a role. Exodus 25:7 speaks of avnei miluim, stones that were to be inset to fill a particular place. It is striking that the founders of the IDF chose this word for reserve duty. At its best, miluim can still be consecration to a sacred duty.

Last updated: 3:21pm, June 26 2008