Shortly after the Simchat Torah massacre, I knew I had to read less news. The stories, pictures, and videos of the atrocities in Israel were just too much for me to handle. I’d read something in the morning and couldn’t function all day; I just had to read less.
At the same time, I couldn’t avoid the news altogether (I also have a good excuse: one morning, please G-d, there will be a breaking news alert that all hostages are free!), so while I read less news, I needed to develop a coping mechanism to help me deal with some of the horror stories.
What worked for me was an idea based on a quote by Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks, OBM. Here is what he said: “The Lubavitcher Rebbe undertook the most daring spiritual initiative ever, to search out every Jew in love as they were once hunted down in hate!”
I always loved this quote. It explains so eloquently the rebbe’s passion, the reason why he sent so many shluchim (emissaries) worldwide to open Chabad houses.
But now this quote has a whole new meaning. Now it’s my coping mechanism.
Whenever I come across one of these stories that leaves me sad, angry, and distressed at the same time, I try to think: what is our answer to this? How can we match this pure hatred with pure love?
It helped me tremendously when I came across a phone call where one terrorist called his parents and was bragging (!!!!!) on the phone that he killed 10 Jews. “Dad! With my own hands I killed 10 Jews!”
I still can’t wrap my head around this. How can someone be so evil that they are proud and celebrating killing other humans? And worst yet, what type of horrible parents gave birth to this monster who believes he is making them happy by sharing that he is a murderer?
I wanted to hide my head under the pillow and cry. And then, a thought came to my mind. How about us educating our children to be as excited about helping fellow Jews? Imagine if our children would call home and say, “Dad, I just helped a few Jews wrap tefillin! I just helped a few Jews light the Shabbat candles! I just gave charity to a few needy Jews!”
Wouldn’t that be the best revenge? I think so.
Last week, I read a news report about how many civilians participated in the horrific attack on October 7. It was not only the trained and armed terrorists who murdered, raped, and kidnapped. Hamas planned and encouraged “ordinary people” (read: inhuman monsters) to go into Israel and be part of this.
Here, again, I applied my coping mechanism.
This past weekend, thousands of Chabad rabbis from all across the world gathered for the annual convention. (The rabbis from Israel attended virtually, as many of them got drafted to the IDF, and many others did not want to abandon their communities during this time).
So many people appreciate what Chabad does. They enjoy having a place where all Jews feel welcome and comfortable, where they can get more connected to the Jewish tradition non-judgmentally.
Yet, just like the evil Hamas terrorists knew, we can’t rely only on the ones who “trained.” We need everyone, every single Jew, to join us on this holy mission, of “searching out every Jew in love as they were once hunted down in hate!”
The good news is that you don’t have to become a Chabad rabbi or Rebbetzin. You don’t need to be a Chabadnik at all. The rebbe would often say, if you know the letter Alef, go out and teach someone who doesn’t know it yet. Don’t worry that you might not know any other letter. You already have what it takes to help, teach, and inspire others.
As we continue to recover as a nation from this great tragedy, and as our dear IDF soldiers risk their lives to bring peace to Israel, let us make this our rallying cry. Wherever we are, whoever we are, we can be the ones who bring good to the world around us.
Let’s open our homes and invite fellow Jews for a Shabbat meal, teach Torah, help fellow Jews wrap tefillin and light the Shabbat candle. There are so many opportunities to help our fellow Jews, both spiritually and materially.
And now that I think of it, I realize it’s much more than a coping mechanism. It’s the secret how the Jewish people are still here despite everything we endured.
May we soon merit the days of the coming of Moshiach, when all sorrow will be erased forever, amen.
Mendy Kaminker is the rabbi of Chabad of Hackensack. He looks forward to your comments at Rabbi@ChabadHackensack.com