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Areyah Kaltmann

The hostages can never become old news

People pray the for the hostages from Israel held captive in Hamas during a vigil at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, November 7, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Let’s turn the clock back to June of 2023.

With baited breath, the world anxiously awaited updates from the Titan submersible, which was on an expedition to see the wreckage of the Titanic. Were the five trapped individuals still alive? Celebrities and heads of state rushed to issue statements of concern for the missing people. All were glued to their TV sets, eager to discover their fate.

Fast forward to the morning of October 7th, 2023. 240 Israelis – some on their morning walks, some at a dance party and others still sleeping in their beds – were brutally kidnapped and taken hostage into the lion’s den of Gaza. Although the initial reaction was of shock and horror, as the days turned to weeks which turned to months, the hostages and their horrendous conditions had become old news.

Innocent people whose only crime was that of being born Jewish and living in their ancestral homeland, have languished in despair for over 120 days with no visits from the Red Cross, having to subsist on half a slice of pita and a few sips of water a day. Where is the same wall-to-wall coverage and outrage? It feels like the world has turned its back on the hostages.

This week’s Parasha offers some comfort and strength for this horrible situation. In Mishpatim verse 22:22, G-d says “If you mistreat them, I will heed their outcry when they cry out to Me,” referring to widows, orphans and those who have been wronged and oppressed.

When the world has gone deaf to the cries of the hostages emanating from Hamas’s tunnels of despair, G-d undoubtedly hears them, saying “I’m here for you, you’re not old, stale news. He says, “Your body may be imprisoned, but your soul can never be shackled.”

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In these tough times it appears that the world is against us. The UN and the global community are accusing Israel of genocide and attempting to put a stop to Israel’s war of self-defense and hostage rescue operation.

A Midrash compares the Jewish nation to a lone sheep surrounded by 70 hungry wolves. Just as the sheep can only survive because it has a shepherd watching over and protecting it, the Jewish people exist because of a Divine protector. The Passover Haggadah states in the Vehi Sheamda, “In every generation, the nations of the world try to destroy us, but the Holy One saves us from their hands.”

In 1990, the Lubavitcher Rebbe gave a speech that still moves me to this day. In it, he declared that the mere fact that a Jew exists, despite attempts to eradicate and erase us, is the greatest declaration that there is a G-d in the world.

With this knowledge, that we have Divine protection and blessing, we can emerge victorious from the depths of this war and our hostages will emerge from the depths of Hamas’s tunnels to a grand celebration marking their freedom.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Areyah

About the Author
Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann is the Director of Chabad Columbus at the Lori Schottenstein Chabad Center. For over three decades, Rabbi Kaltmann and his wife Esther have put their heart and soul into serving the Columbus Jewish community. In addition to directing Chabad Columbus, the Rabbi and his family also operate LifeTown Columbus — which teaches essential life skills to more than 2,100 Ohio students with special needs in a 5,000-square-foot miniature city, Kitchen of Life — which fosters social-emotional skills for young people through culinary arts, Friendship Circle Columbus, the Jewish Business Network, and dozens of other programs. Areyah and Esther have adult children who serve Chabad of Downtown Columbus, oversee Chabad’s many programs and enthusiastically serve people throughout the state.