In peacetime, the rabbi performs the everyday duties associated with his congregational needs: conducting synagogue services, delivering sermons, offering advice and comfort to individuals and families in good times and bad, officiating at weddings and funerals, etc.
But in the wartime army as a chaplain, if he is assigned to a battle-active unit his duties, unfortunately, include dangerous, even life-threatening situations. He must comfort the injured in the field and in the hospital. He ‘bentches Goymel’ — makes the blessing of gratitude for surviving a dangerous situation — over the injured. He recites the ‘El Maleh Rachamim’ over newly deceased Jewish soliders. He must write letters of condolence to parents, wives and children — a most difficult chore.
The above is the substance of Chaplain Rabbi David Max Eichhorn’s daily activities during World War II as his XV Corps fights its way through France and Germany. He has the sad duty of viewing the newly liberated death camp at Dachau, personally witnessing the horrors of the Holocaust perpetrated against Jews by the Nazis.
He must also keep his wife and children informed of his activities and assure them that he is well, despite everything he has seen.
This book’s title, The G.I.’s Rabbi, stands for ‘Government Issue Rabbi. But here, one can add that it also stands for ‘God’s Issue Rabbi”!
Rabbi Eichhorn is an outstanding rabbi, soldier, family man and ‘mentsch’. Read this book. It’ll do your Yiddishe heart good.