As it dawned on us that a month was coming to pass since the horrific and brutal Hamas terror attacks that killed 1400 Israelis of all ages, we worked with UAlbany Hillel and the Judaic Studies Department at University at Albany to set up a “Shloshim” 30-Day Memorial event.
It’s traditional to study Mishna texts at a Shloshim, because the 4 Hebrew letters that spell Mishna also spell Neshoma = Soul. So which Mishna to choose for a Shloshim like this!?
Then I thought of this classic, familiar Mishna at the opener of the 10th chapter of Sanhedrin. The Rebbe obviously held this one dear because it is one of the 12 Torah passages he selected for all Jewish children to try and learn by heart. (See this talk I did for Sinai Scholars Retreat and Torah Cafe on what may be gleaned from Rebbe’s choices of these specific 12 Torah passages, but that’s a story for another time).
Let’s learn this familiar Mishna through the lens of October 7th, the attacks on Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, and its aftermath, from that perspective:
כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל יֵשׁ לָהֶם חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וְעַמֵּךְ כֻּלָּם צַדִּיקִים לְעוֹלָם יִירְשׁוּ אָרֶץ נֵצֶר מַטָּעַי מַעֲשֵׂה יָדַי לְהִתְפָּאֵר.
“All of Israel has a share in the World to Come, as it is written in Isaiah: “All Your people are righteous, forever they will inherit the land, a branch of My planting, work of My hands, in which I take pride” (Mishna Sanhedrin Chapter 10, Isaiah 60:21)
Kol Yisrael – All of Israel! Indeed these attacks impacted and affected all of Israel! This was no regional thing, this wasn’t one segment or sector of the Jewish people. Jews everywhere, of all affiliations and levels of religious observance, everyone felt it deeply in their hearts. This shook almost every Jew’s core.
All Your People Are Righteous: Those who were killed, indiscrimnate, at close-range, in cold-blood, were killed because they were Jews. In our tradition, anyone killed because of their Jewish identity alone, is considered the highest of the high, they are called “Kedoshim” – the holy ones.
It must be mentioned that among the victims and hostages were Druze and Muslims and workers from Thailand. They, too, were swept up and brutally murdered in this blood-thirsty Jew-hatred. Also we should remember that there were Arab-Israelis and many others who risked their lives to rescue others, and many of those were killed as well.
The World to Come! The truth is that Moshiach and the World to Come while related and connected, both utopian Jewish ideals are not one and the same, and there are differences, but for the purposes of this reflection let us just say that Oct 7th and its aftermath remind us that we live in a very imperfect world. All the progress and progressive ideas may be leading towards a better place, but we are very much not there yet. All the best and most ideal solutions are complicated and are nearly impossible in this current reality. While we must do our best with the situation we are handed and not ignore our current realities, at the same time we yearn and strive for Moshiach, the World to Come and a much better form of all human existence.
Forever Inherit the Land! Jews are indigenous to Israel. We go back to the days of Abraham and David, Isaiah and Jeremiah. Throughout centuries in diaspora Jews prayed 3 times a day facing Jerusalem and mentioning Jerusalem at our Seder Tables, and ends of Yom Kippur, and multiple times in our daily prayers. Jews are not leaving Israel. Israel is the Jewish homeland for good. Once Palestinians accept this fact that they give up their genocidal aspirations of “From the River to the Sea” which means no more Israel, and go back to establishing a decent and prosperous life for themselves. This particular verse quoted from Isaiah may have broader meanings of the words “inherit the land” especially in Chassidic interpretation, but the message comes through clear in hundreds and thousands of Torah texts, verses and teachings.
A Branch of My Planting! These Kibbutzim near Gaza made the desert bloom. They planted, they invested, they toiled and they built. Irony of ironies that many of those killed were people who advocated and worked towards peace. There were those who built relationships and connections with Gaza. A father who built a factory in Gaza to provide quality employment had his daughter killed by them. A woman whose whole life was devoted to improving agriculture in developing countries was taken hostage. The music festival where 260 were killed was a Peace Festival, of all things!
My handiwork of which I (G-d) am proud! Online you get to hear their stories, you learn about their lives, and you see their handiwork, and they as G-d’s handiwork, and indeed, of which there is to take pride. And the stories from after October 7th, of the generosity, the dedication, the hundreds of thousands of Israelis abroad who rushed back to Israel, all the volunteers, the whole country, a very opinionated country, coming together unified as one. This terrible tragedy also brings out our best.
Let’s close on this word, “in which to take pride.” These events hit our core, they triggered our inner identity. Some time because of world reactions we may shy away or lay low, but this is the time to connect, to take pride, to take part, to do more.
This card has some sample resolutions, general ideas, take it as an encouragement to strength and bolster and enrich our Jewish identity, our connection to Israel. There’s been a rush to identify, to connect, a surge in Mitzvah interest and observance, a desire to be part of and connected with our people.
Let’s do all we can. It’s a people-hood effort. We’re in this together.
AM YISRAEL CHAI!