Jewish Words



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.

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