Mendy Kaminker

259 days after Oct 7th, we need to hear this story

On October 8th, 2023, and for many days after, it seemed like the Jewish people would stay united forever. Differences vanished. No one cared about political affiliations, lifestyles, or beliefs. We were all overcome with grief, shock, and sadness; all we wanted was to find another Jew who felt the same and hug them. We knew and felt that we were one people like never before.

Fast forward to today, and things are different. Sadly, our differences are showing up again. Once more, we talk too much about what divides us instead of what unites us. Often, we might look down upon people or speak ill of those who don’t share the same worldview as ourselves.

This Shabbat, 259 days after the October 7th massacre, we will be reading a story that gives us the perspective and inspiration we desperately need to remember what we all instinctively felt on that tragic day.

The story is told in the Haftarah, sharing the vision of Zechariah the prophet.

In his vision, Joshua the High Priest was standing before G-d, dressed in filthy garments, symbolizing the collective sins of the Jewish people. To his right stood Satan, ready to accuse the Jewish people. But before Satan could speak, G-d rebuked him: “The L-rd rebuke you, O Satan; the L-rd who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Isn’t he (Joshua) like a burning branch rescued from the flames?”

Joshua’s filthy garments were removed by the angels and replaced with clean clothing and a beautiful headdress. The vision concluded with G-d promising much good to the Jewish people and the coming of Moshiach.

The Rebbe, whose greatest passion was Ahavat Yisrael (a deep love for each Jew), often quoted this story. He was pained the most when Jews spoke ill of other Jews. In one passionate talk in 1984, the Rebbe spoke about how, after the Holocaust, each Jew is like the “burning branch rescued from the flames.” With the loss of so many Jewish people, each one is precious. “How can anyone speak ill about a fellow Jew?” he asked with much pain. “In the Haftarah, G-d Himself chose to ignore the filthy garments of Joshua and rebuked Satan for trying to speak ill about the Jews!”

I imagine the moments right after the Holocaust ended, when Jews met each other with such intense joy, having survived all the horrors of the previous years. The Rebbe was very familiar with this feeling: he himself escaped Nazi Germany while losing a brother and many other family members in the Holocaust.

In some way, I wonder if this was also part of what we felt after October 7th. Although the attack was in one area in Israel, the videos, pictures, and voices made us feel very much part of the story. And in fact, while the attack happened in only one area, it was really intended against us all.

Many months have passed since October 7th. Hostages are still held in Gaza, and casualties are constantly reported, yet for many of us, life has kind of returned to normal. And now, we need the reminder from the Haftarah more than ever.

It’s okay to disagree, it’s okay when we see people acting in a way that we vehemently disagree with; Yet, we should never stop realizing that each one of us is like a branch rescued from the flame. Each Jew is precious and should be treated with respect and love.

About the Author
Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the Chabad Rabbi of Hackensack, and an editorial member of
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