This time, I am allowing myself to watch all the video clips, and I don’t feel guilty.
It was a different story seven weeks ago, when an endless stream of horrific videos kept on showing up on my social media feed, news website, and Whatsapp—videos of evil people murdering, injuring, and terrorizing people just because they are Jewish. Videos of fear and pain leave you with deep trauma.
This time, the videos make your heart jump for joy. And despite my deep concern about the way this hostage deal has been negotiated and the ramifications for Israel’s security, I feel so happy watching the hostages coming back home. I could watch more and more of them.
You look at the families, you look at the smiles, and you feel as if you are standing right there with them. Here is Maayan Tzin, who didn’t sleep for weeks fighting for her children’s release, embracing Ela and Dafna in such a tight and long embrace.
Later, they will have to deal with the trauma and process the horrific ordeal they went through.
But for now, it’s just overwhelming joy.
It was a joy after sleepless nights, endless tears, and the worst fears playing repeatedly in their head. Then, all of a sudden, it was all gone. The dream came true. Ela and Dafna are back home.
G-d, we love these videos. Get us more of them!!
This Shabbos commemorates an essential day in the Chabad calendar (more about it soon), making me wonder if the first Chabad Rebbe used the idea of hostages as a lesson for life.
Indeed, I found the most incredible teaching in chapter 31 of his book, Tanya.
Chapter 31 follows a lengthy discussion about the struggle of every human being with the different forces within them, the good and the evil, and how, essentially, we are all trapped within a body that pulls us down towards materialism and away from spirituality and connection to G-d.
Now, that is a depressing thought. And the recognition that our lives will always be a struggle can easily make us feel bad for ourselves.
The first Chabad Rebbe, also known as “the Alter Rebbe” (the older Rebbe, i.e., the first Rebbe), has a different approach. The fact that we can overcome our human condition and rise higher should bring us great joy. Every moment we are successful in getting closer to G-d, we achieve something remarkable.
Here is a quote from Chapter 31:
“Surely, there is no joy as great as that of being released from exile and captivity. It is comparable to the joy of a prince who was taken captive (and subjected to hard labor) of turning the millstone in prison while covered with filth, and who then goes free to the house of his father, the king!”
I was amazed by the way the Alter Rebbe describes it. And here is why. Usually, when we think of G-d and think about our sins, we feel that G-d is upset with us. When we “go back” and repent, we hope to appease him so he won’t be upset anymore.
Here, the Tanya describes it as a reunion of hostages with their families. I am now picturing G-d not as an angry king, but as a loving parent. He “can’t sleep” when we sin because he worries for us and our spiritual well-being. And when we return, He is “overwhelmed with joy”, giving us the greatest, tightest hug.
Isn’t it so powerful and inspiring?
As I mentioned, this Shabbat commemorates a special occasion on the Chabad Calendar.
On this day (19 of Kislev) in Czarist Russia, the first Chabad Rebbe was released after being jailed for false accusations. The imprisonment and the subsequent release are seen as a divine activity, first against sharing Chassidic teachings publicly and then as an approval and an encouragement to do so.
This day is known as “Rosh Hashana for Chassidus.”
In honor of this day, I encourage you to explore the study of Tanya. Many online classes are available (you can start your journey at Chabad.org/Tanya), and here in Hackensack, we host a weekly class every Shabbat at 9:40 am, before the morning prayers. The study of Tanya is intellectually enriching and profoundly inspiring.
May we soon see the release of all hostages – both the ones in Israel and the internal ones.